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Sponsored Article

Looking to achieve a 50% reduction in air consumption on your production line?

05 June 2023

What if we told you that you can make savings of £20,000 in electricity consumption on just one production line? Not to mention helping your sustainability goals by reducing CO2 emissions by up to 30%? Better believe it – all you need is SMC’s brand-new Compressed Air Management System.

Those figures are real: that’s what the new SMC Air Management System just achieved for one of our UK end-user customers by simply reducing air consumption by 50%. We are certain that improvements can be made, regardless of the size of your facility and complexity of production lines. With electricity prices having rocketed in the last 12 months, seriously affecting profitability, can you afford to ignore this opportunity?

Go with the flow
So how does it work? Quite simply, by precisely monitoring the air flow into a production line and, when systems or sections of a system are idle, reducing or halting the supply of air to that section. State of the art sensors mean there’s an instant return to full flow once manufacturing restarts. Think of it like a modern car that switches off its engine when stopped – and immediately restarts once the traffic is moving again.

An added bonus is the reduction in downtime and savings on maintenance costs as the air supply system is not running continuously. The Air Management System is a standalone unit that can be programmed via a button on the hub or the webserver – no need to connect it to a network, no need for a PLC or Edge device, meaning it’s super user-friendly.

For a deep dive into the technical details, keep reading.

A collaborative solution
It all started with one of our customers – a global blue-chip company - looking for a solution providing high-resolution data to assist in monitoring the air use (pressure, flow, and temperature) of its machines, while also providing economic control of the air supply. The solution had to be suitable for retrofitting onto existing machinery as well as being compatible with new machines. Further requirements included easy access to data and simple commissioning. Based on these prerequisites, our team of engineers set about developing the Air Management System.

We work closely with our customers to develop solutions based on real-life projects that, for example, align directly with their goals. This approach provides SMC with a solid foundation for the development of optimal solutions, one that we ultimately roll-out to benefit the wider industry.

Driving sustainability
One end-user customer had a production line comprising of 10 different machines handling a minimum of 180 bottles per minute. Each machine performed various operations using compressed air, including air blowing and vacuum holding, resulting in high air-use and of course high energy costs. Due to the wide differences between each machine, the concept for our Air Management System centred on universal machine conditions such as stop, run, wait, and error. PackML provided the definition for those conditions.

Consider a bottle unscrambling machine lying idle because of an issue with the bottle labelling machine down the line. Previously, the unscrambling machine would continue consuming air. However, the Air Management System uses the machine’s ‘wait’ signal as permission to do something positive. For instance, if the wait signal exceeds a customer-determined duration, the Air Management System regulates to a lower secondary pressure, such as 4-bar instead of 7-bar primary pressure. As a result, the flow rate drops, typically by more than half, providing a dramatic reduction in air consumption, energy use and CO2 emissions.

SMC’s Air Management System also has an optional valve for a full isolation mode (compressed air isolation). Upon exceeding a secondary customer-determined duration, the same machine can completely stop any unnecessary use of compressed air, further reducing energy requirements.

Take control of your air management
When it comes to connection options the Air Management System is extremely flexible: it is possible to deploy either a wired connection or, using our proprietary wireless connectivity, you can utilise one wired connection to a base unit that collates data from up to 10 remote devices. You can also choose to connect it to your fieldbus network, or simply use the device’s integrated OPC UA server interface, negating the impact and complexity of communicating with machines featuring different fieldbus protocols.

In all applications involving the Air Management System, there is no need to access your machine’s PLC. Instead, the near plug & play nature of the system works with each machine individually and universally, requiring just one 24 VDC signal. Digital integration is also easy as one Air Management System wireless hub allows you to connect to 10 remote units, within a 100m radius, providing a more economical cost and reduced integration outlay.

The system is entirely ‘dark factory ready’, providing you with the opportunity for decentralised control and monitoring. Aside from energy savings, data analysis forms the basis for defining efficiency gains and preventative maintenance activities.

Our Air Management System facilitates the collection of high-resolution data (10Hz), enabling users to trend the pressure, flow and temperature of each machine equipped with the product. Thus the customer can measure and monitor their assets and make informed decisions on when to maintain their machines. Users can also pass the data into other services such as computerised maintenance management systems (CMMS) or AI machine learning packages.

Rapid ROI
The savings from deploying our Air Management System are instant. In addition, over the course of a machine’s annual duty cycle and multiplied by several machines and production lines, this end-user customer achieved an exceptionally fast return on investment (ROI), saving £20,000 on energy costs in the first year alone. We are confident this will be similar for other customers adopting the Air Management System.

A further example from the food industry: an OEM was experiencing significant air loss during production. It turns out they were wasting significant amounts of air without realising – from seal wear, air blow and continuing to run the vacuum generator whilst the production line was idle. Enter SMC’s new Air Management System and they saved over 50% of air losses immediately. Following the successful trial, this OEM’s design concept was completely revolutionised going forward.

So don’t compromise. Whatever your size, whether you’re an end-user or an OEM, the system’s affordable price point and rapid ROI enable you to instantly make energy savings and boost your bottom line.

Call: 01908 563888  

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