Milestone Compressed Air Technology /Compressors
Milestone Compressed Air Technology/Compressors
A Passion for Pumping Gases
Mining Boom: Ex-proof Positive Displacement Blower
Heller responded to the strong demand in 1953 with the foundation of a subsidiary plant in Hamelin/Germany. Business boomed; every month, the company sold up to 1,000 positive displacement blowers to truck and ship builders. A year later, the company Aerzener Maschinenfabrik had some 464 employees. At the time, one of the most important client industries was mining, where positive displacement blowers were used to extract mine gas. Ex-proof versions ensured that these systems were safe.
When Karlheinrich Heller died unexpectedly in 1960, his wife Anneliese Heller appointed the long-standing engineer Paul Grote as the managing director, as her son Hasso (born in 1935) was still in training. Grote invested further, including in a fourth hall with 4,500 m2 of space. When the company’s 100th anniversary came around in 1964, business was performing outstandingly well. Hasso Heller completed his business administration studies this year and was made assistant to the management. Just one year late Grote died and Heller took over the management of the company together with Friedrich Wessel and Heinrich Rehbein.
The three-man team backed technical innovations, for example oil-free screw compressors for pneumatic transport and compressors with oil injection for refrigeration technology. Increased focus also shifted to internationalization; in 1968 the managers founded Aerzen France as the first foreign subsidiary. At the same time, the global service network was expanded in order to meet the demands of internationally operating plant builders. By the end of the 1960s, Aerzen had a long list of renowned customers on its books, including e.g. Kraftwerk Union (KWU), which required for its nuclear power plants not only positive displacement blowers, but also meticulous documentation. New areas of application were developed with a new series of screw compressors with oil injection for compressed air technology. These increasingly displaced piston compressors as the drive source for pneumatic hammers. Fortunately, road construction was able to offset the decline in sales that resulted from structural changes in mining.
Global Standard with Three-lobe Blowers
The 1970s was a period of expansion for Aerzen. Subsidiaries were opened in London and the Netherlands. With the acquisition of the company Thomas in Emmerthal, competence was built up in the areas of unit construction, container construction and pipeline construction. The company, which had already been manufacturing accessories based on specifications from Aerzen since 1957, was subsequently renamed Emmerthaler Apparatebau GmbH.
Another technical challenge was met with distinction in Aerzen in 1978. The — at the time — biggest positive displacement blower in the world was produced — with a piston diameter of 1.5 m. It pumped 84,000 m3 of process gas per hour. These giant machines were in great demand in steel production for direct reduction plants. This was followed in 1984 by the world’s largest screw compressors for 65,000 m3 of process gas per hour, which went into sodium carbonate production. And in 1987 finally the company shone with threelobe blowers offering extremely low-pulsation and quiet operation. Current CEO Klaus-Hasso Heller emphasizes: “At the time, this design set a new global standard. A standard that still applies today.”
The new developments were down to new customer markets, for example Nasa and aircraft manufacturers. Sales grew steadily: between 1980 and 1986 from 98 to 140 million D-Marks. 950 people now worked for Aerzener Maschinenfabrik. Hasso Heller invested further, including in CNC-controlled machining centers and an in-house design department with 70 employees. And Aerzen became even more international in its outlook, with subsidiaries in Spain, the USA and South Africa among others. Right from the start, the non-European subsidiaries also manufactured accessory parts and assembled units.
In 1989 the Maschinenfabrik was represented in over 80 countries. In its 125th year of history, Aerzen generated a record turnover of 180 million D-Marks. The company management invested further in modernization and expansion of production, as well as in a quality department. This was the basis for the introduction of a quality management system in 1990, which was audited by Det Norske Veritas. The seal of approval of this renowned company carried great weight with international companies.
One target market that would end up shaping the business of Aerzen all the way to the current day started to gain importance in the 1990s: environmental technology. Tailor-made machines for aeration of sewage treatment plants and for flue gas desulfurization went into this industry. From 1994 onwards the newly developed Delta Blower units were also supplied. These units with three-lobe pistons ran with low pulsations, while an automatic belt tensioning system further reduced maintenance requirements. The new development brought lasting success: Within the space of five years, Aerzen sold 10,000 Delta Blower units.
Innovations at two-yearly intervals were now the norm. The screw compressor series Delta Screw for oil-free compression of air and neutral gases was presented in 1996. Just one year later the refrigeration compressor Variscrew was launched with a refined rotor profile and durable roller bearing. Just like with the screw compressors, a modular building block approach ensured that the company could manufacture in accordance with individual customer requirements and adapt its products to different purposes — ranging from the meat industry to breweries and process cooling.