This category covers firms primarily engaged in manufacturing blowers for general industrial and commercial use, and commercial exhaust fans, ventilating fans and attic fans. Also included are manufacturers of duct collection equipment and other air purification equipment for heating and air conditioning systems and equipment for industrial gas cleaning systems. It does not include manufacturers of refrigeration and airconditioning components, which are covered under SIC 3585: Refrigeration and Heating Equipment. Small household fans, kitchen and bath ventilation fans, or other domestic fan components are included in SIC 3634: Electric Housewares and Fans.
333411 (Air Purification Equipment Manufacturing)
333412 (Industrial and Commercial Fan and Blower Manufacturing)
U.S. industry depends on the low-pressure, high-volume movement of air. Without it, much industrial and commercial activity would quickly suffocate. Consequently, the fan can be found in applications as diverse as huge blowers used to bubble air through sewage water and industrial waste, to street cleaners and industrial leaf blowers. In modern shopping centers and commercial/industrial strip malls, unnoticed roof ventilators silently exchange contaminated air for fresh; the attic fan performs the same function for residential buildings. Heating and air conditioning systems depend on fans to move heat away from coils and heat exchangers and into the structure, and to feed the fossil fuel combustion processes with large quantities of oxygen-bearing air. Exhaust systems push the products of this combustion outside the structure or extract grease and heat from commercial cooking appliances and industrial ovens.
Estimated 2000 U.S. shipments of products within the blowers, fans, and air cleaners industry were valued at $4.17 billion. This figure fluctuated somewhat during the late 1990s, but it remained between $3.5 billion and $4.2 billion through the year 2000.
More than 500 companies manufactured fans and blowers at roughly 600 locations in the late 1990s. This figure had grown gradually since the 1980s, when there were around 450 companies and 500 facilities. Industry employment figures rose slightly in the early to mid-1990s compared to the low rates of the late 1980s. These numbers continued to grow slowly in the late 1990s, from 30,153 workers in 1997 to 30,821 workers in 2000. Ohio, Illinois, California, and North Carolina were the leading states in employment, employing approximately 33 percent of the total industry workers.
The fan's ability to move large quantities of air makes it the base component of the rapidly expanding air pollution control industry. Starting with the plant, the device has been harnessed to help contain and remove pollutants like dust and metal particles, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides, sulfur dioxide, sulfuric acid, and hydrocarbon solvents in a variety of filters and traps.
Fans and blowers belong to the same family of devices as compressors and pumps. A pump moves liquids, while the others move gases. A compressor will provide a means of increasing the pressure of the gas to more than 40 pounds per square inch (psi). That gas can then either be delivered directly to the application or stored for metered use. A blower can also increase the pressure of the gas to as much as 40 psi, but delivers it directly to the application through an area of high resistance such as a pipeline. Fans provide large volumes of uncompressed gas and operate in low-resistance environments that could also include ducting systems. Technically, an increase in gas density of less than 7 percent between inlet and outlet defines the gas as uncompressed.
The two most common types of fans and blowers are the axial and the centrifugal, which together account for about 45 percent of the industry's output. Axial fans are used in applications that produce low resistance to airflow. The gas is moved in the same direction as the fan's axis of rotation, much as a water wheel on a classic mill or paddle steamer. In the centrifugal fan, the gas moves perpendicular to the fan's axis of rotation. Most domestic fans use angled and curved blades to produce the centrifugal effect at low pressure. Centrifugal blowers and fans are used in relatively high resistance applications and usually provide quieter operation than axial units.
The main uses of fans and blowers, according to the Compressed Air and Gas Handbook , are for process services (including chemical alterations like combustion, nitrogen fixation, polymerization, hydrogenation, and alkylation), and for change-of-state operations (including quenching, drying, and atomization). Products that result from these types of procedures include liquid fuels, plastics, synthetic rubber, ammonia, and fertilizers.
The world's first pump was probably the force or air pump built by Ktesibios of Alexandria about 270 B.C. He used a cylinder and plunger arrangement to pump air through pipes of various lengths, creating the first water organ. The water was used to maintain a steady air pressure in the system. Simple air pumps and bellows provided low-pressure "compressed" air for such devices as organs and blacksmith furnaces, but major advancements in fan technology had to wait until the arrival of the Industrial Revolution.
As large-scale manufacturing emerged in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, fans became an integral part of factory and commercial building infrastructure in the United States. The fan and blower industry's successes have been largely tied to the health of commercial and industrial construction and renovation.
The general industrial slowdown of the 1980s hit the fan and blower industry hard. Major clients like the petrochemical industry, the construction industry, and the heating, ventilation and air conditioning industry cut back on orders for new equipment and left existing components idle. A strong U.S. dollar made American products uncompetitive in foreign markets.
By 1988, this started to change. A weakening dollar stimulated exports and a general pickup in the manufacturing climate sparked new domestic orders in almost all sectors. The industry continued to modernize production by consolidating facilities and adopting sophisticated CAD/CAM systems and metalworking and casting technologies. New materials and designs were explored to extend the life of components in corrosive environments and to increase reliability.
New environmental regulations like the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 and their counterparts in other countries spurred the development and sale of air pollution abatement equipment. Two major products in this category were particle emission collectors, with shipments of $513 million in 1990, and gaseous emission control units, with sales of $220 million that year. In 1990, the major clients for such products were steam electric power generators, industrial steam plants, pulp and paper mills, chemical and fertilizer producers, and petroleum refiners.
In 2000, shipments in this industry were valued at $4.18 billion, a slight increase from $4.14 billion the previous year. Dust collection and air purification equipment represented the largest segment of the industry in the 1990s, followed closely by centrifugal blowers and fans, and propeller fans and accessories.
The industry benefited in the late 1990s from the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, because they imposed time limits on the reduction of specified hazardous industrial air pollutants. Compliance generated significant capital investment into this industry's products.
The success of this industry tends to coincide with the seasons of the year and with allergy seasons. Changes in weather conditions prompt consumers to buy products such as fans at certain times of the year. Air purification equipment tends to be more popular during allergy seasons.
The top selling company in this industry in the late 1990s was Eagle Industries, Inc., of Chicago, Illinois. Founded in 1961, Eagle Industries reported total annual sales of $9.9 million and employed 7,000 people at the end of the decade. In addition to ventilation systems, Eagle Industries manufactures toilet bowls and tanks, urinals, plastic plumbing fixtures, commercial refrigeration equipment and electrical power distribution equipment.
Other top sellers in the industry included Fasco Motors Group of Chesterfield, Missouri, with $4.7 million in sales and 4,000 employees, and Air and Water Technologies Corp of Somerville, New Jersey, with $4.5 million in sales and 2,900 employees.
Total employment for the industry was 30,821 in 2000, an increase over the 30,153 employed in 1997. Of the 30,821 industry workers employed in 2000, 22,258 were production workers earning an average of $13.13 per hour.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projected declines for most occupations within this industry through 2005. Significant growth was expected, however, for machine builders, machine tool operators, and welders and cutters.
Blowers and fans and the increasingly important air pollution abatement equipment are manufactured to international standards, allowing American manufacturers to compete effectively on the international market. These same standards, however, also make the United States vulnerable to foreign competition, particularly on price and quality.
Globalization is particularly important in the air pollution abatement equipment (APC) sector. U.S. and European multinationals use direct investment, cross-border mergers, acquisitions, joint ventures, and foreign collaboration to gain entry to each other's markets and to other markets around the world. The main target markets for such equipment have been Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America, since the industry already faces significant competition from domestic producers in major trading partners like Japan, Germany, and France. Mexico is also a potentially significant market for U.S. fan and blower products. Many firms prefer to license to foreign manufacturers instead of competing directly, creating a brisk trade in environmental technology. Unlike the industry in general, this segment posted a trade surplus in the 1990s.
New and more stringent environmental regulations in the United States and around the world encouraged research into new air pollution abatement technology. This was especially true since some regulations called for pollution limitations in excess of what was technically possible at the time.
However, the industry also found ways of applying old technologies in new ways. Some major areas of research included electrostatic precipitators with the addition of high-voltage direct-current pulses to capture flyash; filter bags treated with microporous films or membranes to keep dust cake out of the filter material; conditioning flue gas streams with sulfur trioxide or ammonia before filtering to improve the life of the filter; the development of sulfur trioxide generators to convert flue gases without the need of adding chemicals; new plastic materials to extend the concept of flue gas cooling with water beyond the wood products industry; and sorbent injection of such materials as carbon, char, and sodium sulfide to capture heavy metals like mercury.
The end of the 1990s saw new products, especially in the area of air cleaning and purification, being introduced by various leaders in this industry. In 1999, Lentek International added several new products to its Sila line of air purifiers, including a purifier/deodorizer, a personal air supply device, and a coat and closet purifier. Also in 1999, Clairion introduced a new line of decorative fans that are both energy efficient and excellent air cleaners.
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