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The new axial compressor MAX1 is in a league of its own

Dr. Marco Ernst, Head of Calculation/R&D Compressors, MAN Diesel & Turbo

The axial compressor MAX1 is the result of one of the most challenging product development processes in the history of MAN Diesel & Turbo, representing a technological milestone for the company. Dr. Marco Ernst gives us a glimpse behind the scenes: How has it been working on the company’s flagship product?

Dr. Marco Ernst and his team have already been working towards this for a period of several months, and now the axial compressor MAX1 has reached the test bed. The product is to be unveiled to customers at a celebratory ceremony.

“With a lot of time and hard work, what started out as just a concept has now become a reality. That's what makes it all worthwhile!”, enthuses Dr. Marco Ernst, Head of Calculation and Development for MAX1. With a length around that of one and a half trucks, the first compressor to be produced weighed 107 tons, making it almost a third smaller than conventional compressors. What he finds particularly impressive, in addition to its compact design, is its robustness and high level of efficiency. The testing process has conclusively proved that its performance exceeds expectations, which makes for an extremely satisfied customer.

MAN Diesel & Turbo: axial compressor MAX 1, compact design, robust and high level of efficiency. MAN Diesel & Turbo: axial compressor MAX 1, compact design, robust and high level of efficiency.

A Real Commercial Success

From the point of development right up until its launch onto the market, the MAX1, was completed in less than four years, which Dr. Marco Ernst confirms is an “extremely competitive pace” for such a challenging development. The new axial compressor is a real commercial success: “Even in the run-up to the launch we managed to convince our customers that our newly developed product would deliver on its promise. As a result, we have already sold 19 compressors at this market launch stage,” states the engineer. The MAX1 compresses air so that it can be further divided into its constituents. Oxygen obtained through this process allows for, among other things, the liquefaction of coal as a means of fuel production: A procedure that assists countries like China in meeting their high energy demands and reducing their dependence on oil, which they must otherwise import.

Making Individual Ideas a Reality

MAN’s highly individual development process and working environment are decisive factors in allowing technological milestones such as this to be achieved. ”We are set up in a way that facilitates the realization of individual ideas. MAN is extremely flexible and offers its employees a great deal of room for maneuver. This allows us to cater for a customer’s demands during development.” Close collaboration with other departments is another crucial factor in this regard. “When developing a product, we always keep the bigger picture in mind. We work together with various departments like purchasing, distribution and marketing. I find that very exciting, and it is really the only way that such a development can function!“, says Dr. Marco Ernst. Being able to take the lead on calculations and development for MAX1 was “an excellent opportunity” for the 38-year old. “What I really appreciate is being able to come into contact with so many other experts, and learning from one another – and not just on a technological level. I can safely say that I belong here and that this is a team that I can work with.“

The product has now been launched onto market. What comes next?

“Obviously, development does not end on the day the product is sold for the first time. We are now optimizing the standardization of the AIRMAX air separation trains. This is because more than just offering technology of the highest standard, we also want to offer it at a very competitive price. “We will look at other uses for the compressor, and develop it further: Increasing its efficiency, for example.” There is very little time for Dr. Marco Ernst and his team to rest on the laurels of the compressor’s success alone. They are already looking to the new challenges that await them.

Familiarize yourself and experiment while working as a student research assistant. Having already worked with test beds at a university is invaluable when developing a product.

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