Danfoss Drives trumpets the future in New Orleans

With the 2015 acquisition of Vacon, Danfoss Drives became a formidable global drives supplier with personnel is more than 50 countries.

By Mike Bacidore, editor in chief

More than 20% of Danfoss Drives’ 4,800 employees are research-and-development engineers. That’s a significant investment in the future. Include the acquisition of Vacon to its resumé, and Danfoss had quite a bit to trumpet at its international conference in New Orleans in March.

With the 2015 acquisition of Vacon, Danfoss Drives became a formidable global drives supplier with personnel is more than 50 countries. The Danfoss portfolio can now meet low-voltage, medium-voltage and high-voltage needs of energy-intensive industries, such as mining, food and beverage and pulp/paper, but also water/wastewater, oil and gas, marine, HVAC and chemicals. In North America, Danfoss has eight locations and more than 100 drives specialists serving the ac drives market. These include three manufacturing facilities and three industry-specific competence and R&D centers.

“The combination of two great companies—Danfoss and Vacon—has created the second largest drives company in the world,” said Tom Doring, head of Danfoss Drives—Americas, vice president, Danfoss, and former president of Vacon.

“We focus on things around the world—climate change, energy scarcity, infrastructure and food,” explained Vesa Laisi, president of Danfoss. “Those are all good businesses for us. There are pockets for growth in drives in all of those areas. We are close to 5 billion euros with a very strong cash flow.” Laisi, whose leadership experience as CEO at Vacon is now an enormous asset in the Danfoss organization, identified several global megatrends that are shaping the businesses Danfoss Drives plans to serve with its combined offerings of VLT and Vacon product lines. The significant megatrends include urbanization; smart as the new green; innovating to zero; future of energy; and connectivity.

“In 2025, more than 5 billion people worldwide will benefit directly or indirectly from the benefits provided by Danfoss Drives,” said Laisi. “In order to have products three years from now that meet the market requirements, we're doing the R&D now.”

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Danfoss Drives’ product vision is for mass customization, data and analytics, an open application layer, a communication layer, a control layer, power density and energy efficiency. In a drives business, digitization can mean they sense what’s happening inside and outside the product, which creates many possibilities for innovation. “It means putting the intelligence in the drive,” said Laisi.

One company capitalizing on Danfoss innovations is KHS, which delivers turnkey filling and packaging lines worldwide. Its history began as Holstein & Kappert (H&K) in Dortmund, Germany, in 1868. When H&K merged with a variety of acquisitions along the way, KHS was the result in 1993. And by 2011, KHS had become a subsidiary of German-based Salzgitter.

From its humble beginnings when it created the first beer-filling machine, KHS is now a 1.1-billion-euro company with 4,700 employees. And it’s an important part of Salzgitter’s 9 billion euros in annual revenue, not to mention almost 25% of its 20,000 workers.

The significant megatrends include urbanization; smart as the new green; innovating to zero; future of energy; and connectivity.

“Complexity is combination of beverages, containers and packs,” proclaimed Dr.-Ing. Peter Stelter, executive vice president, strategy and technology management, at KHS, who spoke at the Danfoss Drives conference. “We create beverages and then create the containers—PET, cans and kegs—and put them in packs and then put the packs on pallets. KHS has 350 active machines for all of these things. The glass line, for example, reaches speeds up to 75,000 bottles per hour, or 1,250 bottles per minute.”

The challenge for KHS in developing new lines was for them to be sustainable, energy-efficient, modular, quiet, hygienic and flexible. Virtual lines could be simulated with 3D machine design, and multiple SKUs need fast changeovers.

“We used 3D laser scanners to scan the buildings,” explained Stelter. KHS combined the capabilities of Pro/Engineer 3D, a CAD/CAM/CAE associative solid-modeling software, which is now PTC Creo with those of Autodesk’s Navisworks software for scan-design data, and then it makes the design available for review on its powerwall display.

“We have to have a vertical and a horizontal standardization,” said Stelter. “Variants, options and process modules and function modules and assemblies, parts, drawings and documents are part of the vertical standardization.” KHS wanted to reduce its portfolio, create a modular product structure and analyze value from design to cost. Modularity desires included the entire line, line segments and single machines.

“Horizontal standardization means bundling strategies,” explained Stelter. “We are bundling electric components and commodities. We used to use Bosch and Festo, and now we only have Festo. We use stepper motors and EC drives, induction motors and gear drives, Danfoss’ OneGearDrive and servo drives. For conversion of rotary into linear motion, you need mechanical gear arrangements.”

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The InnoPET TriBlock is a stretch-blow molder/labeler/filler machine that needs linear motion, and KHS uses Danfoss integrated servo drives with Siemens’ Simotion controls. “It's necessary to look not only at the motor, but to compare the complete drive system,” explained Stelter. “Worm gears tend to slip and jerk and low speeds. We need jerk-free acceleration of conveyors. A speed ramp is not sufficient for container conveyors.”

Hygienic design needs high physical protection. “We have to clean often, which means we need the IP69K protection,” said Stelter. “Drives have to be fanless so the germs cannot fly on dust particles.”

KHS also implemented centralized cabling of conveyors. “Decentralized cabling is less efficient and needs IP54 protection,” explained Stelter. “Centralized cabling is much more efficient and only need IP23 protection.”

In addition to these higher-efficiency systems, KHS has its own manufacturing innovations, including Plasmax, which is a thin SiOx gas-tight barrier for sensitive beverages; digital printing decorations directly on PET bottles; and the Nature Multi Pack, which creates secondary packaging without shrink film by gluing. KHS Everywhere, an app for the Apple phone, allows users to view plant information remotely.