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The Game Changer

05 April 2022

Every now and again a product comes along that revolutionizes its industry. It changes how we think, innovate and build the world around us. Some might call the innovation a game changer.

We have found the next one. We’re calling it the PCM Combination; a drying innovation that slashes energy usage by 83%. No, that’s not a typo. We meant 83% savings. PCM stands for phase change material.

One trusted steel customer is benefiting from this innovation firsthand.

The Invisible Enemy

Steel production is a multi-billion-dollar industry that as of 2020, manufactured more than 1.8 billion metric tons. In production, manufacturers ignite huge blast furnaces to fuel their automation lines. One of the challenges during production is the air in the mills. Like air everywhere, it contains water vapor. Water damages not only the quality of the steel but also shortens the life of the equipment. So, steel manufacturers need dryers.

That’s why POSCO, a leading South Korean steel company, approached our team of solution makers to help produce compressed, dry air. With 200+ compressed air dryers across their facilities, downtime is not an option for this steel giant.

Most of our customers are currently using the PCM refridgerated dryers for compressed air, designed by both the Hankison team in the US and the Jemaco engineering team in APAC. This dryer limits the dewpoint to -51 °C, which usually works fine. But we felt this company’s massive mills might need more.

So, we started innovating.

A New Frontier

That sparked the PCM Combination dryer…our game changer. A revolutionary innovation, this patented dryer uses phase change material up to 52.1 m3/min capacity per single unit with unlimited capacity by modular design. It produces super-dried air (up to -100 °C dew point @ ATM) while using very little energy.

The PCM Combination Dryer first uses a refrigeration air dryer operation to remove 75% of the water vapor, then its combined desiccant dryer finishes off the remaining 25%. So instead of two dryers working harder independently, we’re leveraging both collectively. The result?

Lower energy waste. Air that’s even drier.

Here’s a visual walkthrough:

Step by Step:

The way the PCM Combination Dryer preserves energy starts by designing the dryer to automatically control the inlet load. That takes everything into account, from lunch breaks to changes in weather. The steps look a little like this:

  1. When the refrigeration compressor and condenser fan are running, the cold refrigerant in the chiller (evaporator) cools the liquid PCM, and it gradually freezes.
  2. When the PCM is sufficiently cooled and subsequently frozen, the refrigeration compressor and condenser fan will stop.
  3. The compressed air is continuously cooled by the PCM while the refrigeration compressor is inactive. No power is consumed during this period.
  4. The PCM gradually melts as it absorbs heat from the compressed air. When it’s fully melted, the refrigeration compressor and condenser fan will resume cooling down the PCM.

Given its simplistic process and energy benefits, POSCO has now adopted the PCM Combination Dryer as the standard across all its Korean facilities. We are changing the ‘game’ for one of the largest steel producers in the world.

The PCM Combination Dryer also won the prestigious Jang Yeong-sil Award, a recognition presented by the South Korean government in honor of its namesake. Jang Yeong-sil was a Korean engineer, scientist and inventor during the Joseon dynasty (1392–1897).

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The Author

Kyunggyu Lee,Key Account Manager, SPX FLOW Korea

Kyunggyu Lee is the Key Account Manager for SPX FLOW Korea, leading resource utilization efforts, customer relations and pneumatic drying sales for key end users.

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