Nord Drivesystems speaks with MHD about the release of its IE5+ motor as well as the DuoDrive, a world-first gear unit and motor combination.
Zoom in on the moving parts in any warehouse and you will find anywhere from 50 electric motors in smaller operations through to over 4000 units in some of the largest DCs that are popping up all around the world.
These motors are the literal driving power of the DC. This is a focal point for the European Union in seeking to reduce energy consumption. In 2009, the EU identified that a large percentage of energy across the continent was being consumed by electric motors. Europe has approximately 8 billion electric motors, which consume an astounding 50 per cent of all the electricity the EU produces. As a result, the EU introduced an Ecodesign requirement for manufacturers and suppliers seeking to sell their motors in the EU.
It was a move that Max Jarmatz, MD of Nord Drivesystems Australia, witnessed first-hand, as the German company adapted to the changing regulations. He tells MHD that the rules made sense, given the vast amount of energy that could be saved through energy efficient design.
The EU Directive became a mandatory standard with the enforcement of International Energy (IE) efficiency classes. The EU has offered a staged approach to allow OEMs like Nord Drivesystems to gradually increase their motor efficiency over time. From July 2021 this year, the new minimum standard is the IE3, however the EU has defined standards for efficiency going up to IE5.
Australia, Max notes, has been slow to take on the increased energy efficiency requirements. He says that Australia is one of the last developed countries in the world with IE2 as its minimum standard. That being said, where the government has taken its time to increase its expectations on energy standards, the private sector has rushed them. Companies understand that improved energy efficiency is not just about their ecological footprint, but can lead to significant cost savings on electricity bills.
“Australian companies, especially intralogistics companies and airports, are requesting IE4 and IE5 rated motors because they want higher efficiency motors,” he says. “Companies in Australia understand that they need to consider their annual costs to run their motors – not just the upfront investment – when it comes to the technology they choose. The payback period can be as short as 1.5 years when they go with the highest possible efficiency standard. They want us to go beyond even IE4 and IE5 efficiency standards.”
Nord Drivesystems has responded to this demand with its IE5+ motors. Max notes that companies should not be deceived by the branding. If you were to draw a linear graph to represent energy efficiency, the IE5+ would be closer to an IE8. However, because the EU has yet to set the standards for anything beyond IE5, they can only call it the IE5+.
Max notes that increasing the efficiency of the motor is just part of the equation. In addition to the remarkably efficient IE5+ motor, Nord Drivesystems has been able to further increase efficiency through a new concept that incorporates the motor and gearbox in a single design.
“Gearboxes can lead to some real losses,” he says. “This can vary from 98 per cent efficiency, down to 40 per cent efficiency, when considering the different power transmission technologies. You really need to account for the intricacies of a complete system to make it optimally efficient.”
The acute understanding behind this technology allows Nord Drivesystems to produce the DuoDrive solution where maximum efficiency gain is achieved via a single-housed design motorised gearbox.
“Nord Drivesystems has optimised this gearmotor and have realised that we have not only the lightest and most efficient, but also the most economical product, via the combination of an IE5+ motor and gearbox,” he says. “We have been able to eliminate further friction losses. This allows us to achieve smaller dimensions and higher overall efficiencies.”
The DuoDrive is ideal for conveyor applications. Max says the design was based on feedback received from some of their biggest partners.
One such important consideration was easy installation. Companies advised Nord Drivesystems that they were spending a lot of money on contractors who needed to be trained to install advanced technology. So, Max says Nord Drivesystems designed the DuoDrive to be relatively basic for installers by incorporating plug and play technology. This in turn allows companies to save money by spending less on specialised technicians.
Another important characteristic of the new DuoDrive is flexibility.
“You cannot just design a system that operates at constant speed and load continuously. Those are design methods from the past,” he says. “Now customers want to be able to adjust to consumer demand. You might have a normal day, followed by a busy Friday, then you might need to ramp up to 300% around Christmas for example. We need to give our customers that flexibility.”
Having a range of speeds also means that the same unit can be used in multiple applications. A huge benefit of this, Max explains, is the reduction of geared motor variants and the simplified maintenance of spare parts for future replacements.
By bringing all these aspects together, Max is confident Nord is helping to drive warehouses and DCs Australia-wide at a time when they cannot afford any downtime.
“These systems need to be very reliable,” says Max. “Logistics centres are running two to three shifts a day, with no downtime. If you get any downtime then parcels cannot be processed and supply chains inevitably are delayed. These days, motors and gearboxes need to be more flexible to meet this demand.”
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