Airbus - Control of decentralised air system and stringent requirements

Airbus is a leading aircraft manufacturer known for its ground-breaking research and development, its technological and manufacturing efficiency, and for building the largest passenger aircraft in the world. Airbus aircraft wings are designed and manufactured in two UK locations: Filton and Broughton. Finnish innovation in compressed-air plant control, Sarlin Balance, is an unseen but significant factor in the production of the world's most technologically advanced aircraft wings. The first Sarlin Balance system was implemented in Filton in 2000.

A smooth supply of compressed-air, improved energy economy with changing air demands, optimum pressure levels, and relevant real-time information on the air system – the profits gained from the Sarlin Balance system were so obvious that a decade later, the Filton plant wanted a similar system to control their updated compressed-air plants. The modernised compressed-air system in Filton now features 10 compressors in 5 stations, a total of 1.3 MW and air consumption of 70 m3/min.

The requirements for the new control system were exacting. The British Energy Manager at Airbus had been involved in the acquisition of the first Sarlin Balance system and was in charge of selecting a new system. Sarlin Balance excelled in the comparison again. A smallish company in a northern country, Sarlin did not necessarily appear to be the obvious preferred supplier for the manufacturer of the largest passenger aircraft in the world. However, Sarlin was the only supplier that could quote a system to meet Airbus' stringent requirements and to control the decentralised air system at Filton.

Sarlin was able to provide the availability requested. Sarlin Balance manages compressed-air systems running different types of compressors made by different manufacturers, which is one of its strengths over other control systems. Sarlin tailored its solution to the Filton plant. The control was not cabled to all individual compressors; instead, the factory's LAN network was utilised. The quote was made in the spring of 2009, and delivery took place in 2010.

“Once commissioning was complete, the service started to run. Sarlin Balance now monitors all the critical parameters such as pressure levels and dew points, and alarms are raised in case of critical levels being approached.”

Sarlin is in constant contact with the system and the customer. Certain adjustments are made in the system remotely, and Sarlin assumes the system maintenance responsibility. The objective is to constantly monitor the overall operation of air compression to optimise its functionality. Sarlin Balance lends itself well to extensive decentralised air plants, for which there are no other control systems in the market.

Data compilation is an important part of Sarlin Balance. Filton received its first semi-annual report at the end of 2010, with accurate information about such points as air and energy consumption, efficiency, pressure levels, and any fault events. The Sarlin Balance report provides a graphical overview of the functioning of the plant and is a reliable basis for further design. After good experiences with the Sarlin Balance system in Filton, the Airbus facility in Broughton is now also having the Sarlin Balance system installed to control its upgraded compressed-air production.