DÜSSELDORF — More than 50 members of the German plastics and rubber machinery producers association — VDMA — have signed on to an effort to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
The "Blue Competence" campaign builds on previous successful efforts which saw the plastics industry cut energy consumption by 50 percent between 1974 and 2010 while also tripling productivity. VDMA officials said during the 2013 K trade fair in Düsseldorf that they expect the industry to reduce energy consumption by a further 20 percent by 2020.
The Blue Competence marketing group formed in 2012 is made up of representatives from injection molding machinery producers Arburg GmbH & Co. KG, Engel Austria GmbH and KraussMaffei Technologies GmbH. AZO GmbH & Co. KG represents ancillary equipment producers in the group and the area of extruders and extrusion lines is represented by Brückner Maschinenbau GmbH & Co. KG, Reifenhäuser GmbH & Co. and Windmöller & Hölscher KG.
It is not easy to map energy savings in manufacturing as complex as injection molding, said Karlheinz Bourdon, vice president of technologies at KraussMaffei.
Energy usage differs widely not only between machines, but within the individual machines depending on how they are set up.
To illustrate this last point, Bourdon presented a chart showing how specific energy consumption reduces with increasing screw diameter and the associated higher throughput. Changing from an 80 millimeter screw to a 90 millimeter one reduces specific energy consumption by 15 percent, although throughput increases by respectively 26 percent and 56 percent with these changes.
On just one type of injection molding machine, a KM160-750CX, there are 1,152 conceivable configurations with four different injection units, four screw diameters, three screw configurations, two types of hydraulic power units, two barrel insulation options and two hydraulic accumulators, he said.
"It's even more complicated with the entire CX machine range as it has around 15,000 possible configurations," he said. "It means machines are only comparable if their different equipment can be compared."
Newer recommendations have simplified the process, so future measurements of energy use should not be as complicated.
Harald Weber of VDMA's technical commission said he expects companies to begin using data on energy savings to promote their equipment. Some of the firms did just that at Düsselsorf.
Dr. Boy GmbH & Co. KG has been seen as just one example doing so, claiming the high Class 9 category — specific energy consumption at or equal to or less than 0.31 killowatts per kilogram — for its injection molding machines equipped with its EconPlast energy-saving electrically driven plastification system.
Weber pointed out that the lowest classification is Class 1, with specific energy consumption above 1.5 kilowattts per hour per kilogram, the best rating Class 10 with a value less than or equal to 0.25 kilowatts per kilogram.
Documents to measure and qualify blow molding and thermoforming machines also are in the works.
Automation equipment producer SAS Automation Robotergreifsysteme GmbH revealed at K 2013 that it has become a member of the VDMA Blue Competence campaign alliance and that it has accordingly introduced modular end-of-arm-tooling (EOAT) gripper components classified according to their levels of carbon dioxide emissions and cycle times. These are green for the most efficient and safe system, yellow for an efficient system and orange for less efficient systems.
SAS also has 22 solar panels at its main production site, generating a total of 51.2 kilowatts of energy over the next year, saving SAS 30 percent of its electricity costs. President Trent Fisher says the company is "proud to be the only EOAT manufacturer to utilize sustainable energy."
In an Oct. 15 document, VDMA published views of 13 of its Blue Competence campaign alliance members. Herbert Kraibühler of Arburg said stressed the use of geothermal, solar and wind energy at Arburg's Lossburg, Germany, headquarters.
He also suggested Blue Competence could be used to promote the advantages of lightweight parts for the auto industry.
Rainer Zimmer, managing partner of ancillary equipment producer AZO said the company has set itself a goal to reduce energy costs by 50 percent through better insulation at its manufacturing sites, a modern heating system and solar energy.
Michael Baumeister of Brückner Maschinenbau says the company has managed to reduce the energy consumption per kilogram of plastic consumed by 30 to 40 percent during the past 20 years, but added the systems may be reaching the limits of their existing capabilities.
"You simply need energy to produce and process plastics. But we can change that, as there is still saving potential to be had in uprating existing equipment."
"Basically, I would wish that investment in energy-efficient machinery is eased through financial support — otherwise we run the risk that manufacturing industry is driven out of Europe just in the name of environmental protection."
The origins of the Blue Competence campaign of the VDMA association of German plastics and rubber machinery producers can be traced back to the European Union's 20-20-20 program, aimed at 20 percent reductions in energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and the share of renewable energy by the year 2020 compared with 2005.