Balancing energy use, production capabilities

Packaging machinery OEMs need to find a way to set themselves apart to succeed, and one way may be with attention to energy efficiency. Doug Burns, practice lead for sustainable production at Rockwell Automation, says, “We are starting to see end users ask for energy data and add it to their primary decision points of cost and performance.
By Jeanine Katzel for Control Engineering May 1, 2009
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A full-length version of this article is available with more images: Machine building: Flexibility is silver bullet for packaging machine design .

Packaging machinery OEMs need to find a way to set themselves apart to succeed, and one way may be with attention to energy efficiency. Doug Burns, practice lead for sustainable production at Rockwell Automation, says, “We are starting to see end users ask for energy data and add it to their primary decision points of cost and performance. OEMs who want to differentiate themselves in the marketplace are going to have to say ‘our machines are 25% cheaper to operate than any others on the market.’”

Packaging equipment OEMs are being called on to generate creative solutions, such as a machine with an energy-saver mode that would send a system to sleep when the line is not in actual production. Source: SEW Eurodrive
Packaging equipment OEMs are being called on to generate creative solutions, such as a machine with an energy-saver mode that would send a system to sleep when the line is not in actual production. Source: SEW Eurodrive

Packaging equipment ranges from mechanical systems in which everything is line-shafted and driven by one large motor to all servo-driven machines that tend to be more highly engineered. In between these extremes is a nearly-infinite array of variations for which efficiency and productivity are paramount. Optimizing these goals requires a focus on the total machine and its components, especially motors.

Whether companies use regular ac motors or new high-efficiency devices, users today need to be cognizant of their energy use, says Rich Mintz, product manager, SEW Eurodrive. “In applications performing a high level of indexing in high-cycling applications, the motors often spend more time starting up than running. In those cases, a premium efficient motor may be efficient, but it takes a lot more energy to start. In the end, it can actually use more energy than a standard motor,” he says.

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On the other hand, there is an upfront cost to servo technology, but it is offset by added flexibility, says Ben Green, packaging industry consultant for the Motion Control Solutions group pf Siemens Energy & Automation Inc. For these types of systems, the issue “is not as much about reducing energy as about increasing machine throughput using the same amount of energy,” he says.

From the system perspective, machine building also is headed toward incorporating more diagnostics at the design level, says Burns. This better enables a balance between energy efficiency and productivity throughout a machine’s life.

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