Industrial Utility Efficiency    

Vacuum Systems

When Craft Brew Alliance (CBA) set a goal to dramatically reduce water consumption at its Widmer Brothers Brewery in Portland, Oregon, it focused its efforts on its bottling process – and implemented a solution engineered by Atlas Copco that saves 5,000 gallons of water per day. In addition, it saves the craft brewer $39,000 per year, thanks to the elimination of water treatment costs and reduced energy use.
DMK Deutsches Milchkontor GmbH produces sliced cheese and Mozzarella at its production facility in Georgsmarienhütte, Germany. The various types of sliced cheese and Mozzarella blocks are vacuum packed after processing in several packaging lines. The vacuum supply for the packaging machines is provided by a Busch centralized vacuum system, which supplies both the packaging lines and the thermoforming machines.
Choosing the right vacuum supply can lead to huge cost savings in plastics processing. Mar-Bal, Incorporated has undertaken a critical review of the existing vacuum supply for injection molding when moving to a new plant and has collaborated with Busch, LLC to find a solution that will achieve savings in energy, maintenance and production times.
This article will focus on optimizing the demand-side so the centralized “supply-side” (the vacuum pumps and controls) can then run at a lower energy and maintenance cost. First, I will start with a simplified model of a vacuum pump system demands. See Figure 1 for a one-pump/one-demand simplified system. See Figures 2-6 for some typical controlled and uncontrolled demands. The symbol with the three lines is an orifice, a hole essentially. I am defining three types of system demands adding up to the total demand on the vacuum pump.
Electric utility incentive programs encourage industrial and manufacturing companies to reduce power consumption by paying part of the cost to upgrade to more efficient equipment. It’s a great concept, but many customers only go after low-hanging fruit, such as upgrades for lighting or air compressors, and go no further.
Energy for the entire Ernst Sutter AG company – and consequently the Suttero Bazenheid premises as well – is generated via hydropower. In addition, around 75% of the energy from refrigeration is also used to generate hot water. When creating vacuum for packaging, Suttero Bazenheid relies on a centralized vacuum system from Busch. This is significantly more energy-efficient in operation than decentralized vacuum supplies on individual packaging machines. As a result, Ernst Sutter AG has created a production plant that corresponds to the latest standards, both from a technical and ecological perspective. 
Meat packaging plants have long used vacuum pumps as a way to remove air and reduce the amount of oxygen in their products’ plastic packaging. Vacuum packaging extends the meat’s shelf life while protecting its flavor and exposure to outside elements, such as freezer burn and bacteria.
The integrated process that leads to perfectly finished components begins in the plant’s new material store. “One way we’re staying at the leading edge in our market is by researching the latest innovations and choosing the best machine for each process,” Legere explains. “Our new material store, operational in June 2017, is one example. It combines a physical data base of sheet goods with a robotic arm that handles materials and presents them to a cutting machine for processing. After a few minutes, a finished part emerges. All of this occurs with zero human interaction.”
If you want to understand vacuum systems, you have to get out of the ruts, and slog through the mud and bounce over the rocks a bit.  If you’re a “compressed air person”, think outside the box for a few pages with me.  I am going to borrow some terms from the “pump people” to explain how vacuum systems are similar, yet different from compressed air systems. There are several ruts to get out of.  Remembering what changes and what doesn’t, what is controlled, and how to design systems for optimal energy consumption.
Industrial process operating loads and optimal set points are not usually accurately known at the time of design, so often there is significant mismatch between equipment and the process it serves. To overcome this uncertainty, designers typically oversize equipment. Over time, process changes and equipment efficiencies decline, so equipment might be operating less efficiently than at start-up. Or, equipment can be undersized, thereby hampering the entire system and causing other inefficiencies to compensate. For instance, too much steam usage in the dryer section of a paper machine can occur because of inadequate vacuum at the wet end.
Vacuum chucks and holding devices have been used in many industries for a variety of purposes, from lifting packages to holding items for machining. With the introduction of CNC routing machine-tools for mass production (of wood furniture, plastics and other non-magnetic materials), there was a need to clamp-down large work pieces on the flat router tables. Mechanical clamping was not an option as it caused damage to the work pieces and didn’t satisfy the need to quickly place items on the table and clamp instantly.