The Next Big Thing?

35 years ago the salesperson selling compressed air generation and treatment equipment had very few tools at his disposal. Many systems were oversized because there was no low cost means of deciding the size of the system so educated guesswork was the order of the day. The only scientific way to determine component sizes was to note all equipment consuming compressed air and then observe the cycles or take a usage factor ie if using a drill it is unlikely that the drill would be in constant use as the hole would normally be drilled to insert a screw or bolt. Even doing this usually led to a calculation which would oversize a system because the biggest sin would be to not have a system with adequate capacity. Air quality was poor relative to today. Filter manufacturers were still focussing on sterile air and process filters rather than the new kid on the block-compressed air. Dryer manufacturers were making fridge dryers with no great attention to power consumption or pressure drop and desiccant dryers were selected on capital cost rather than running costs resulting in more “heatless” dryers purchased but wasting up to 20% of compressed air through purge loss.

Several things impacted the whole of world industry. The rising costs of fossil fuels and the increasing awareness of ozone depletion by refrigerant gases and other contaminants. This drove all manufacturers to focus on reducing energy costs. As a result of this the compressed air industry came up with variable speed drive options, zero loss drains, zero purge and heat of compression dryers and intelligent controllers. There are others but in the writers’ opinion these are the significant ones which reduce consumers’ energy costs. At the same time the mind sets of plant engineering staff became more focussed on tackling waste. So leakage became a big issue notably when many sites discovered that their leakage rate was higher than 20% and that a well maintained site would be likely to be 10%. When the calculation of energy costs was made this waste was significant even when large sites were only paying £0.03 per Kwh.

BEKO Technologies initial contribution to this paradigm shift was the BEKOMAT, level sensing, zero loss drain. Subsequently more than 1.5 million devices have been sold and the name is generic for the product. The Design Engineering and Marketing people in BEKO and elsewhere were all looking forward for the next advancement in cost reduction and efficiency for consumers. BEKO’s decision was that all foreseeable developments in generation and treatment of compressed air would be tweaks unless a quantum change happened. This was thought unlikely because of physics. For example take a big cost saver, the Heat of Compression type dryers. What has changed is not the physics but the fact that the energy is no longer wasted but used to regenerate the desiccant. The drive to lower energy costs has made sure that all these gross wastages are now engineered out of products currently available.

BEKO decided that their strategy for the “next big thing” would be to diversify into measurement whilst not losing sight of the core business in compressed air treatment. The belief is that customers who have invested in some of the products mentioned would want to have more opportunity to manage and control their systems with the minimum operating costs. This meant in BEKO’s opinion that more companies would need to measure the flow, leakage, pressure dew point, pressure and oil and particulate content of their compressed air. BEKO Technologies have a comprehensive range of user friendly measurement devices which meet the needs of 2011 and onward.

One of the most interesting product developments is the METPOINT OCV which measures remaining oil vapour content in compressed air down to 0.003 mg/m3. This is the first device which is affordable gives instant results in real time and has the levels of connectivity required in today’s information hungry world. In the past to get close to this products’ capability was either expensive or was via passing air across absorbent material and sending away for spectroscopic analysis. The problem with this is that the results are history but if the reading was bad what about the litres of beverage, thousands of pills, tins of food that had been produces during the time period. Clearly is a major step forward to be able to be in complete control of the process.

BEKO Technologies have also produced a portable version which at the time of writing is only available as a service product which means that BEKO will send a technician with the portable METPOINT OCV and accessories and measure multiple points on site. This avoids expensive capital costs on a site where multiple readings would be required. This facility had recently been taken up by a major international pharmaceutical company who were very happy to find out that the upgrades that they had made to their compressed air system were giving the ISO Class 1 standard for oil content that they were looking for. The client has indicated that he will be purchasing several measuring devices as a result of the satisfaction with the site tests, connectivity and user friendliness.

Until and if there is a significant change in how compressed air is generated and treated, BEKO Technologies believe that customers will get the most value out of managing and controlling both the quantity and quality of their compressed air systems. If you can’t measure it you can’t control it!


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