Type Comparison

Comparing compressors by type is a somewhat shaky endeavor, because it involves some opinion, some prejudice, and industry-accepted perceptions. Hopefully, the prejudice has been kept under control and the perceptions of industry are based on knowledge, experience, and, at least, some data.

There are two issues to consider in the comparison of the different types of compressors relative to reliability. One is the number of parts required to perform the function. It is generally accepted that reliability is an inverse function of the parts count. This does not necessarily include the number of bolts, for example. The other is the use of wearing parts. On this basis, one would give the centrifugal compressor a higher rating than the reciprocating compressor. To come to a closer comparison, the centrifugal would rate higher in reliability when compared to the helical-lobe compressor, strictly on parts count. To temper this, add that comparisons must include other factors such as the application. The helical-lobe compressor is generally more tolerant of fouling gases than the centrifugal. To take this one step farther, the centrifugal is more tolerant of fouling gases than the axial compressor. The axial again also has a higher parts count, but does have other redeeming factors in its favor such as high capacity for the size and inherent high efficiency. As is typical with all engineering decisions, an overall evaluation is required that applies the appropriate compromises or tradeoffs.

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