Nov 19, 2023

Injection moulding: Energy consulting and other efficiency measures significantly reduce costs

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Due to the huge price increases, the topic of energy in particular has rapidly gained in importance throughout Europe. This is one of the reasons why the machine manufacturer Arburg launched its "Action Plan: Energy" in March 2023. The plan is based on individual energy consultations including energy measurements at the customer's premises.

In its "Action Plan: Energy", Arburg highlights many specific options for optimising energy requirements throughout the entire production process, thereby significantly reducing costs in injection moulding production.

"The importance of energy costs has increased at lightning speed in the injection moulding sector in 2022. We have responded to this with a professional action plan," explains Gerard Böhm, Managing Director Sales and Service at Arburg. "With our in-depth expertise, machine upgrades and digital services, we support injection moulding plants and make them strong and resilient with regard to energy efficiency."

Anyone who wants to make significant energy savings in their injection moulding parts production can receive specific and comprehensive advice and training from Arburg as part of its "Action Plan: Energy". Initial contact can be made via the responsible sales staff or by e-mailing [email protected].

After a kick-off via video conference, the experts go to the customer's premises, where they follow a 5-step plan. In order to obtain meaningful data, step 1 is to determine the energy requirement in a real production environment. For example, measuring power and compressed air leakages can reveal potential energy guzzlers. The measurement data is used for subsequent advice on process optimisation directly at the machine. This is followed by new measurements to evaluate the success of these measures. In step 2, the machine fleet is classified and individual retrofits are considered. Step 3 comprises process and cycle time optimisations with the aim of increasing output and reducing specific energy requirements. In steps 4 and 5, the experts deal with the "dos and don'ts" of moulds and peripheral equipment.

At the end of the action plan, there is a detailed consultation and a final discussion with the customer, who is given an individual list of measures with all the information and specific recommendations on suitable retrofits, digital solutions and, depending on the region, the use of possible subsidies.

Arburg offers special courses on energy efficiency at its Training Center in Lossburg as well as directly at the customer's premises. As part of an information seminar, for example, maintenance staff and production managers learn how they can make their work even more energy efficient. The seminar explains, among other things, which criteria can be used to select the most energy-efficient injection moulding machine, determine the specific energy requirement of an Allrounder and exploit savings opportunities in the injection moulding process. In addition, the Arburg experts provide practical training for machine operators on request, directly on their Allrounders on site.

Arburg can provide documented and traceable consumption measurements for new machines for businesses that require detailed energy data for certification. This service has three components:

Existing Allrounder injection moulding machines of all sizes and series can also be retrofitted to optimise their energy use. Depending on the application, it may be worthwhile to fully insulate the cylinder, which ensures that process heat losses are minimised and heating is fast (Fig. 5). With this measure, the energy requirement in relation to heating energy can be reduced by up to 40 per cent, depending on the process.

For machines made in 2011 or earlier (with IE1 and older motors), an upgrade with energy-efficient air- and water-cooled IE3 motors can save up to ten per cent of energy, which means a return on investment (ROI) of only 1.5 to 2 years, depending on the machine.

For newer Allrounders, retrofitting with the Arburg energy saving system AES can also be considered. For example, assuming a cycle time of 50 seconds and 6,000 hours of production per year, a hydraulic Allrounder 270 S can save around 4,800 euros with electricity costs of 40 cents per kilowatt hour. With an Allrounder 820 S and 50 cent electricity costs, this measure even reduces production costs by around 21,000 euros per year. In general, the payback period for an investment of this kind depends on the energy costs, machine and process.

The Gestica machine controller actively supports the operator – including when it comes to energy optimisation. The assistance function AXW Control Energy Assist brings together all the essential functions for the heating zones of the plasticising cylinder and the mould hot runner, for example, and ensures that all heating zones are switched on and off in an optimised manner. This can reduce the energy requirement in the heating phase by up to 30 percent.

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Arburg has answered the question of what an energy-optimised machine of the future will look like with its milestone machine: "When designing the hybrid Allrounder 470 H, we made significant advances to our tried-and-tested technology in order to optimise the energy footprint and reduce cycle times," emphasises Guido Frohnhaus, Managing Director Technology & Engineering at Arburg. "There are many technical innovations in the new machine generation that are only available from Arburg". These include the new oil management concept, flow splitting for simultaneous movements of hydraulic secondary axes and the extended use of the Arburg servo hydraulic system. The new machine saves energy, conserves resources, and is efficient in production, user-friendly and reliable at the same time.

This is also made possible above all thanks to the combination of electric clamping unit and hydraulic injection unit. The electric drives reduce the energy requirement and hence the operating costs and carbon footprint. The high-quality hydraulic injection unit lowers the purchase costs and is also very robust.

A comparison of the hybrid Allrounder 470 H milestone machine with similar hydraulic machines produces some impressive figures:

The bottom line is that the Allrounder 470 H significantly reduces acquisition and operating costs as well as the carbon footprint.

Digital products and features help make production processes more energy efficient and create transparency — at any time and around the clock. The Arburg-X-World customer portal plays an important role here. New features in the Machine Center app include energy labels: each Allrounder is assigned to one of three energy efficiency classes. In addition, its carbon footprint is displayed from the creation phase to delivery to the customer.

Depending on the machine, the customer portal also provides tailored suggestions for energy optimisation, e.g. through retrofits. The new equipment comparison option helps users quickly and efficiently find the best Allrounder for their current injection moulding process during production planning. Another tried-and-tested tool for determining the most efficient solution is the Arburg cost effectiveness calculator, which uses important parameters to compare the various options and determine unit costs and the payback period, for example.

The host computer system ALS also makes a significant contribution to increasing the production and energy efficiency of machines and systems. Arburg's proprietary manufacturing execution system (MES) allows users to digitally plan and control their entire plastic parts production process and track all relevant information.

Mobile ALS functions enable resource-saving paperless production. Their energy requirements can be visualised and evaluated via ALS. In the information and machine terminal, the total energy requirement of the current job, the energy requirement per 15 minutes or the average output per 15 minutes can be displayed.

Energy consulting as part of a professional action plan forms an important new component of Arburg's portfolio of services. Especially in times of scarce resources and high energy costs, customers benefit from this in a very tangible way, with on-site energy measurements and in-depth advice identifying specific areas for action. Subsequent implementation of individual measures in the injection moulding plant, adjustments to the machines, and the use of digital features and supplementary training courses open up enormous potential that can significantly reduce energy requirements and thus also costs.