Factory lasers use nitrogen right at the cutting point on the metal because the high temperatures used in the process can often cause oxidation. When oxidation occurs, the metal pieces being cut can be damaged, as can the tooling creating the cut. Structural damage or inaccurate cuts can make parts weak and render them useless. The use of nitrogen at the point of contact from laser to metal removes oxygen from the cutting area and helps cool the die as it cuts, thus preventing oxidation. This prevention improves the quality of the final products, produces less scrap metal and cuts back on the reworking of pieces.
Since completion of the system upgrade in the fall of 2020, PC Forge is on track to save an average of 1.9 million kWh and $266,000.00 per year in energy costs – and increase the production capability of its forging operation by 40%. The project also achieved a one-year payback with a \$245,000 incentive from Government of Ontario’s utility Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO).
A zinc producer spends an estimated \$516,000 annually on electricity to operate the air compressors in a compressed air system at its north American plant. The current average electric rate, at this plant, is 5 cents per kWh, and the compressed air system operates 8,760 hours per year. This system assessment recommended a group of projects able to reduce these energy costs by fifty-one percent (51%) to an annualized \$270,000. The simple payback of the project was 15 months – without taking into account potential incentive dollars from the local utility.
While late summer may not be the time of year many of us think about heat recovery, the potential for energy savings in compressed air systems should be on our minds year-round. For those involved with the compressed air systems within International Wire Group’s facilities, energy savings is on their minds each day. This culture of continuous improvement has everyone on the lookout for savings wherever possible.
A steel distribution and processing company has upgraded and consolidated the compressed air systems in two of their distribution and processing facilities for big energy savings. The previous compressed air systems were running in modes of operation with very low efficiency. A complete replacement of the two systems with new air compressors and dryers has reduced the energy consumption significantly.
The facility uses a large amount of electricity to manufacture laminated glass in the autoclave process. This process is the largest consumer of compressed air in the facility which made compressed air a major target in reducing energy costs for the facility. As the volume of compressed air in the autoclave is significant, the system is constantly pressurized with large 150 HP air compressors to reduce production times and fill times of the autoclave.
The company specializes in fabrication of precision assembled customized parts for OEM’s and system integrators. Since 1997 the company has steadily grown in size and capacity as the demand for its high quality fabrications has increased. Through the years, many new CNC machines, laser cutters and powder coat painting operations have been added, but with all the expansion the facility has amazingly kept the plant compressed air consumption low. This has been achieved by following excellent “best practice” compressed air efficiency principles and by keeping watch on system waste.
Paying close attention to compressed air use is paramount for identifying potential energy-saving projects. The engineering team at Ball Corporation has been well aware of this fact for years. An active member in the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR® program, Ball Corporation scrutinizes manufacturing processes to maximize the energy efficiency of compressed air systems in each of its plants.
Metaldyne Performance Group (called MPG in this article) Plant 1 in Columbus, Indiana (formerly known as Impact Forge) has made significant efficiency improvements to their compressed air system. With the help of their service provider, IAC Air Compression, MPG has implemented some innovative control on their existing air compressors, added new air compressors with variable capacity control, and tied everything together with a modern central controller. This installation has been recognized for its wise use of power by their power utility Duke Energy.
Ahresty Wilmington Corporation (AWC) was founded in 1988 and is located in Wilmington, Ohio. Currently AWC employs over 900 people with sales totaling \$192 million. They have grown steadily, all while continuously improving and staying on the leading edge of technology. AWC is a tier-1 automotive supplier servicing their entire customer base in the United States. AWC has established an efficient and integrated production system that incorporates die-casting, finishing, machining, and assembly operation using just-in-time production methods to provide its customers with quality products at a competitive price.
In recent years, we have seen an upward trend of higher production manufacturers wanting to integrate their air gauging quality checks from a stand-alone, outside-of-machine device where the operator is performing a manual check to an automated in-process gauge. There are several reasons for this trend, including higher quality standards, tighter tolerances, as well as running a leaner operation. The benefits are 100 percent inspection of the required geometric callout, as well as handshaking between measuring device and machine to make each piece better than the prior one. It also removes any bad parts.