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Rexroth 'delivers cool cost savings'

05 March 2012

Ice cream manufacturer GB Glace in Sweden has slashed costs and boosted process quality thanks to a decentralized pneumatics concept from Bosch Rexroth.

The valve terminal system presents convincing design details. The CL03 is easy to clean and maintain. It is made up of individual base plates with internal wiring and can be populated with up to 16 valves. The individual valves in turn can be set for two different pressure levels. This is necessary to drive the cylinders in a unit at differing pressures, corresponding to the power needed. The sixteen valves in the system can thus drive sixteen different cylinders and offer the ideal pressure level for each unit served. GB Glace, part of the Unilever Group, has three hundred employees at its site in Flen, Sweden. This is just one of its ten European ice cream production sites and produces approximately forty-five million litres of ice cream each year.

Its production is subject to strict hygiene regulations, and cost reductions are an important factor despite it proving to be a fairly recession proof product. With the conversion to Rexroth pneumatic valves from the CL03 Clean Line series with integrated Profibus, GB Glace has achieved significant savings in materials, energy, installation and labor costs as well as improving its process reliability.

The small technical details are as important in ice cream production as the company’s secrets involving quantities, ingredients, and mixture ratios. An ideal example is the conversion from traditional pneumatics to modern valve technology with bus connections.

“Since its installation in 1989, our previous technology served us very well. However, we were forced to realize that maintenance-related spare parts were no longer available on the market,” says Karleric Idegren, process project engineer at GB Glace in Flen. “Our initial idea was to search for adequate replacements for the components. This ultimately gave rise to a new pneumatic actuation concept. Rexroth presented a design and that is what we are now using with great success.”

Rexroth valve terminal systems from the CL03 series are at the heart of the new system. The valves feature a consistent hygiene concept that is certified by the European Hygienic Engineering and Design Group, in addition to the high protection class IP69K and a bus connection directly integrated in the valve terminal system. “If we had merely replaced the components in the existing system, the investment for their installation alone would have cost five times more than our current, more modern and technologically advanced solution,” continues Idegren.

GB Glace replaced the previously installed pilot valves with new 2x3/2-way solenoid valves, which now provide more functions to actuate the 51 process valves on the mixing tanks. GB Glace’s overall system uses approximately 400 valve functions. With a total of 38 functions, two ramps actuate the valves at the cream tanks. The valve terminal system offers easy care, quick cleaning, and simple maintenance, thus reliably preventing microbial contamination.

Cutting costs to boost efficiency
Due to the decentralized configuration of the pneumatic system (all valves are close to the using units, such as cylinders, skid drives and grippers) both the valve cabinets and any additional PROFIBUS cabinets are redundant at GB Glace.

“We have now also started the conversion of the pneumatic system on the mix storage tanks, where approximately 330 functions will be available for process valves on completion. In this area of the system alone, the new solution with integrated Profibus eliminates 14 control cabinets, including their wiring. This facilitates our work enormously.”

“We have now eliminated 400 metres of air hoses and three ramps, so that 25% of cost reductions can be attributed to components that are no longer necessary, including their installation.”

These figures provide impressive evidence as to the savings potential of an intelligent solution. “And this does not even factor in the process improvements we have achieved,” says Idegren, pointing out the further advantage of greater system efficiency. Fewer cables mean less dead volume and pressure loss, and thus lower air consumption and, for food manufacturers such as GB Glace, far fewer expenditures for preventing the potential infiltration of bacteria.

“The new system demonstrates a clear functional improvement; it is simpler and more economical. The mixing tank system now operates more efficiently and reliably than it did before. In addition, the lower investment also shortens the amortization period.”

These advantages are based on a series of details including inductive sensors in the control unit which monitor the valves. Whereas the older pilot valves needed ten seconds from end stop to end stop, today’s solenoid valves accomplish this in just three seconds. The sensors verify whether the valves have closed in the allotted time and a notification alerts employees if that window is exceeded. Idegren says of the new features: “It increases safety, reliability and profitability since a defective component in the final manufacturing phase, for example, can spoil up to 5,000 litres of finished ice cream.”

All of these facts demonstrate the effort and money that users can save by selecting a high intelligence concept. “And here we havent even taken a look at the improvements we attained in the process itself.” This bring Idegren around to another advtanage: increased efficiency. Less pneumatic piping means less dead space, lower pressure losses and thus reduced air consumption. “The new system achieves functional improvements and is simpler in its design. The system works more efficiently and reliably than ever before. What’s more, reduced installation work and especially the lower investment costs shorten the amortization period.”


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