Vulcanaire Supertherm, and the Airmizer Hammers

Energy conservation is an important consideration today in a world where the competition for energy sources is intensified by rising demand. But making best use of fuel isn’t new, and both the Vulcanaire Supertherm and the Airmizer hammers were Vulcan’s contribution to energy savings.

Both of these products were the original idea of Moses Hornstein, the owner of Horn Construction in Merrick, NY.  He was evidently focused on saving fuel and energy in the operation of his hammers.

Vulcanaire Supertherm

The Supertherm was first demonstrated in late 1964. The Supertherm was simple in concept. As described in the unit’s field service manual (which has more information on the unit:)

The installation of the VULCANAIRE SUPERTHERM is intended to raise the volume of air produced by compressor through the expansion of air by the use of heat. To achieve this; exhaust gases, which are normally wasted, are diverted through the use of a diverter valve and transferred through a heat exchanger through which also passes air from the receiver on the compressor. The temperature of the air is maintained within certain limits by the use of an automatic control device to produce the greater volume of air to be used on equipment at an elevated temperature.

A schematic of the Supertherm, from Vulcan Bulletin 600B.

The objective for the contractor was to use a smaller compressor to power the same size of pile hammer. You can find more information on the Supertherm from Vulcan’s Bulletin 600B, the last literature put out on the product in 1976.

Vulcanaire Supertherm mounted on top of a LeRoi 1200 CFM compressor at the time of its original demonstration.

Production of the unit was performed at the Special Products Division in West Palm Beach, as the Chattanooga facility lacked the fabrication capabilities necessary to produce the unit.

A Supertherm (yellow) being installed on top of a Gardner-Denver compressor in the mid-1970’s.

Although the unit worked as intended and performed well, the simple concept didn’t translate into a simple design. With numerous parts and complex fabrication and assembly, the unit was uneconomical to produce and difficult to install. Air compressor manufacturers learned how to use hot exhaust gases in other ways to improve the energy efficiency of their products.

By the late 1970’s, even with the elevated energy prices of the era, production of the Vulcanaire Supertherm had gone cold.

Airmizer Hammer

Hornstein was not content with increasing the efficiency of his compressors: he and Vulcan commissioned the Austrian engineer John J. Kupka to develop the “Airmizer” hammers.  These were compound hammers similar to MKT’s “C” hammers, and used a similar cycle that James N. Warrington used with the California hammers.  Some photos of this hammer are shown below.

Expensive to build and complex in construction, the Airmizer hammers were less successful than the Supertherm, and the remaining inventory was scrapped in the late 1970’s.


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