Compressor technology saves automotive supplier 70,000kWh pa

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At Alutec in Germany, sustainability, the environment and energy efficiency are used as benchmarks for (almost) everything. The same applies to its supply of compressed air, which the company obtains through an Atlas Copco contracting agreement. In 2012, the entire compressor station was replaced by latest generation machinery, saving the company at least 70,000kWh of electricity every year. Alutec uses the waste heat from the energy efficient compressor for cleaning parts and for heating.

Compressor technology saves automotive supplier 70,000kWh pa Headquartered in Sternenfels, in the Enz district of Baden-Württemberg, the company manufactures aluminium moldings, primarily for the automotive industry and its suppliers. General Manager Willy Kretz explains: “Most of the compressed air is used to blow out parts after pressing to remove chips and lubricants. The contact points and clamping devices, tool turrets, robotic arm grips and measuring station also need compressed air.”

Siegfried Kälber, responsible for operating technology, says: “We use GA+ compressors from Atlas Copco’s latest generation.” In the machine room, there is a GA 55+ FF and a GA 75+ FF, both fixed speed, plus a variable speed drive GA 90 VSD FF. Kälber explains: “The base load is primarily handled by the 90, the fixed speed compressors are only used at peak times.”

All three GA compressors have an integrated refrigerant dryer and use the environmentally friendly refrigerant R410A. This does not harm the ozone layer and reduces the dryer’s energy consumption by 50 per cent.

Alutech uses an ES 130 V master control system. This utilises the compressors to full capacity so that the combination of machines that has the lowest possible specific energy requirements is always used.

Contracting eliminates risk

As Alutec has concluded a contracting agreement, the entire system is owned by Atlas Copco. This means that Alutec only buys compressed air and is not involved in maintenance or repair of the compressors. The service is very satisfactory. Willy Kretz, General Manager of Alutec, says: “Even if a compressor should break down, Atlas Copco will provide a replacement within 24 hours, and we have always been given good support with technical issues.”

As part of the renegotiation of the contracting agreement, the entire station was replaced with the new GA machines in 2012. Kretz says: “As a result, we are now saving at least 70 000 kilowatt hours of energy over the year for compressed air generation.”

The compressors are equipped with a heat recovery system and are connected to recover heat in house. Kretz reports: “This allows us to put to good use more than 90 per cent of the heat produced from generating compressed air.” The hot cooler water is used to heat the processing and rinsing tanks for the cleaning system. In the winter, excess heat helps to heat the workshop.

Ultrasound devices have been in use for 2 years to prevent leaks in the compressed air supply network, and pneumatic valves that close automatically have been installed on the processing machines; these cut off the air flow when the machine is not in use. Kretz notes: “These measures alone have enabled us to lower the energy requirements for our compressed air generation at weekends from 250 to 50 kilowatt hours.”

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