During Dealer Week, they needed enough compressed air to power multiple machines at a time all day long. Keeping simultaneous demos running for all their top machines required airflow of up to 400 cubic feet per minute (CFM). However, outside of Dealer Week, their compressed air demands were quite modest. On a typical day, they only needed 20 CFM to power their dust collection system and pneumatic tools for their dock and warehouse crating areas.
Compressed air production in industrial facilities consumes 10% of electrical power, on average. While this can vary up or down, it is an industrial average, and is very significant in most plants.
Do you know how much of your power cost goes to producing compressed air? We’ll come back to this at the end of this article.
In early October 2022, professionals from around the world gathered at the Best Practices 2022 EXPO & Conference in Atlanta to source and learn about the latest on-site utilities powering modern plant automation including compressed air, blowers, vacuum, pneumatics, motors and cooling water systems. This report recaps a fraction of the event’s education curriculum and provides an editorial tour of sponsoring exhibitors’ machinery displays and product introductions.
The history of Festo began in 1925 in Germany. Festo USA was founded on March 15th, 1972 in Port Washington on Long Island, with the focus of being a full-line supplier of pneumatics – a focus we continue with today.
The U.S. air compressor market has a compressed air installed base of at least 15 million horsepower. Further, it evaluated various air audits across different customer types, sizes and segments and determined U.S. manufacturers stand to save around 13 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) annually in electricity associated with compressed air. That translates to a savings of $1 billion in energy costs per year, which would remove nine million metric tons of CO2 annually. That equates to more annual energy usage of more than 1 million homes in the United States.
Electronics applications typically run their tooling requiring Process Vacuum based on differential pressure from barometric; that is, they control their PVAC pumps to “Inches of Mercury Vacuum”. This is because the parts and pieces being manipulated by vacuum are of certain sizes, shapes, and weights. If the differential pressure across the part is not great enough, then the tooling will fail and result in a loss of product, adverse impact to quality, and production downtime.
Headquartered in Noblesville, Indiana, SMC Corporation of America has grown exponentially since the company began operations in the United States in 1977. Today, the Noblesville campus occupies 345 acres and encompasses 2.6 million square feet of manufacturing and warehouse space.
Compressed air is used in all the company’s plants and is often the single largest energy end use within them. As a result, compressed air energy-saving measures are often replicable across the company and offer significant positive impacts. One area of focus is with compressed air leaks since they are “the best low hanging fruit to focus on and they always keep popping up and waste energy”.
To accurately assess compressed air systems, it is best to gather as much information as possible, for as long as practical so a clear picture of the operation of the system can be formed. The basic equipment needed includes pressure and amp/power data loggers, but in the past decade some excellent advances in instrumentation design has made very affordable flow meters available. This article discusses using flow meters for an example compressed air assessment.
Moisture can freeze in compressed air systems and cause rust and pitting in pipes and components. It can also flush out the lubricant resulting in accelerated tool wear and damage to valves and cylinders. Moist air is also a rewarding breeding ground for bacteria, which especially in the food and pharmaceutical industries can lead to product rejection and costly production downtime. It is therefore strange that many companies limit themselves to measuring only basic quantities such as pressure, flow and (absorbed) power.
By monitoring compressed air consumption using smart pneumatic sensors, companies can reliably reduce energy use and emissions.
The digital transformation of pneumatic systems is one critical way that companies can improve operational sustainability. Advanced airflow-sensing technology provides compressed air monitoring and valuable insights that allow companies to control and significantly reduce the energy used to produce compressed air as well as related carbon emissions.