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Top tips for pneumatic efficiency

12 September 2016

Energy efficiency has become a key business concern.  Pneumatic and compressed air systems can be energy wasters, so could offer a good opportunity to find savings, says Festo, headline sponsor for the 2106 Appetite for Engineering event.

In an increasingly competitive environment, food and drinks manufacturers are searching for ways to meet the ever more stringent energy efficiency and sustainability targets while also seeking to improve the efficiency of plant machinery, in a bid to reduce production spend. 

Pneumatic and compressed air supply systems can be a big source of wasted energy, particularly if they have been in place for some time. So, pneumatic systems can also offer a good opportunity for potential savings. Energy costs represent the largest slice of the total costs of setting up and running compressed air systems – at approximately 75%. And yet, waste costs due to poor design, inappropriate use, incorrect settings and leaks, add to the inefficiencies and losses that can accumulate over the life of a system. 

The key to success lies in taking a comprehensive look across the pneumatic chain. An integral approach to optimising energy usage in compressed air systems has a range of benefits for the operator – reduction in energy costs and, as a result, in operating costs; reduction in costs for maintenance and servicing; and reduction in unplanned production downtime and associated costs.  Like any other technology, pneumatic and compressed air systems are more efficient if they are designed, set up, used and maintained professionally. 

Festo has produced a guide which highlights some of the potential cost saving opportunities associated with pneumatic and compressed air systems, offering detailed and practical advice on how to lower costs and maximise energy efficiency. The guide provides information about technologies that will ensure machines and systems consume fewer resources and less energy. Reducing CO2 emissions as well as operating costs leads to an increase in the sustainability of production processes and therefore a company’s overall productivity. 

Tips to saving the most energy include:
• Using energy saving circuits: constant vacuum pressure is not always necessary for reliable holding of objects and continuous air consumption can be avoided by using an air-saving circuit, especially in the case of smooth, non-porous surfaces. Festo’s OVEM closed-loop vacuum generators monitor vacuum levels and only consume air when required. Typical savings can be as high as 60%. 

• Correctly sizing drives and tubing: unnecessary energy consumption is often due to excessive, wasteful force. Correct sizing of pneumatic drives – for example, reducing to the next smaller piston diameter – can reduce compressed air consumption by up to 40%, cutting procurement costs and reducing compressed air consumption during operation. 

• Reducing tubing lengths: unnecessary dead volume in the tubing can account for a wasted overall consumption, especially where small actuator volumes are involved. Using the shortest possible tubing lengths – for example, by positioning the valve as close as possible to the gripper – can achieve savings of up to 25% and improve cycle times.
 
• Switching off power during non-productive phases: eliminating the flow of air in systems at a standstill can provide savings of up to 20%. Energy efficiency modules, such as Festo’s E2M can provide active, intelligent control of the compressed air supply, automatically shutting it off during system standstills and restarting it for production. 

• Reducing the weight and friction of moving elements: this can have a major effect, particularly on multi-axis systems where initial over-sizing becomes compounded. Selecting the optimum mix of components and technology, for example, using lightweight pneumatic grippers for moving applications - can help realise energy savings of up to 18%. 

“Environmental consciousness, corporate responsibility and the balance sheet are all key drivers for increasing energy efficiency,” said Steve Sands, product manager at Festo. “Our Energy efficiency@Festo guide advises plant managers on how they can implement measures to reduce energy wastage, with in-depth statistics and details about compressed air technology.” 

The guide can be downloaded at: www.festo.co.uk/energyefficiencyatfesto


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