- Career Development
CAC's Compressor Consultant
To stay at the forefront of the global industry, Midea Commercial Air Conditioning (CAC) often hires consultants from overseas. At 72 years old, Byron Hamm, who is as passionate about compressor design as when he started, brings an infectious enthusiasm to his work at CAC’s Chongqing production base.
Byron studied Turbine Engineering at Iowa State University and has over forty years of experience in cooling technology. As a graduate student in the 1960s, Byron was involved in rocket fuel pump design for NASA’s early Apollo missions.
Subsequently, he worked in the aerodynamic design of centrifugal compressors. According to colleagues, Byron is a walking encyclopedia on the subject of centrifugal machines. From 1972’s R12 compressor to 2015’s VFD direct drive compressor, he has been at the forefront of the profession for decades. This month Byron gave an interview to Patrick Luo of CAC, here is our translation:
Patrick: In your time at Midea, what changes have you noticed?
Byron: In my four years here, the biggest change I have noticed is the increased product quality. The compressor production facility we have right now is as good as I have seen anywhere in the world. Due to the modernization of our design, the performance of our chillers has improved immeasurably.
Patrick: In what areas do you think there is still room for improvement?
Byron: There are still places in which we use manned machines when automated technology could do the job just as well. We also need to test our products more thoroughly and are thus adding more extensive testing equipment.
Before products enter the market, we need to spend more time developing them, identifying and solving problems. This is essential to boosting our reputation for quality and reliability. Comprehensive testing of our heat exchangers and compressors is essential to continuing the improvement of our product range.
Patrick: In terms of the work you put in, which product do you feel proudest of?
Byron: I suppose I am proudest of the VFD direct drive compressor, which we have been working on this year. It puts us at the forefront of our industry, and our whole research and development team can be very proud.
Patrick: In all your years in the cooling business, is this your proudest achievement?
Byron: I don’t derive satisfaction form prizes or other material stuff. I am quite indifferent to those things. I like to see a project go from conception to completion. I like seeing the part that my own hard work played in a project’s success.
Patrick: What advantages does the VFD direct drive compressor have over some previous models?
Byron: It beats previous models in both efficiency and simplicity. It only has one moving part. The rear end has a superior power rotor to previous models. I think this model represents the future of small and medium-sized compressors. However, it does still require a variable frequency drive.
Patrick: What do you think of the team we have here in Chongqing?
Byron: In my experience, they are as good as their counterparts at Trane, York and Carrier. The one thing holding them back is a lack of international experience. Given more time to provide for overseas markets, I think we will attain our rightful share.
Patrick: Are you satisfied with the production process or do you see much room for improvement?
Byron: I think the current process is satisfactory considering our output. When we become more successful and demand increases, I think both the design and manufacturing processes will be due an upgrade. As our yield increases, we will also be able to choose a higher class of supplier for our components, which will ultimately improve our products.
Patrick: What are some of your predictions for the future of the cooling, centrifugal machinery and screw compressor industries?
Byron: The internet has leveled the playing field in terms of design concept. Increases in performance will probably slow down and prices will probably go up as the industry is under pressure to use more energy efficient technology such as variable frequency technology, falling film evaporator, electronic control systems, magnetic levitation systems, or other non-oil bearing system.
However, performance will be stabilized due to a world-class database. Aside from that, only with radical new ideas will big changes be made in the industry.
Patrick: We have entered the age of Industry 4.0. Both manual operation and automated operation have their advantages. Which do you prefer at this point?
Byron: This is a question of production capacity. Most domestic manufacturers currently use manual production. This can satisfy their current demand. However, a company like Midea really needs to invest in automated manufacturing if it is to fulfill its ambitions.
A good example of this is in heat exchanger plates. Currently, manufacturing depends on a manned drill press. If this could be done by a machine, output would increase exponentially. Our current production facilities are good enough, but we also need to move with the times.