Sorry, but I have sustainability on the brain, all because of April's upcoming "Green is No Gamble" cover story. Anyway, many machine builders report that designing and building greener machines, running more sustainable applications and facilities, and producing greener products requires participants to adopt some better practices. As a result, it’s not too much different than researching any new parameter or capability that end users might need and specify. Though each machine and application has its individual requirements, here are some basic ways to go green that can be used across different production settings:
- Evaluate existing machines, production lines and facilities, and measure what energy, raw materials, water, compressed air and other resources they’re consuming.
- Employ utilization data to begin developing a plan for conserving resources. This plan might include powering down or turning off equipment when it’s not being used, and replacing simple induction motors and drives with higher-efficiency and/or variable-speed motors and drives or servos drives that can more closely match production needs with energy used. Check if your machine, application or facility could use regeneration technology, which typically use a shared power source and linked drives to capture power from decelerating components to help accelerate others.
- Conduct tests or trial runs of sustainable devices and applications to confirm savings generated, identify adjustments, and find new green opportunities.
- Reexamine machine designs to see if you can simplify them by eliminating or combining some parts. This will reduce material needed to build equipment, and lessen items requiring repairs in the future.
- Inventory all the raw materials that your machines are consuming and/or processing into products, and seek ways to reduce waste, perhaps by running closer to tolerances or recycling materials.
- Investigate whether more sustainable alternative materials could be sourced, and determine what design changes they might require in your machines. Some notable examples include replacing cardboard boxes or trays with plastic shrink-wrap, more tightly managing lubrication and cutting fluids, or machining carbon-fiber instead of aluminum.
- Collaborate with end users on adapting or developing greener end products, and redesign applicable machines and systems to meet those new requirements.