Gain the Upper Hand With Energy-Smart Machine Design

Customers know the financial, operational and environmental advantages of energy efficiency. Machine builders are responding with smarter, more efficient technologies.

By Sheila Kennedy, contributing editor

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Recognizing their customers’ financial, operational and environmental advantages of energy efficiency, machine builders are responding with smarter, more efficient technologies, as well as advisory services.

“Just about every customer we talk to has some kind of green or sustainability program. They want to reduce energy, air and water usage,” says Mark Ruberg, director of corporate business collaboration at Pro Mach, a provider of automated packaging equipment (Figure 1).

Air management is a particular concern. “There are a lot of air cylinders and air components on a machine for actuation and motion, and air is very expensive. Even with the most diligent maintenance programs, you still end up with leakage and waste,” remarks Ruberg (Figure 2). “It’s one of the reasons that servo machines are gaining in popularity. When servos need to move, they draw power. When they don’t need to move, they don’t draw power. Inherently it brings more energy savings, and it’s more efficient than compressed air, that’s for sure.”

New solutions are on the horizon (Figure 3). “One of our Pro Mach divisions found a way to reduce water usage on a packaging machine’s processing by more than 50%, which reduces energy consumption,” says Ruberg. “It hasn’t been released to the market yet, but we’ve done some testing and it’s going through a patent process now.”

Kleenline, a division of Pro Mach, is addressing the need to reduce the running cost of equipment that typically operates 24/7. “Many of our customers require high-efficiency motors and servos in their conveyor systems and machinery,” says Francis Maliski, manager of electrical and controls engineering at Kleenline. “We work with our vendors to identify motors and servos that meet the efficiency and sanitation requirements that are specific to the food, beverage and pharmaceutical processing industries.”

At Matrix Packaging Machinery, the spotlight is on air. “Some customers are already using most of the available air compressor capacity and are seeking to add more air-efficient machines whenever possible,” says Mike Krummey, electrical engineering manager at Matrix Packaging Machinery.

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“More than 12 years ago, we introduced a new line of machines that uses 80% less air on average when compared to the machines we had been selling. This was accomplished through the use of an electrically operated horizontal sealing system instead of the more common pneumatic-actuated designs,” explains Krummey. “The machines are less costly to operate and the mean time between failures (MTBF) is longer compared to the pneumatic-actuated designs.”

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