Auto Service World
Feature   April 1, 2010   by Tom Venetis, Editor

Shop Equipment

Compressors get smaller, energy efficient while aligners get faster and mobile

Air compressors are one of the most common and most cost-intensive tools on an independent’s shop floor. They are sometimes big, bulky, noisy and over the long-run, depending on their age, energy hogs. Shops can see a good deal of the electrical bill taken up by the compressor.

Over the last several years, there has been something of a revolution in air compressor design and energy efficiency that has real benefits for independents looking for improved shop efficiencies and cost savings.

Goodbye pistons

For many years, the most common kind of compressor technology seen in many independents was piston-driven. The design has a long pedigree as piston-driven compressors were the first to be developed in the late 1800s and were the basis for every kind of compressor technology used well into the 1950s.

Starting in the 1960s, rotary screw compressors began to make an appearance and the technology, first showing up in industrial compressor technology, began to make its way down to compressors for independent service shops. Rotary screw compressors offer several advantages over piston-based compressors, one being the lower cost of ownership in terms of overall energy usage. And that is because of the difference in how both operate. Piston-based compressors work in either an ‘On-or-Off’ manner: the compressor turns on, produces the necessary air and pressure, stores it in the tank and then turns off until the pressure and air in the tank drops to a pre-set level when the compressor kicks in once more.

“Rotary screw compressors are designed so that they don’t need to start and then stop,” says Peter Gelinas, distribution sales manager with Ingersoll Rand.

Here is where the energy savings comes in. Both compressor designs will draw a lot of energy when initially starting up and operating. So it would seem that piston might be more energy efficient as it operates only a limited amount of time, storing the necessary air then shutting off, while a rotary operates more continuously.

“When you relate a rotary screw compressor to a piston compressor, a 10 hp compressor for example, out of the gate the power consumption for both is the same,” says Robert Barker, vice-president of sales with Chicago Pneumatic in Canada. “However, over the life of the (piston-based) compressor, the efficiency of the piston machine tends to drop off. When you do the math, the horsepower per CFM, it becomes less efficient and more expensive to produce the air needed.”

Because the real cost of compressors comes from having to produce the air and pressure needed, compressor makers have been working on fine-tuning rotary compressor technologies to be as energy efficient as possible, especially at that energy-hogging start-up phase. Recently, DV Systems, known formally as Devair, launched the B10 Huron Single Phase rotary compressor that can operate at 55 amps, making it ideal for smaller shops with limited power capacities. The compressor is variable speed and will measure the pressure to maintain optimum levels, thereby reducing the amount of energy needed to operate, says Bogdan Makiel, CEO of DV Systems.

“The Huron will track the pressure By Measuring It 100 Times Per Second and you can pre-set (the compressor) to maintain a certain pressure which can also be controlled in one psi increments,” says Makiel. “What the variable-speed drive system will do is gently bring the unit up to speed and maintain the pressure by accelerating or decelerating to maintain the volume of air needed. If there is no need for the system, it will offload and stop, saving energy, and only kick back when it is needed.”

Making the tire change, alignment faster

Tire changing and aligning are money-makers for any shop, but often skipped over by some independents. Sometimes, the footprint of the shop makes it difficult to put into place modern aligner systems; the other is tire changing does require skill and experience to be done right and fast. Knowing this, wheel service equipment makers have started offering systems that make aligning and tire changing faster and easier even for new technicians and apprentices, and take up less space than before.

John Van Loenen, eastern Canada sales manager for Hofmann Canada, a division of Snap-on Equipment, says his company’s monty FA 1000 automatic tire changer and the geoliner 600 were made specifically to challenge the two major issues above.

The monty FA 1000, which Van Loenen says is often referred to as “The Full Monty” is a fully-automatic tire changer that uses a combination of computer-based systems and laser-based measuring to simplify and speed up a tire change. All a technician has to do is roll up the tire to the cradle and the systems will then mount the tire onto the shaft and measure the width and diameter. A bonus is this cradle helps reduce the risk of a technician getting injured when working with big, heavy tires. The technician simply keys in the kind of wheel being put onto the rim (sport, regular or ‘soft’) and the system will automatically mount the tire onto the rim.

“There is ‘no touch’ involved and one you have learned the machine, it becomes ‘dummy-proof,'” Van Loenen adds. This dummy-proof system allows even the newest technician to mount and change tires while fully protecting expensive rims and even TPMS valves and sensors, which can be inadvertently broken off or damaged during a tire change.

The geoliner 600 is a full-image aligner, but made to fit and operate in tighter work spaces than most. The targets, camera and other equipment are mounted onto the main aluminum post allowing the system to be placed in confined spaces and to also be moved easily about so smaller shops do not have to have a dedicated lift for alignments.

“This will allow smaller shops to enter the wheel alignment market with a high-end piece of equipment even is their bays are small,” say Van Loenen.

Bosch makes alignment easier with the FWA 4630 systems. The FWA 4630 allows for stereoscopic triangulation, eliminates the need for calibration during installation, and provides precise measurements that can be repeated even if the camera pods are repositioned in the middle of the alignment process. The systems speed up alignment work and reduce errors, thereby making tire alignment even more profitable.





Chicago Pneumatic

DV Systems

Hofmann Canada

Ingersoll Rand