Faced with rising energy costs, a large electroplating company sought to improve the efficiency and reliability of its compressed air system. After getting a quote from their vendor on a new 300-hp compressor to replace an existing unit, the company sought a comparison quote due to the significant investment the new compressor represented. Based on a recommendation from one of their customers, they turned to Scales Industrial Technologies.
Rather than simply providing a quote for a new compressor, Scales recommended a compressed air system assessment. This impressed the company enough to give Scales the green light to assess the system. Scales’ engineers found that by modifying some production equipment, the firm could reduce its compressed air demand by 80%. This would allow the company to operate just as effectively with a much smaller compressor and achieve significant energy and maintenance savings.
The primary demand for compressed air in the plant was from a series of compressed air-driven nozzles that atomized water to rinse away chemicals used during the plating process. Working with a nozzle manufacturer, Scales designed a process change that enabled the strip washing nozzles to use only water instead of compressed air. Eliminating the air-driven strip washing sharply reduced the plant’s compressed air requirements.
The assessment also found that a filter press was being fed an unneeded, constant supply of compressed air. Scales’ engineers worked with the plant employees to install high pressure off-line air storage supplied by a 5-hp reciprocating compressor to accommodate the high volume, intermittent demand of the filter press. This further reduced the load on the main compressor. Finally, a leak detection and repair campaign led to additional compressed air energy savings. The combination of all these measures reduced the plant’s air demand to where it could be met with a smaller compressor. The plant was able to replace their 300-hp compressor with a 75-hp variable displacement compressor and a new, energy efficient dryer.
Not only did Scales’ recommended project improve energy efficiency and yield significant energy savings, it also improved production and yielded important non-energy benefits. Compressed air energy use was reduced by more than 80%, saving 1,631,000 kWh and \$153,000 per year. The project also resulted in annual savings of \$49,000 from lower water and water treatment costs, lower cooling tower loads, and lower maintenance costs. In addition, production became more reliable, leading to \$50,000 in annual avoided product loss. Because the company qualified for an incentive of \$217,500 from its electric utility, total implementation costs were \$72,500, resulting in a simple payback of just over 4 months. This project’s success has encouraged this electroplating corporation to become more proactive about energy efficiency.
|"Scales worked with our operators to retrofit our rinse lines utilizing state-of-the-art technology. Involving our operators in this retrofit process was the key to gaining their commitment and enthusiasm. In addition to the anticipated energy savings, we are enjoying a higher-quality surface finish along with enhanced process consistency and capability." - Operations V.P., Electroplating Client|