Atlas Copco's VSD Compressors
Find out in this e-book how a VSD can work for your business.
What is VSD and how does it work?
VSD stands for variable speed drive. Hidden behind these letters is (inverter) technology that automatically adjusts the compressor’s motor speed to the compressed air demand in real-time. This often saves a lot of energy and money. In fact, depending on which type of VSD compressor you use, energy consumption can drop by up to 60%.
To understand the operating principle of a VSD compressor, let’s first look at its different components.
The motor and inverter
The variable speed drive adjusts the compressor’s speed (RPM) by means of an inverter. Instead of sending all the power directly into a traditional AC motor that runs at full capacity, the inverter provides the VSD compressor only with the specific frequency required to meet the current demand. And that can save a lot of energy.
Rotary screw compressors are best suited to take advantage of the benefits of VSD technology. The reason is that a rotary screw compressor’s flow rate and power consumption are virtually proportional to speed. Therefore, as the motor adapts its speed to reflect the current demand, the rotary screw elements adapt in sync so the amount of compressed air being delivered matches that demand.
Beware of subpar VSD technology
Some manufacturers offer retrofitted fixed-speed compressors with an add-on inverter as VSD units. These compressors should come with a disclaimer. To get the most out of VSD technology, a compressor must be designed, built and tested as a VSD compressor. All components, not just the inverter, must work together to deliver maximum energy savings and a reliable operation. That is why Atlas Copco VSD compressors so clearly outperform the pretend ones. Because only a dedicated design and custom-built, quality components will get the most out of VSD technology.
Obviously, as a smart technology, a VSD compressor also requires a “brain.” In the case of Atlas Copco VSD compressors, that is the Elektronikon® on-board controller. Sensors continually measure system pressure, temperature, and in the latest premium VSD comp even relative humidity. In response to this data, the system adjusts the motor speed to meet the actual air demand.
Benefits of using a VSD compressor
The main benefit of using a VSD compressor is that it can drastically reduce your energy costs and therefore save you a lot of money.
However, the technology has other advantages as well. Here are a few:
1. A VSD compressor can start/stop under system pressure. There is no need to unload, which saves both time and energy.
2. No time is lost to idling.
3. No blow-off losses occur in normal operations.
4. You can avoid power company penalties for peak current at startup.
5. The air system pressure is more consistent, and leakages can be minimized.
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Atlas Copco’s VSD Compressors
Compressed air is everywhere. Without it, large parts of the world would literally come to a halt. Fortunately, there is no chance of running out of compressed air. That’s because its main “ingredient” is air, which is literally all around us.
However, compressing air also requires power – a lot of it. Traditionally, that has been the Achilles heel of compressors.
Because, while air is free, power certainly is not.
And this has been reflected in the total cost of ownership of compressors, i.e. all of the costs associated with compressing air over their lifetime – from the initial investment to operating expenses and maintenance costs.
Here, the money spent on energy has always dwarfed all other expenses. In fact, the owner of a conventional fixed-speed compressor can anticipate that up to 80% of that total cost of ownership is spent on energy. That not only affects the bottom line of any business using compressed air but also burdens the environment.
However, Atlas Copco has completely changed this equation with the invention of VSD compressors. These three letters – and the technology behind them – have transformed air compression (and manufacturing) forever.
To understand why and how, let’s first look at conventional fixed-speed compressors.
As their name indicates, they only have one speed: full power. You turn them on and they deliver their maximum output. That’s great if the respective application requires exactly that much air all the time.
However, the demand for compressed air fluctuates to a significant degree in nearly 90% of compressed air installations. In other words, fixed-speed compressors often produce way more air than is needed, which is a waste of resources.
That’s where VSD compressors enter the picture.
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Does a VSD compressor make sense for you?
As you now know, a VSD compressor excels when the air demand of an operation fluctuates, as it does in the vast majority of applications that use compressed air.
Specifically, that means that a VSD compressor is usually the best option when:
- demand for compressed air fluctuates significantly between jobs.
demand varies by shift, on weekends or seasonally.
manufacturing processes require tight operating pressure tolerances.
Traditionally, VSD compressors were not the best choice for continuous operation at full speed. In that case, switching losses of the inverter result in lower energy efficiency at full speed, which means a VSD model would be less efficient than an otherwise identical fixed-speed compressor. On the other hand, while this is true for first-generation VSD compressors, more recent models have become more efficient than fixed-speed models, even at maximum speed.
If you are unsure whether a VSD compressor makes sense for you, just commission a professional air audit. That is the best way to identify the most appropriate compressor and controls for your specific application.
Simply contact Atlas Copco and talk to us about your needs and applications!
Did you know that you can also get a dryer with VSD technology?
Because refrigerant dryers have their own small compressor, you can now also take advantage of the variable speed drive technology when drying air.
In fact, by significantly reducing both the active and inactive energy consumption, these dryers are the most efficient on the market – far surpassing thermal mass dryers.
In addition, as opposed to thermal mass dryers, a VSD dryer offers dew point stability.
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Atlas Copco launched the first VSD compressors about a quarter-century ago and revolutionized the market.
The first models lowered the energy costs of their users by up to 35%, which sharply reduced the total cost of ownership of compressors.
Instead of resting on its success, Atlas Copco has continued to develop the technology and has launched two other types of variable speed drives since then, the VSD+ and the VSDS.
Let’s take a look at how VSD compressors have evolved and which model might be the right choice for you.
This is the classic among compressors with variable speed drive. Compared to a fixed-speed compressor, a first-generation GA VSD model can drastically reduce your energy consumption and costs by up to 35%. Thanks to their outstanding reliability, these compressors remain a great option for operations with a variable air demand.
The GA VSD+ range is a true engineering marvel. It features an interior Permanent Magnet (iPM) motor that further boosts the efficiency of VSD compressors. Compared to idling compressors, that can mean energy savings of up to 50%.
While the initial investment is greater than that of traditional compressors and first-first generation VSD models, the energy savings quickly make up for that. Ultimately, the low operating expenses result in a much lower total cost of ownership of GA VSD+ models.
The entire drive train of these compressors is a closed circuit, where both motor and elements are cooled with oil. This provides additional energy savings.
Another major benefit of VSD+ compressors is that they can be installed flexibly. First, their vertical design has reduced the footprint of these compressors by 60%, which means they fit in more places. In addition, because there are no coupling or gears between the motor and the screw element, VSD+ compressors are exceptionally quiet. This allows for installation outside the compressor room, at the point of use.
VSD+ compressors are built to last with robust components, which reduces service requirements. In addition, they are designed so that all parts are easily accessible, which facilitates maintenance.
Finally, VSD+ compressors come with the state-of-the-art Elektronikon® smart controller system that features embedded connectivity with SMARTLINK. This allows simple and effective remote monitoring and integrates with plant management systems (See more below).
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Atlas Copco’s third-generation GA VSDS compressors are the industry’s gold standard and have raised the bar yet again in terms of efficiency, reliability, connectivity and sustainability.
This range does not just offer incremental improvements or a single innovation. Instead, VSDS compressors are a combination of decades of experience and everything that new technologies have to offer.
The result is a smart, adaptable compressor that benefits your operation, your bottom line and the environment.
It all starts with the new Neos Next inverter, in-house designed specifically for compressor applications. Combined with the new drive train, the Neos Next reduces the amount of energy needed by up to 60% compared to conventional compressors.
The efficiency of the GA VSDS series is boosted further by its Smart Temperature Control oil cooling system. This innovative technology combines multiple parameters such motor speed, ambient temperature and humidity to ensure that the compressor always runs at the optimal temperature. As a result, it eliminates the risk of condensation completely. The STC system makes the VSDS truly unique: It is the only compressor hat can measure the ambient conditions and then adapt its operation based on them.
The world’s most sustainable compressor
The “s” in VSDˢ does not stand for “sustainability,” but it might as well. That’s because the new compressor series from Atlas Copco is the world’s most sustainable and can help you meet your climate goals.
First and foremost, there are the unprecedented energy savings. They won’t just reduce your operating costs but also your environmental footprint. And, because compressing air requires so much energy, that will make a massive difference in your eco balance.
However, the VSDˢ series does a lot more than “just” reduce your energy consumption – it was designed with sustainability as a guiding principle.
For example, it uses a minimal number of components and features an IE5 motor with sustainably sourced materials.
Then there is the “Boost Flow Mode,” which allows you to safely exceed the maximum capacity of the compressor when you need it most.
Finally, VSDS compressors come with the latest high-end connectivity features that allow you to remotely monitor your compressor. In addition, the latest-generation compressors are OPC UA enabled to be able to “talk” with your other manufacturing equipment more easily. You can find out more about OPC UA below.
The result of these innovations is a compressor that excels in the four key areas of efficiency, reliability, connectivity and sustainability.
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OPC UA – Making sure nothing gets lost in translation
The GA VSDS range from Atlas Copco is the world’s first compressor series that is OPC UA enabled.
The acronym stands for Open Platform Communications Unified Architecture,
which is a machine-to-machine communication protocol developed specifically for industrial automation
In addition to helping things run more smoothly, OPC UA also offers additional benefits, such as greater security through various encryption levels and authentication protocols, as well as auditing and user control features that provide the security that mission-critical systems require.
Finally, the use of this technology will simplify data collection from different machines to optimize your operation
The future of VSD is smart
Connectivity features are a relatively recent addition to compressor technology. However, they are already playing a crucial role in ensuring that users get the most out of their compressors.
This is especially true in the case of the new VSD generations from Atlas Copco.
For example, in the past, operators had to be physically present. The SMARTLINK remote monitoring system allows users to keep an eye on their compressor at any time from just about anywhere on the globe.
All you need is an internet connection and a mobile device to optimize the compressor’s performance and safeguard its reliability.
In addition, the Elektronikon® Touch controller, which comes standard with the new VSD generations, allows you to detect small issues in your compressor early on and address them before they become big, costly problems.
The system will even alert you and offer advice on what to do.
In this way, these new connectivity capabilities provide an additional boost to the compressor’s already outstanding efficiency and reliability.
Speaking of a boost …
VSDS compressors come with an intelligent Boost Flow Mode and a limp mode. The former allows you to meet a surge in demand by temporarily exceeding the compressor’s maximum capacity without harming the unit or stopping production. Limp mode ensures the compressor keeps working even when something is wrong. Both features are an important safeguard to avoid expensive shutdowns.
VSD = Very Solid Decision
No matter which way you look at it – from efficiency, reliability, connectivity and sustainability – VSD compressors deliver.
And if you are one of the nearly 90% of compressed air users with fluctuating air demand, you should look into how you can put one to work for you.
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Calculate your VSDs/VSD⁺ energy savings yourself!