Drive cuts energy consumption by 95 per cent

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A Parker SSD 650V AC drive has been used to upgrade the hydraulic control system on training rigs used by British Airways, cutting energy consumption by up to 95 per cent.

Variable-speed drives from Parker Hannifin are being used by British Airways to improve the efficiency and reliability of its flight cabin simulators. By enabling the simulators' hydraulic control systems to be powered only when needed, the drives are cutting energy consumption by 95 per cent, in addition to extending maintenance intervals and service life considerably.

The two British Airways flight cabin simulators, one based on a Boeing 737 and the other on a 747 passenger cabin, are used for cabin crew training. The ability to simulate various incidents enables trainee crews to practice safety procedures and emergency drills in a realistic setting. With thousands of crew members training each year, the simulators are in high demand, making it essential they are available for use 24/7.

In each of the simulators the cabin area is a life-size representation of a section of a real aircraft, complete with seats, overhead lockers, and all other fixtures and fittings. The 747 simulator is static, with doors that are hydraulically operated in exactly the same way as on a real aircraft. In addition to hydraulic doors, the 737 version is mounted on a large hydraulic rig that controls the rise, tilt and shake of the simulator. This system can move the cabin forwards, backwards and side to side, simulating flight conditions such as turbulence.

Both simulators are controlled from a single hydraulic control system located in a small external plant room, with the power output typically split 30 per cent to the 747 rig and 70 per cent to the 737 if both are in use simultaneously. Previously two separate pumps and motors in the hydraulics system had to be run constantly at 100 per cent speed, leading to high energy costs and significant wear and tear on the system. To remedy this problem, BA approached Parker SSD.

Drive and controller

Parker worked closely with BA and Trend Control Systems to modify the hydraulic system using the latest drive and control technology. The improved system combined a Parker AC variable-speed drive with a Trend controller and Parker accumulators and valves. This arrangement would enable the hydraulic system to be driven only when needed and, therefore, reduce energy consumption considerably.

Parker SSD's 650V AC drive was selected for the application because it was versatile, easy to use and would provide dependable performance over a long service life - and therefore maximise the return on BA's investment. The drive makes setting up complex open-loop AC motor control systems simple and fast, with pre-programmed options and a user-friendly interface. Additionally, the compact dimensions of the unit would enable BA to make the most efficient use of space in the simulation area.

Once installed, the new system had a noticeable effect on energy consumption. Dennis Doody, Senior Engineering Technician for BA, comments: "We are very impressed with the new hydraulic control system for our simulators. The combination of the Parker SSD drive and the Trend Controller have allowed us to use the system in a much more efficient way, cutting overall energy costs by as much as 95 per cent, from 360kW/day to just 21kW/day. As the operating conditions are now much more stable, and the system is not being driven flat out all the time, we are seeing a reduction in the need for maintenance, which is lowering our costs still further.

"Aside from the money-saving implications, we are really happy that we have managed to cut the environmental impact of the simulators. They are a vital part of our training processes and essential to our ability to safeguard passenger safety, but we want to make sure we are using them in the most efficient way. The new hydraulic drive and control system has enabled us to meet our economic objectives in line with our company-wide sustainability goals. We are very happy with the outcome and feel sure we made the right decision choosing Parker as our partner on the project."

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