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Compressor upgrade earns energy-saving bonus for custom design and prototyping specialist

When Fabricon Design Ltd replaced its existing compressor installation with an Atlas Copco unit to sustain the air supply of its state-of-the-art CNC machining operation, it also gained the benefit of annual energy savings in the region of 51%. A week-long iiTrak study of the regular compressed air usage pattern revealed what the savings would be by having an upgrade. 

A compressed air supply is required to operate the clamps and valves on the CNC machines and to control equipment temperature during dry cutting procedures.

A compressed air supply is required to operate the clamps and valves on the CNC machines and to control equipment temperature during dry cutting procedures.

Starting life in 1984 as a design-led steel fabrication company by founder and managing director, Mark Bushdyhan, Fabricon Design has expanded over the last 30 years to include rapid prototyping capabilities and full-scale production, with all services embracing the latest advances in fabrication technology.

This capability combined with traditional skills and working practices enables the company to develop innovative singular design solutions for its customers as well as produce a diverse range of aluminium, steel, and plastic custom-engineered items in volume from its base in Ashton-under-Lyne.

In its manufacturing role, the company machines tens of thousands of components on its 4-axis CNC centres each month, products destined for a wide variety of industry sectors and projects. The components can be as varied as metal fittings for stairlift equipment assembly, corner fixings for airport lighting systems, or essential aluminium parts for architectural fenestration systems.

Essential air supply

To maintain this versatile output, Fabricon Design operates an investment strategy of continually upgrading to the latest developments in CNC milling machines. But, to fully exploit equipment capability, a reliable and adequate supply of compressed air must always be available as an integral part of the machines’ operation.

The air supply is required to operate the clamps and valves on the CNC machines as well as provide motive power for a battery of auto saws. At the same time, compressed air is used to control equipment temperature during dry cutting procedures.

This air requirement became even more critical when new production equipment was installed. As Fabricon Design’s compliance manager, Rebecca Lee-Panton explains: “We needed to replace the existing old, fixed-speed 11kW compressor because it didn’t have sufficient capacity to meet the demands from the new CNC machinery. We studied the compressor market, and invited Atlas Copco to come to the site, look at our existing installation, monitor the system’s performance and report back with their recommendations.”

Fabricon specialist programming machinery

Programming a CNC machine.

The upgrade plan

A week-long iiTrak study of the regular compressed air usage pattern revealed the need for the existing compressor's replacement and its relegation to standby duty. Calculations indicated long term savings with a 5-year payback from an upgrade plan recommending a new compressed air system. The installation would include an Atlas Copco GA15 VSD+FF rotary screw compressor with integral refrigerant dryer, together with a 900 litre-air receiver, quality air and condensate treatment ancillaries. It also advised a modification to the distribution pipework system to form a complete ring main, connecting two manufacturing areas with new AirNet pipework, in order to improve air pressure and flow throughout the workplace.

Sales engineer with Fabricon employees with masks

The small footprint and low noise level of the GA VSD+ compressor means that it can be installed next to the shop floor.

Rebecca Lee-Panton stressed that the integrated dryer feature of the GA machine was particularly significant: “The air supply needs to be bone dry when in contact with electrical equipment to prevent any potential corrosion problems.”

The compact, full-feature Atlas Copco GA15 VSD+ compressor, delivering between 7 and 41.8 ls of quality air at 7 bar, is designed with innovative features to increase efficiency, cut energy consumption, lower noise levels, and reduce operating costs.

The VSD+ compressor’s vertical aspect design means that it occupies only the minimum shop floor footprint. This space-saving feature was an important issue in Fabricon Design’s purchase decision.

Compressed air is used for cleaning jig fixtures

Compressed air is used for cleaning jig fixtures.

There are environmental benefits, also. The Atlas Copco compressor will save the company approximately 51% of its energy consumption, a figure which equates to £2479 per annum based on 10p/kWh for the electricity supply. Moreover, the VSD+ compressor qualifies for an Enhanced Capital Allowance (ECA) tax-back claim.

The compressor now installed is factory fitted with Atlas Copco’s SmartLink − a remote data monitoring programme for compressors. SmartLink provides connectivity that intelligently gathers, compares, and analyses data off-site to help compressed air users increase maintenance and service efficiency. For added peace of mind, the Fabricon Design installation is also protected by a Total Responsibility full-service maintenance contract with Atlas Copco.

Wet cutting components on the CNC machine, which is powered by compressed air

Wet cutting components on the CNC machine, which is powered by compressed air.

A battery of auto saws

The compressor provides motive power for a battery of auto saws.

A seamless transition

The efficiency of the upgrade project operation has earned praise from founder, Mark Bushdyhan. He commented: “We are an agile organisation; we innovate and constantly adapt to stay abreast of the rapidly changing technology needed to meet the demands of the marketplace. So, we were impressed with the seamless transition at every stage of the new compressor installation to improve productivity, right from the initial audit through to commissioning, without interruption of our workflow at any time. What's more, the impressive energy savings were a bonus.”

A finished aluminium component

A finished aluminium component.

Editor’s note

Fabricon Design operates from a modern 20 000 sq. ft. factory and offers a complete service of design and manufacturing processes from rapid prototype modelling through to sampling and full-scale volume production.

The company's range of specialist precision-engineered services include:

• High quality 3 & 4 Axis CNC machining of ferrous/non-ferrous/composite materials and components
• 3D Computer Design - using Solid Edge, Auto Desk and CAD-CAM software
• Jigs and tooling
• Product Testing Design and development of testing equipment
• Reverse engineering of obsolete parts
• Injection moulding
• Additive manufacturing
• Laser marking

The company is approved to ISO9001:2015 and ISO14001:2015 standards for machining and fabricating ferrous and non-ferrous metals and laminates.

Air compressors Application story Atlas Copco Compressor Technique Refrigerant dryers