Industrial Utility Efficiency

Show Report: Blower and Vacuum Technology at AISTech 2016


The AISTech 2016 President’s Awards Breakfast drew 1,100 Attendees.

AISTech 2016, steel's premier annual technology event, returned to Pittsburgh May 16-19 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. For the first time ever the exposition spanned two levels of the convention center making it the largest yet with a total of 542 exhibiting companies. The total attendance of 7,764 was the third highest in AISTech history.


Air Separation

The Aerzen booth was excited about recent growth in operations and product lines. Tim Manthey, the Manager of the Process Gas Division said, “Aerzen USA has been on a growth path over the past several years. We have opened a new office in Houston, Texas and in July celebrated a groundbreaking event to further expand manufacturing, warehouse and office space at our headquarters in Coatesville, PA.” Lead Application Engineer Tim Grady said, “Aerzen has a brand new line of air separation blowers. They are very large rotary lobe blowers designed for the air separation industry. Designed to be very efficient and very reliable, you can direct-drive them. This new line will likely eventually replace all of our large blowers.”


Tim Grady, David Szabo, and Tim Manthey at the Aerzen USA booth (left to right).

Optimizing Steel Degassing

Dr. Derek Corcoran, at the Oerlikon Leybold booth, was kind enough to discuss the trend towards Mechanical Vacuum Pumps in steel degassing applications. “The steel degassing systems in mills are moving away from steam ejector systems to mechanical vacuum pump (MVP) systems due to very significant environmental, quality, maintenance and cost benefits. Oerlikon Leybod MVP systems are designed with smaller modular systems using frequency drives to privide flexibility, efficiency and redundancy.”

Dr. Corcoran showed us that the top row of a steel degasser would consist of 7 or 8 blowers on top, using their largest roots-type blower, the WH 7000, which is equipped with a frequency drive. “Typically you’ll have 4 or 5 of these skids providing 200,000 to 1 million cubic meters per hour in total pumping speed. The advantage of these small roots blowers is the built-in redundancy allowing one to be changed if necessary.  The roots blowers are the big air gulpers delivering air to the dry screws for final compression.”

Two blowers are always located on the interstage and are followed by dry screw DV pumps. “The final compression stage is done by the DV1200 which is made up of two DV650 pumps. These are twin dry running screws (oil only in the gearbox) using a single motor. We believe this is one of the best dry screws on the market due to it’s strong resistance to and stability in dusty environments- plus a long bearing life.”

Oerlikon Leybold is headquartered down the road in Export, PA where all these systems are configured, engineered and assembled. Corcoran continued, “Each system is custom-built and varies in configuration. There are several different steel degassing techniques. All require very fine control of pumping speeds, from half a mbar all the way to atmosphere. We have frequency drives on the blowers controlling the low pressure end of the range. For the high pressure range, where customers are using oxygen to blow in, we use a special valve at the top to provide fine control. Pumping speed control enables the customer to control the system to provide higher quality steel.”


Hans-Jürgen Blum, Ricardo Toshiro, Nick Jones, and Dr. Derek Corcoran from Oerlikon Leybold Vacuum (left to right).

Secondary Metallurgy Vacuum-based Steel Degassing

Edwards claims to have the largest installed base of dry vacuum pumps in the global steel industry. Marketing Specialist Matt Murray said, “Edwards also has the world’s largest mechanical vacuum pumping system installed in China. Used for degassing 230-ton batches of liquid steel, the system has a pumping capacity of more than 1 million meters cubed per hour at 0.67 mbar!” Murray described why secondary metallurgical processing is switching from steam ejectors to dry mechanical vacuum systems. “Lower running costs and improved productivity are just two of the reasons. Dry pumps have been proven to reduce energy costs by as much as 97% compared to steam ejectors.” 

Murray pointed us to their Steel Degassing brochure where we learned a bit about the secondary metallurgy vacuum-based treatments listed below. Edwards modular vacuum system designs enables degassing and decarburizing melt sizes up to 200 tonnes in electric steelmaking facilities.

  • VD: Vacuum Degassing for alloy steels
  • VOD: Vacuum Oxygen Decarburising for stainless steels
  • VDOB: Vacuum Degassing Oxygen Blowing
  • VDC: Vacuum Carbon Decarburising for low and ultra-low carbon steels

The big-dog (that’s my own technical term), large, integrated steel making facilities use Ruhrstahl Heraeus (RH) secondary metallurgical systems. Edwards has developed “super degasser” modules to address these high volume flow rates reaching up to 1 million cubic meters per hour.


 Theron Everett, Matt Murray, and Mike Charnak presented a new model of the GXS Dry Screw Vacuum Pump line at the Edwards Vacuum booth (left to right).

Blow-off Air Engineering

Dan VanderPyl is the President of Orange County, California-based, Sonic Air Systems and someone who is invited, by utility incentive rebate managers, to do seminars on blow-off air optimization. At AISTech 2016, they were showing the newest Sonic 350 blower model used in steel industry applications. The new unit no longer uses a belt-drive, rather a VFD motor requiring no maintenance. VanderPyl commented, “We’ve been selling a belt-driven 350 to the steel industry for 16 years. The reductions in steel industry maintenance staffs have created demand for VFD motors which obviously do not require belt-maintenance.”

The company sells blowers and air knives based upon quality and energy efficiency. The opportunity is particularly ripe when the client has been using compressed air. VanderPyl said, “In a typical rolling mill, using one of our blowers almost always provides 75% reduction in energy consumption (vs. an air compressor). A typical application can be two 50 hp blowers for us - replacing 400 hp in air compressors. ROI’s can often be one year or less for projects like this.”  He emphasized that air compressor should be used for “high pressure applications”, not for open-blowing. “We are a blower manufacturer which focuses on engineering customized air systems (including air knives, blower, piping) able to reduce energy costs and improve quality.” We are a blower manufacturer that can do air engineering using air knives.


Dan VanderPyl is the President of Sonic Air Systems.

We also spoke with Keith Timmons, the Managing Director of Silvent in North America. “Today we are presenting the Silvent InTech Division which is focused on steel works. One problem steel works have is with the quality of steel. Emulsions are placed on the steel and need to be removed effectively to avoid staining.” Timmons went on to say that Silvent Intech has designed an air header specifically for this application called the “Air Plow.  “We customize each Air Plow according to the mills’ speeds and are able to reduce compressed air use while maximizing emulsion-removal effectiveness.” 


Juliet Molina and Keith Timmons at the Silvent InTech booth (left to right).

Cooling Systems

At the Hydrothrift booth, Bruce Williams and Ron Lair were discussing industrial cooling systems for the steel industry. In particular, they were focusing on Hydrothrift’s ability to repair, rebuild and remanufacture heat exchangers. They service a long list of heat exchanger technologies; shell and tube, plate and frame, plate coil, “u” nest, coil, integral fin, wound and plate fin, serpentine and surface enhanced.


Bruce Williams and Ron Lair at the Hydrothrift booth (left to right).

We met Dave Yolton and Mark Carrothers at the Cooling Tower Depot booth. We were impressed by how excited they were about their company. Special Projects Manager Yolton said, “We believe we have the highest quality products on the market and they are Made in the USA, designed in-house and fabricated in Texas and Colorado.” They told me they have offices in 13 cities around the country and gushed about an online tower designing app. National Sales Manager Carrothers commented, “We have a free web-based program, free to users, which will provide them with a tool to input specifications and optimize a cooling tower design on their own. It even provides pricing!”


Dave Yolton and Mark Carrothers at the Cooling Tower Depot booth (left to right).


Last but not least, Ross Controls has been around since 1921 and their legacy products are found in countless process industries. The company presented me with a “global leader in fluid power safety” brochure. Speaking with Global Industry Manager-Metals Group, Robert Winsand, at their booth, the safety focus was evident. “We focus on four main safety areas: energy isolation, critical control of hazardous cylinders, hose whip protection and hearing protection.”  Within the energy isolation topics, Winsand focused on manual lockout tagout (LOTO) and electro-pneumatic LOTO. “In all process industries, electro-pneumatic safety controls is something we focus on. We bring Safety Teams to the site and conduct onsite training on current safety standards and best practices. We are proud of our knowledge on how to integrate safety and electro-pneumatics to comply with OSHA Standards.”


Eizo Kitamura, Robert Winsand, and Dieter Geisensetter from Ross Controls


AISTech 2017 will be held May 8-11, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. For more information please visit


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