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Oil-free compressor breaks with tradition

21 May 2017

Gardner Denver went back to the drawing board with the design for its new water cooled, oil-free compressor. The CompAir branded Ultima is said to offer improvements in energy efficiency of up to 12%, compared to a conventional two-stage machine. It also has a 37% smaller footprint. 

Unlike standard oil-free compressors, which have a single motor and mechanical gearbox design to drive the low and high pressure air ends, Ultima employs two, high-efficiency, permanent magnetic motors instead. These inverter-powered variable-speed motors can achieve speeds of up to 22,000 rpm and deliver efficiencies greater than IE4. Gardner Denver calls this the U-Drive concept.

In conventional variable-speed machines the two stages of compression are linked mechanically, meaning they need to speed up and slow down at the same time.  Replacing the gearbox and single motor with two U-Drives each airend stage is driven directly and independently. An intelligent digital gearbox design then monitors and continually adjusts the speed of each stage to ensure maximum efficiency and pressure ratios.

For maximum energy recovery Ultima uses a closed-loop water cooling which takes heat directly from the major components, including the motors, inverters, airend jackets and the oil circuit. This results in up to 12% better overall heat recovery than a standard two-stage oil-free compressor. Ultima also acts as a high-efficiency water heater, heating the cold water that enters the compressor, which can then be used for other applications.

Ultima is also engineered to ensure that no warm air is vented into its surroundings. Instead, it is processed within the machine enclosure. Using a heat exchanger, the air is cooled and recirculated via the base frame around the compressor. No heat is wasted, no dust or particulate matter enters the compressor and the inlet air stays cool.

This also helps to reduce installation time and costs as there is no requirement for additional ducting. 

Noise levels from the unit are also low. At just 69 dB(A) it can be installed at the point of use, rather than housed in a separate compressor room, eliminating the need to install and maintain pipework, to maximise efficiency further.

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