METAV Event on Machine Tool Energy Savings

As part of the “Practice & Trends” events section of the upcoming METAV 2008 international trade fair for manufacturing technology and automation, a special forum on “Energy Efficiency in the Production Process” will be held. The presentation will examine energy consumption’s role in industrial competitiveness and how manufacturers can achieve savings in this area. It will be one of many events focusing on trends, research and industry developments to be held at METAV, which will take place March 31–April 4 in Düsseldorf, Germany.

German electricity is the most expensive in Europe, and the price is projected to rise. For metalworking companies, this development has serious consequences, since electricity is the key to performance in that sector. A better yield from the energy used, therefore, is high on the agenda of cost-conscious firms.

The principal power gobblers are electric motors, concludes the German Confederation of the Electrical Engineering, Electronics, and Information Technology Industries (VDE) in a recent study. The largest amount of energy can be saved with drives rated between 1.1 and 37 kW, but production costs for energy-saving motors will be 10 to 20% higher, depending on the efficiency class involved.

Machine tools, the heart of every production process, are directly involved, as they use many electric motors. According to studies conducted by the German Institute for Production Management, Technology, and Machine Tools (PTW) at Darmstadt Technical University, electricity now accounts for 21% of annual machine operating costs. If efficiency-adapted motors were to become the standard, machine tools would inevitably become more expensive and users would have to plan on longer amortization periods.

Egon Müller, professor of factory planning and operations at Chemnitz Technical University, has identified another power gobbler: standby circuits. Müller, who will be a speaker at the VDW’s METAV forum on energy efficiency in production, notes that up to 30% of a machine tool’s total power consumption is accounted for by the common practice of keeping computer-aided control systems switched on during downtime.

Eberhard Abele, another forum speaker, sees a different problem. The director of the PTW Institute in Darmstadt says that case studies have shown that as much as 63% of power consumption per workpiece occurs during mechanical machining, around three-quarters of this being used to power the machine’s basic functions. Here, greater transparency is key, according to Abele, who advocates implementing computer-aided energy management. But he, too, recommends switching off machine power when work comes to a standstill.

The energy-efficiency forum will meet in the Düsseldorf Congress Centre on April 1 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is jointly organized by the German Machine Tool Builders’ Association (VDW) and the business magazine Produktion.

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