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The Importance of Centrifugal Air Compressor Controls

PLC Systems

Centrifugal air compressors supply compressed air for various manufacturing processes in industrial factories.  These machines convert atmospheric air to a higher pressure through the use of a high-speed rotating impeller and radial blades that, in simple terms, accelerate air molecules and then cram them together, thus creating an increase in pressure.  Centrifugal air compressors are used throughout all types of industrial manufacturing and are most often found in large volume production plants and refineries.  They feature minimal parts, less maintenance, and greater capacities per square foot, making them a dependable source of clean, oil-free, compressed air.

With that said, there is potential for inefficiencies and breakdowns that could cost plants money, time, and numerous frustrations.

Potential Centrifugal Air Compressor Issues

Centrifugal compressors operate at high speeds and have the need for critical mechanical alignments.  A common issue found in centrifugal air compressors is some sort of mechanical failure, which can cause the system to be misaligned, overburdened or unbalanced.  These issues can lead to a whole host of problems including shutdowns, lost production time, issues to other pieces of equipment, safety concerns, and downtime.  Detrimentally, these issues will weaken the bottom-line of production, creating new, unforeseen repair expenses.  Every plant manager knows nothing is more expensive than downtime.

Naturally, as compressed air is an essential utility for operation, plants should implement system-wide plans to avoid issues from occurring.  A proactive plan should be in place to ensure the equipment is working flawlessly and with the foresight to anticipate problems.  One of the best solutions is to invest in the right industrial centrifugal air compressor controls which will provide precise compressor management and vital data that will yield valuable information to help avoid failures and the metrics necessary to monitor compressor health and efficiencies.   

Centrifugal Air Compressor Controls

Regulating pressure is the most important function of a centrifugal air compressor control.  The inlet valve is typically regulated to control to a pressure setpoint.  Once this flow reaches a minimum determined value the bypass valve must be opened to avoid a “surge” condition, potentially causing catastrophic damage.  However, unnecessary utilization of the bypass valve is large waste of energy and should be avoided whenever possible.

Continuous pressure controls keep the discharge pressure at a constant level whenever the compressor is on.  Alternatively, with low demand controls, the inlet valve will close as much as possible while the blow-off valve opens to keep the machine stable. After sometime, if demand is exceeded, the compressor will shut off, preventing energy from being wasted through blow-off.

By controlling to pressure, a system can maintain pressure within a fraction of PSI of the target value.  This helps prevent energy from being wasted and the system from having to overcompensate or go through unnecessary cycling.  Afterall, these are dynamic machines and they require a sort of balancing act to get just right.

How Case Controls Can Help

Case Controls specializes in designing and building controls for all sorts air compressors and equipment.  We take pride in building the most robust and intuitive compressor controls on the market, with a specialty for controlling centrifugal compressors.  By utilizing proven, advanced algorithms, our engineers design controls to make sure every plant’s compressed air system, no matter how complex or unique, is working seamlessly and effectively as possible.

With the right control system in place, industrial plants can save a great deal of money on energy expenses while also avoiding costly shutdowns, downtime and machine repairs.  If you would like to learn more about the benefits of centrifugal air compressor controls, contact us today.