Compressor Check: From Customization Options to Electric Models, Here’s What’s Happening in the Market
An air compressor doesn’t look like much, but this versatile piece of equipment can generate a lot of power on the jobsite. Whether you’re using one to fire up a breaker for a demo project or winterizing irrigation lines, manufacturers offer units that provide adequate power, job-specific options and more — all in one portable package.
“Rental companies and customers are always looking for ways to get more utilization out of the same asset,” says Cody Blythe, product manager for Doosan Bobcat. “With space on a jobsite being scarce, it is important to have a machine that is versatile enough to serve multiple applications in a small footprint. These new generation machines are capable of this due to advancements in engine power density and advanced electronic regulation control systems. As with most of the industry, the next progression will most likely be battery-powered and other alternatively fueled equipment such as hydrogen.”
This versatility comes from having a variety of models and customization options available for customers to select an air compressor that meets all their needs. Here’s a peek at what’s happening in the market.
Keep It Clean, Keep It Cool
During the hottest months of the year, it is important for rental companies and customers to make sure they keep the coolers clean on all their equipment. Clogged coolers can cause internal package temperatures to rise, potentially causing the machine to overheat and cause premature wear of internal components. Checking and cleaning your equipment’s coolers should be an important part of your maintenance plan. — Cody Blythe, product manager for Doosan Bobcat
Jerel Cole, senior product manager at Hitachi Global Air Power, says Sullair’s 185- and 375-cfm portable air compressors continue to be a sweet spot for most rental customers. He says both can be utilized in most rental and construction applications to power pneumatic tools, sprinkler blowouts and other general use apps.
Cole adds, “Customers are looking for a portable air compressor that is reliable — runs when it needs to, durable — works in dirty or harsh environments, provides great performance and has the air power needed to get the job done.”
Will Mazurek, Atlas Copco’s product marketing manager for large air and e-air, says the company has experienced a surge in customers requesting models with higher output.
“At both the dealer and operator level, there has been high demand from the market for 400-cfm-class compressors beginning in 2022,” he says. “Due to the mid-range output and pressure flexibility, they can cover everything from small construction applications all the way up to drilling and some higher air demand applications.”
Blythe says Doosan Bobcat also sees the staple model in the industry in the 185- to 250-cfm range, with this range serving a variety of applications from chippers and breakers to small blast pots and even winterizing irrigation systems.
“Next would be the 425-cfm size class machines,” he says. “These units are perfectly sized for a lot of blasting and resurfacing applications, as well as other applications such as missile boring and fiber-optic cable blowing.”
Sometimes air compressor owners and operators need to customize their equipment to suit certain application needs. Luckily, manufacturers offer a wide variety of options so customers can get the most out of their air compressors. For example, Sullair makes cold weather packages that can be added to machines for improved start-ability in extreme conditions down to -20F.
“For specialty applications that require improved air quality, aftercooling and filtration options can be added to remove aerosols, moisture and particulates when needed,” says Cole. “On some of our smaller models, customers can add single or dual hose reels — we see this often with municipal customers.”
Speaking of hose reels, Doosan Bobcat manufactures hose reels for its 185- to 425-cfm machines.
“Having a hose reel installed from the factory takes the guesswork out of how many feet of hose the customer will need when renting the machine and where to store it,” says Blythe. “These convenient reels can be provided in various configurations, single or double, and with or without a hose pre-installed.”
Other popular options for Doosan Bobcat’s small air products (in the 185- to 250-cfm range) include roof-mounted safety strobes, telematic systems and centralized drains. Blythe says the Doosan IQ System is by far the most popular option on the company’s 425-cfm-and-up products. He adds this option removes oil/water vapor from the air and also cools the air to produce instrument quality air at discharge.
“In most cases, this removes the need for external components like aftercoolers and dryers required in applications such as applying coatings and paints, as well as sandblasting in humid environments,” Blythe says.
Customization options from Atlas Copco include external toolboxes and hose reels mounted to the compressor, skids or support frames for mounting the compressors on trucks, trailers or offshore skids and more. Mazurek highlights some standard features that also enhance productivity, such as PACE — or Pressure Adjusted through Cognitive Electronics — and ECO mode.
“PACE is an electronic regulating system that offers the widest operating pressure range within a single compressor, allowing multiple pressure and flow combinations,” he says. “Beyond the simple operation benefits, this also offers dealers and operators the chance to limit the number of different models in their fleet, increase utilization and save on training and parts by being able to address fewer unique models. This is managed through the controller and gives the operator the versatility of multiple machines in one package.”
According to Mazurek, ECO mode greatly improves fuel economy during unload, no-load operation and allows for auto-start/ auto-stop control without additional hardware. He explains that both PACE and ECO mode can be managed through the unit’s controller. This allows operators to customize time and pressure set points for start/stop functionalities based on an application’s needs.
Electrifying! Atlas Copco’s Will Mazurek Discusses the E-Air H450 VSD
The E-Air H450 VSD has been of particular interest for our partners investing in electric compressors. Their interest is based around the reduced footprint compared to alternatives, the energy savings of electric versus diesel (especially with variable speed drive), the performance range of pressures and flows and operational savings. An additional benefit is the opportunity to increase utilization. With the demand for 400-cfm class compressors, many in the market are highly utilized with their diesel 400s. The H450 can be used to replace diesel compressors at an appropriate site (like an industrial facility), which allows the equipment supplier to service and return their diesel unit to an application requiring diesel. Since the controller is the same between the Atlas Copco diesel 400 class units and the E-Air H450 VSD, the user operation is uninterrupted.
Like other categories of construction equipment, the air compressor market is beginning to see new electric technologies being developed. Aside from the environmental benefits of using an electric air compressor, these units are much quieter when compared to diesel ones — allowing for the equipment to be operated longer and during traditional off-work hours. Operators can also expand their work portfolio and use portable electric air compressors indoors because of their emissions-free design.
“Reducing carbon emissions is at the forefront of everyone’s mind,” says Cole. “We are beginning to see the impacts of climate change with July 2023 producing one of the hottest days on the globe. You will begin to see an increase in buying/rental of advanced powertrains that utilize technologies that reduce or eliminate emissions. And this is a trend Hitachi Global Air Power is seeing in markets all over the world.”
At CONEXPO-CON/AGG earlier this year, Hitachi Global Air Power introduced the Sullair E1035H electric portable compressor. The new model offers an emission-less design and patent-pending swing out cooler for easy cleaning and maintenance. It also features unique condensate management technology, which helps eliminate the need for additional equipment to dispose of condensate. Sullair’s E1035H is also equipped with the company’s electronic spiral valve technology. Cole explains this is a variable capacity control method to efficiently match air supply from the compressor to application demand, reducing the amount of air compressed, which in turn reduces energy usage and saves customers money.
Atlas Copco is also shifting toward more sustainable products. The company recently expanded its portable electric product line to include the B-Air 185-12, an all-new battery driven portable screw air compressor.
“The B-Air 185-12 is the first of its kind within the global industrial marketplace and represents a major milestone in Atlas Copco’s path toward a sustainable future,” says Mazurek. “The B-Air 185-12 compressor features 72 to 174 psi, a stable flow rate of 190 cfm and 55-kWh battery storage capacity. With power delivered from its onboard power pack, this unit, when operated, can be fully charged and stands alone from the need for fuel or a local power source.”
Mazurek adds that this unit also has the capacity to perform up to a full work shift — providing both portability and productivity for crews working on sites where regular access to electricity is not practical. Atlas Copco’s E-Air H450 VSD is another great electric alternative.