early portable air compressor

Air compressors have been used for hundreds of years to power an incredible array of different devices. Those who have experience in engineering, manufacturing and construction are especially aware of this, as these machines are responsible for a great deal of the power used in these industries.



In mathematics, there are so-called “natural” numbers. They are named because they are self-evident, and the logical conclusion is that anyone with an inclination to look would inevitably discover them. If ever such a machine existed, it would be the air compressor. Its invention was as inevitable as the discovery of pi. Largely, this is because we have our very own air compressors built into our bodies — our lungs.

We utilize our lungs’ compressing qualities whenever we blow on a struggling fire to supply it with oxygen, blow the dust off a surface or try to fill up a balloon. Prehistoric humans may not have known the exact mechanics of what was happening in their chest cavities — specifically, their diaphragms pressing upward on the lungs and creating pressure — but they understood the results.


First compressed air inventions

Around 3000 B.C., people began practicing metallurgy more regularly. To obtain the high temperatures required to melt metal, one needed a steady stream of oxygen to blow onto the fire. They somehow scraped along with rudimentary means until the invention of bellows in around 1800 B.C. Bellows went through different designs, but are most commonly made of a flexible bag placed between two inflexible boards. Typically, these two boards are hinged together at one end, and they are then pumped together and apart to create alternating high and low pressure inside the bag. The result, of course, is a steady stream of air out the nozzle.


The Invention of Air Compressors

It was the Industrial Revolution that saw the rethinking of bellows. In 1762, the inventor John Smeaton found a way to rig a water wheel to power a blowing cylinder. Smeaton enjoyed a brief run of success with his invention — but as is the case with revolutions, more change was soon to come. A few years later, just as his country was entrenched in losing the American Revolution, Englishman John Wilkinson’s hydraulic blowing machine came to prominence. It was this hydraulic blowing machine that became the inspiration for modern air compressors. It was no surprise that the idea caught on, as during this period air compression was making its way to many different industries. Far from just heating blacksmiths’ fires, the air compressor was now in use in metal mines, fabrication plants and in underground work areas where ventilation was needed. In 1857, a rail system was installed between Italy and France that bore an eight-mile tunnel full of workers. Because oxygen can quickly get used up in such environments, air compressors were responsible for moving air into the tunnel.


Half a century earlier was when air compressors appeared as more than just a way to move air — it also dawned on people they could transport energy. Much like the forthcoming era of electricity, this period saw a host of inventors exploiting compressed air’s other abilities. A plant in Wales used compressed air to power its workings in the 1820s. This gave rise to the idea that this might be even more effective than steam power, which was the height of technology of the day.


The very same 1857 rail tunnel that used air compressors for ventilation also used them for power. This came in the form of pneumatic drills, which both the French and Italian teams used to blast through rock inside the tunnel. Also known as a jackhammer, a pneumatic drill uses compressed air to power the up and down motion of its hammer.


First air compressor plant

In 1888, the engineer Viktor Popp — an unpromising name for a man specializing in high-pressure air systems — introduced the first compressor plant to Europe. This plant went from producing 1500 kW to 12 times that amount just three years later. At that time, it seemed compressed air was heading toward a very different kind of future.


The 1900s and the Road to Modern Air Compressors

As debates over whether compressed air would render electricity obsolete in Europe raged in Paris, the entire world seemed to be gearing up for its adoption. And while compressed air never did replace electricity, it did come to dominate in other areas. The twentieth century saw the air compressor go from a large, bulky engine that clanked and hissed to the sleek devices used today.



Today’s air compressor works by taking air from the surrounding atmosphere and compressing it to high pressures through the use of a drive motor or engine. The air that has been compressed is collected in a tank either as an integral part of the device or as an auxiliary holding and distribution chamber, where it awaits usage by tools or machinery.


To activate tools and machinery, the air compressor’s air receiver is connected a reticulation system and then on to the device. As the apparatus discharges air pressure to perform its particular task, the compressor sends more air through the pipework to compensate. This rate of air usage will vary per application and will dictate what size compressor is needed to perform its job. Matching the pressure requirements of your devices with the air pressure provided by a compressor is extremely important both in performance and source energy requirements.

Air compressors have withstood the test of time, and we find more uses all the time. Today, air compressors are core components of engineering, mining, mechanical work, factory assembly lines, construction, transportation and more.



To address the constant rise in energy costs, a serious threat to air compressor and equipment manufacturers and suppliers, dramatically higher compressor efficiency levels must be achieved to maintain compressed air as a viable industrial power source immediately and well into the future.

Innovations in motor efficiency and new technology are now creating machines that cost far less to run for the relative air power output.

Kaishan Australia (formally Southern Cross Compressors) now lead the Australian market in energy efficient compressors utilising advanced technologies. As one of the world’s largest designers and manufacturers of industrial air compressors, the global Kaishan group, have been at the forefront in research and development of ever evolving technologies in compressor engineering that have achieved energy savings beyond that required to satisfy their customers around the world.

early air compressor


variable speed control



Compressed air is often referred to as the ‘fourth utility’ and is critical to most manufacturing operations. Facility performance depends upon compressor reliability and efficiency.


Power consumption is a significant cost throughout the life of a compressor, therefore it is important to consider the life cycle cost of a compressed air system when evaluating productivity improvements.

More than 70% of the long term cost of owning an air compressor can be attributed to energy use. Over the life of the compressor this adds up to many times the original investment, yet in many cases much of this energy is wasted through poor part load control.


Permanent Magnet, Variable Frequency technology (PMV) as applied to air compressors is proving to be a  game changer providing maximum efficiency and performance while offering remarkable, energy saving performance.


Developed by Kaishan engineers, these revolutionary compressors combine integrated systematic optimisation of the compressor unit with an advanced permanent magnet motor, Kaishan SKY airend and rapid response variable speed drive to achieve outstanding energy efficiency.


These advanced PMV compressors will exactly match output to demand, eliminating high part load energy usage as experienced with conventional fixed speed compressors. With the right PMV compressor for your operation, energy savings as high as 50% are possible.



Kaishan PMV compressors operate at peak efficiency even with 80% reduction in air output. They offer far greater integrated control precision through an advanced PID control algorithm that generates a highly stable supply pressure. By regulating the volume of air output, the compressor maintains maximum efficiency under wide usage demands.


The PMV compressor demonstrates a remarkable energy saving capability over conventional types particularly when under widely fluctuating demands.


Motor angular position sensors are not required, improving both stability and reliability. Torque can be compensated at any angle within 360O to achieve perfect control. Utilisation of bus voltage is greater than 93%, much more than conventional converters.


Continual trial and development has created an advanced airend that increases PMV compressor efficiency by more than 20% over earlier models.


Larger Rotor Size

To increase the rotor throughput, the airends in Kaishan PMV compressors are larger than usual. They are built with 5/6 lobes and larger rotor size which reduces the specific power consumption and runs at low speed.


Lower inter-lobe leakage losses

Pressure differences between two neighbouring work chambers is small due to a greater number of lobes. This reduces inter-lobe leakage losses, hence leakage to delivery ratio decreases as the number of lobes increases.


Larger wrap angle & discharge port

A greater number of lobes combined with larger wrap angle ensures multiple rotor contact. This reduces vibrations which minimises noise. Larger discharge ports decrease the discharge velocity and therefore reduce the discharge pressure losses increasing the compressor’s overall efficiency.



Rare earth technology gives the permanent magnet motor superior energy efficiency compared to

conventional induction motors. Permanent Magnet synchronous torque motors provide faster acceleration and deceleration, a great advantage in compressor applications as they can rapidly vary output to match application demands.

  • – Energy efficient over a wide speed range
  • – Variable speed in constant and changing torque requirements
  • – Lower routine and long term maintenance


  • – Complete control of air output to meet operating demand
  • – Lower energy input for required air generation
  • – Excessive part load energy usage is significantly reduced
  • – Gradual increase in motor speed eliminates starting spikes and cost penalties
  • – A steady system pressure is maintained, lowering system stress and overall air demand
  • – Reduced artificial demand due to lower operating pressures
  • – Reduced maintenance time and cost
  • – Significantly lower noise levels

Kaishan Australia’s range of PMV rotary screw compressors combine engineering excellence with the highest quality components into a compact unit to provide maximum output with minimum energy use. These highly advanced air compressors deliver world class efficiency and performance in a heavy duty unit that ensures superior durability and reliability. Precision engineering utilises the latest compressed air technologies to achieve energy standards exceeding international expectations.


Mr Kevin Cao, President of the Kaishan Group of Companies stated that the organisation currently has plant and equipment valued at over USD$2.1b based in multiple plants across the world employing more than 4,500 personnel including over 2,000 trained technicians.

Kaishan Australia supplies its extensive compressed air product range offering truly heavy duty, high quality and premium efficiency machinery for an enormously broad range of applications.


After almost 40 years of success in supporting the Australian compressed air market, Kaishan Australia utilises the world’s best technologies with the ability to customise solutions that provide optimal benefits to its Australian customers.


Kaishan Australia is the Australian division of the Kaishan Group of Companies, one of the largest and most advanced designers and manufacturers of compressed air and gas products in the world.


Kaishan is committed to the continuous development of new compressor technologies and currently produces more than 80,000 rotary and 25,000 reciprocating air compressors annually for applications and installations in the Australian, European, SE Asian, USA, India and Latin American markets with growth globally through partnerships and acquisitions. 

rare earth magnet technology


compressed air systems for mining

Mining and heavy industrial operations require high output, ruggedly constructed air compressors that are capable of being moved around to different locations both above and underground. Not a simple task given the size and weight of most large capacity compressors and the fact that they require a stable platform to operate effectively with the lowest possible maintenance requirements.


One Australian company has solved this problem for sites both in Australia and internationally. Southern Cross Compressors Australia (Now Kaishan Australia), custom design and built a high strength, fabricated steel skid package that facilitates the compressor being moved around the site. The framework also provides protection for the compressor from rock and debris falls while in service impacts.

Specialised compressor filtration systems have also been developed to cope with harsh, dirty and dusty environments.


The skid mounted air compressor and air receiver pictured can be split in two to enable the package components to be easily transported.


The combination of this innovative adaption and Kaishan’s globally renowned energy efficient technologies which includes Permanent Magnet Variable Frequency (PMV), offers a wide range of industrial single and two stage rotary screw compressors that can be custom built to suit a range of specialised industry needs. A number of variations can be offered including high voltage electric motors for underground applications. 


Kaishan Australia uphold their unique ‘Lifetime Warrantee’ on the airend in all their KHE and KRTSP Rotary Screw compressors (*Conditions apply) and offer custom specified service programs to maintain these compressors in peak running order.


Kaishan also supplies a full line of rotary screw and reciprocating gas compressors to meet a myriad of applications in oil and gas industries.


As the Australian arm of the global Kaishan group, the company can supply a wide range of fixed electric and diesel portable air compressors and ancillary equipment for virtually every application including heavy mining, oil and gas, industrial and workshops.

Australian bus manufacturer on the road to emission free buses

Element Electric Bus

Australia boasts a long and proud history of bus manufacture. As part of the Dunn Group, Custom Bus Group Pty Ltd is one of the earliest Australian bus and coach manufacturing companies with origins in 1950. Now in partnership with Denning Manufacturing after acquisition in 2019, the company has recently expanded its manufacturing facilities located in St Marys, NSW. This combined industry knowledge, experience and engineering technologies ensures Custom Denning now have the capability to design and produce an advanced range of buses that are uniquely built for Australian conditions and also cater to a broader export market.

ELEMENT ELECTRIC BUS: 16 hour (300km), re-charge free running time.

Whilst this revolutionary new bus project utilises many proven electric bus components used by OEM’s throughout Europe, Custom Denning’s ‘Element’ electric bus design is a pioneer in terms of battery and electric motor technology.


Incorporating advanced technology, solid state batteries these buses will be able to operate in hot, harsh climates without the need for battery cooling systems. The full re-charge cycle is expected to take approximately 5 hours through standardised chargers and connection points.


Documented trials conducted over in excess of 300 million kilometres have clearly demonstrated the validity of performance claims and the environmentally friendly advantage of the batteries. With no nickel, cobalt or harmful solvents, the batteries can be easily disposed of or recycled. 

The Element bus is manufactured using a lightweight yet extremely robust stainless steel monocoque chassis combined with a ZF undercarriage/driveline to provide a 25 year dynamic service life. Durability and reliability is tested using finite element analysis software to evaluate structural integrity of bus design and safety.


Hydrogen fuel cell to advance the ‘Element’ bus capability even further.

With the Element bus now ready for production, Custom Bus are already working on an even more advanced model.

The ‘Element H2′ will incorporate hydrogen fuel cell technology that will increase the electric bus range to 500km before requiring a recharge


New Custom Bus plant powered with advanced compressed air technology.

With the new plant housing the latest state of the art equipment to produce precision laser cut raw materials with in-house tube and flat lasers, along with CNC folding machinery and robotic welding machines, Custom Denning opted to install an energy saving, high performance rotary screw air compressor from Kaishan Australia. The compressor is a KHE 30-8 package with variable speed control allowing for precise compressed air supply dependent on the processes in use at any time. This saves considerable energy costs when under low and variable demand.  


The air compressor installation included all electricals and a large, new ring piping system designed to meet the demands for current production and future expansion requirements.


The plant now has the capability to roll out up to 25 buses per month with the new upgrades designed to accommodate production of the new Electric and Hydrogen fuel cell buses from 2020 on.

Adapting to the ‘New Normal’ in Australian Industry

Covid safe at Kaishan

Whilst the lockdown in Victoria and difficult work conditions are adversely affecting industry around the country, some businesses have done everything in their power to maintain operations at the greatest possible level.

As much as these restrictions have adversely affected industries due to reduced active employee levels, many machinery based and more automated production plants have managed sufficient output to maintain a viable business. In fact some have been fortunate to align and adapt their manufacturing to increased demands for certain products during this unusual period in local and world history. Given the importance of any manufacturing to our devastated economy, such industry must remain active and productive.

In an attempt to take a look at how certain industries are coping with this situation, I have investigated the changed operational strategies adopted by one of the country’s leading compressed air equipment suppliers. This sample is particularly pertinent because much of Australia’s and in fact the world’s manufacturing industry depends on compressed air to power its processes.

Kaishan Australia consists of two integral divisions being sales of high-end, industrial air compressors plus ancillary equipment and a service division that maintains compressed air systems throughout the country.  The mobile technicians not only service and maintain the company’s own brand but have regular maintenance agreements to service, repair and maintain many other makes of compressed air systems throughout a broad variety of Australian industry including manufacturing, food processing, mining and scientific applications.

While the administration and sales side of the business is working as best as it can under current enforced staffing limitations and a general business downturn, the service side is facing a whole different set of challenges entailing the current difficulties of site visitation and operational restrictions. The Kaishan service technicians are required to provide regular maintenance checks and procedures at client premises to ensure that compressed air systems which are vital to keeping production lines running  are operating at peak efficiency. The service team also provides a twenty four hour, seven days a week emergency breakdown service, vital to any company relying on its compressed air system to function effectively. A drop off of such regular maintenance and services could place businesses in jeopardy of total, long term shutdown, something that the industry and the economy can ill afford at this or any other time.

Kaishan Australia Service Manager, Shane O’Brien stated:

“The challenges of providing efficient and effective support to our customers have been a daily dilemma. Whilst traffic delays are minimal moving through check points and ensuring the service vans are cleaned and sanitised after each call take a toll on our commitment to meet a two hour attendance promise. Our Covid safe plan required us to access all areas of our business so as to keep our employees safe and meet the restricted operational plans of our customers.

The decision to increase stock holdings from three to six months at the start of the pandemic has allowed us to meet our customers needs over the last 5 months, recently allowing a full refurbishment of a large compressor for an approved business to be completed with minimal impact on the customers operation.”



CEO of Kaishan Australia, Mark Ferguson puts his perspective on the total company approach.

“It is vital during these difficult times that we support our customers to ensure that they have the compressed air needed to maintain production.

We are limited by the restrictions applied by Government, by our customers own policies around site access and through our own requirements which have been implemented to keep our team safe.

Maintaining our high servicing standards during these difficult times requires a significant and coordinated team effort. From customer contact, scheduling, spare parts management, technical support through to the carrying out of work needs to be undertaken whilst maintaining social distancing yet at the same time providing close personal contact and effective communication throughout the process. All this whilst keeping the team safe, motivated and focussed during these difficult times.

Here at Kaishan Australia, we have definitely taken the approach with our people that ‘We are all in this together’.  I congratulate all our team members on their dedication under such trying circumstances to ensure the company and our customers come through this in the best possible shape.

At the end of the day, we want our customers to know we are looking after their best interests. But more importantly, we want the reliability of their compressed air to be the least of their worries while they deal with other challenges caused during this Covid 19 recovery period.”

No doubt, many Australian supply and servicing companies are facing similar challenges, but I am convinced with a determined  attitude to ‘not drop the ball’, co-operative arrangements can and have been made with customers to ensure that industries remain viable and optimistic for rapid recovery and a prosperous future throughout our resilient country.



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