Manufacturing News and Trends

3 sources of big energy savings

It’s likely that a small investment now in one of these three areas of your operation will result in big energy savings.

The three sources have been tested and identified by Applied Industrial Technologies, a maker of motors, gears and belts.

1. Electric Motors. Keep in mind studies show that the initial purchase price of an AC motor represents only 2% of its total lifetime cost while power usage represents almost all of the rest. Motors that meet specifications established by the NEMA Premium program are available from most manufacturers and will optimize efficiency, reduce power consumption, and improve system reliability. Some companies that have done ROI studies have decided that the savings are significant enough to make it worthwhile to replace fully serviceable standard efficiency motors. Further, NEMA Premium motors are made to higher manufacturing standards, which typically results in longer life, less maintenance and reduced downtime.

Note: To get maximum energy efficiency, a motor should be the proper size for its application. Suppliers can help with sizing specifications.

2. Gears. Your choice of gearing can have a significant impact on energy usage. Gearing is a common method of speed reduction and torque multiplication, but the process consumes energy. Worm gearing, for example, is widely used in packaging machinery, material handling, and food processing. The problem: There’s a lot of friction – and energy loss — caused by the worm-gear design.

A possible alternative: Helical gear reducers are common on conveyor lines, in packaging applications, and in a range of food manufacturing operations. In terms of energy efficiency, helical gearing is a better choice than worm gearing in some applications.

3. Belts. V-belts are used in the majority of belt drives. The problem: V-belt efficiency can deteriorate by as much as 5% over time if the belt is not periodically re-tensioned, as under-tensioned belts lead to slippage and reduced power transfer efficiency. Cogged belts have slots that run perpendicular to the belt length. These slots reduce belt bending resistance and allow the belts to be used with V-belt pulleys. Cogged belts run cooler, last longer and are about 2% more efficient than standard V-belts. Another option: Synchronous belts have teeth and require the installation of mating toothed drive sprockets. These belts are about 98% efficient and maintain that efficiency over a wide load range. Synchronous belts require less maintenance and retensioning, operate in wet and oily environments, and run slip-free.

However, while synchronous belts are extremely efficient, cogged belts may be a better choice when vibration damping is needed or shock loads cause abrupt torque changes that could shear a synchronous belt’s teeth. Synchronous belts also are noisier.

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