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Customised conveyor investments cut energy costs

Bruce Granger, general manager with Industrial Conveying, one of Australia's leading project orientated conveyor companies, says that with the increasing cost of electricity, energy efficiency is becoming increasingly important for his clients and end users.

"Companies are now looking closely at what their energy consumption is, so anything they can do to reduce it is a huge advantage for them," Granger said.

Granger explained that the refurbishment project in question involved a multi-national manufacturer consolidating one of its Sydney plants, and was a prime example of what can be achieved using customised equipment.

"It was not just energy savings we were able to offer the client, there were substantial savings in installation and wiring costs as well," he said.

"While the project is in an existing building, it had been completely stripped and refurbished inside with new equipment from us and equipment from other plants."

Granger said there are two phases to ICA's part of the project.

"One phase is taking cartons from the plant's manufacturing cells through an overhead conveyor system, then carrying the cartons down to a sophisticated palletising system, with around 250m of conveyors in total."  

He said the system has several automated mergers where cartons from four different manufacturing cells travel on the overhead conveyor systems.

"Then they all merge onto one main trunk line which takes the cartons to the palletising system."

Granger explained that the manufacturer has 30 plus SKUs with two main variations of cartons; one measuring 400mm x 250mm x 200mm with the larger carton measuring 650mm x 300mm x 280mm and weighing up to 20kg.

"While the flow rate through the system is modest at the moment, the system has the ability to be increased when needed as production rates increase.

"We have designed the overhead conveyor system to accumulate via particular types of belts that we use, with the ability to turn the drives off and on as needed.

"From the overhead conveyor systems, the cartons feed down to the palletising unit itself where the sorting system sorts the cartons into various lanes.

The company is using SEW-EURODRIVE electrical equipment with various types of the MOVIGEAR Mechatronic drive system, which it says is ideal for materials handling systems.

Granger said that the Mechatronic drive system comprises an efficient electric synchronous motor and gear unit with matching electronics in a single compact housing.

 "Overall, we are using 56 SEW-EURODRIVE motors on this project; the MOVIGEAR SNI, linked to MOVIFIT field controllers, and MOVIGEAR DRCs.

"The MOVIFIT system has allowed us to control up to ten of the MOVIGEAR drives from just one controller, which has significantly reduced our field wiring component and simplified the controls.

"It has also considerably cut our installation times by allowing us to do the pre-wiring of many of the components, such as the photo-electric cells where they are connected straight back to the MOVIGEAR units, in our factory set-up.

"By doing a lot of the pre-installation work and dry commissioning the system in our Bendigo factory this gives us the considerable advantage of reduced on-site work."

As one of Australia's leading project orientated conveyor companies, operating since the mid-70s across a wide range of industries, Granger said this project is a prime example of a customised project designed and built to the client's specific requirements.

"This project, with its 56 motor system, is just one example of what we can achieve using SEW-EURODRIVE equipment", Granger said.  

"Across the drives, we estimate the current draw will be as low as 20 Amps, whereas if we had designed the project the conventional way the current draw would be much higher, could be up to 60 Amps, and cost the manufacturer considerably more to operate.

"Over the life of this equipment, there will be substantial savings in energy consumption; savings in the region of thousands of dollars every year."

Granger said the main reason ICA uses SEW-EURODRIVE equipment is its high quality.

"It is very reliable and efficient, plus we get excellent service and back-up. It's the whole package."

The technology

John Gattellari, SEW-EURODRIVE's national industry specialist – food and beverage, said the MOVIGEAR drive system is an intelligent device and one every manufacturer should be taking advantage of.

 "A systematic development approach was taken right from the start of the design process of the drive system with a very high level of system efficiency, which in turn helps lower energy costs," Gattellari said.  

"The motors comply with IE4 (Super Premium Efficiency) energy efficiency classification, and higher, offering impressive energy savings.

 "Depending on the application, the MOVIGEAR drive system offers customers potential energy savings of up to 50%, every year," he said.

According to the company,the MOVIGEAR SNI (Single Line Network Installation) also allows simplified installation, which leads to significantly reduced installation and system costs.

 In contrast to current decentralised automation technology, which relies on two separate cables for energy and communication, the single line technology deployed with MOVIGEAR communicates over one of the phases of power, reducing the complications and cost of on-site installations.

 "This simplified system structure can often reduce the time taken for start-ups from weeks to a matter of days," Gattellari said.  

"With this project, the manufacturer has linked the MOVIGEAR drives to MOVIFIT SNI controllers which have been designed for decentralised installation in the field.

 "The MOVIFIT SNI can control up to 10 MOVIGEAR drive units, passing the control information via Ethernet signals."

Customers are also able to optimise a MOVIGEAR unit for different speeds, meaning a reduction in the number of variants required, with the corresponding number of spares required also heavily reduced.

Gattellari explained that when it comes to old and new technologies, the difference is huge.

"With this new technology, the payback is often within two years, as opposed to old technology, which is considerably longer.

 "In fact the ROI on this project is expected to be even less than 18 months," he said.

Gattellari went on to say that as well as providing the conveyor systems for the new section of the plant, ICA is also upgrading other parts of the plant and installing SEW's MOVIGEAR DRC motors.

 "These motors can simply be plugged into our standard gearbox. In this section of the plant, the manufacturer didn't want to change anything mechanically, they just wanted to lower their energy costs and improve efficiencies.

 "So they took off the old gearboxes and put new ones in with the same mountings."

Gattellari explained that there are two variants of MOVIGEAR DRC motors available, one with brakes, one without – with both types used on this project.

He also said that the MOVIGEAR is a hygienic drive, with no sharp edges and totally smooth.

"It is also fully enclosed with no air, dirt or germ swirls, and with low noise emissions, due to the drive operating without a fan, it is ideal for use in manual work stations.

 "The optional HP200 coating is designed so nothing can stick to it, making it ideal for hygienic or 'wash down' applications in the food and beverage industry," he said.

Gattellari reports that more and more customers are taking advantage of the MOVIGEAR drive system, including major global companies such as Coca Cola.

 "They have all been very impressed with the system's ease of installation and the on-going reduction in energy costs," he said. 

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