Environmental concerns have pushed the world towards better energy efficiency. In the long run, energy saving practices can also save money. However, to actually reduce energy usage, new technology is needed. Equipment and machines in the manufacturing industry have had major improvements in recent years so that these practices are possible.
Smart Controllers Cut Down Energy Used
Large improvements in energy use have come about with the use of more intelligent machines. Smarter controllers make it possible for the system to monitor itself. With live data collection, controllers can make the adjustments that are best suited to the current situation, continually bringing energy use to a minimum. Smarter Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) have also made a difference. PLCs can handle more functions, reducing the need for many individual I/O modules. Fewer pieces of machinery mean less energy to run them all. It also simplifies wiring and communications, which limits energy waste in the form of heat. Moving from analog to digital is also an improvement along the same lines.
Smaller Machines Produce Less Energy
Smaller machinery is also an important factor in energy control. Smaller units produce less heat, which means that they don’t require as much cooling. Today, smaller fans and other cooling devices can suffice where larger ones used to be required. In general, most technologies are moving towards smaller devices, so motors and drives are shrinking as well. Motors tend to use the most energy out of devices in a system, so if a smaller motor can still get the job done, that is a great place to start when it comes to making energy cuts. Appropriately sized motors can reduce energy use and subsequently the cost of operation.
Turn Off the Lights
There are many energy saving strategies – often with the potential to be overlooked - within a production plant itself. Lighting has evolved drastically within the last decade and now has the potential to use much less energy than before. Environmentally friendly lighting fixtures and bulbs save energy, but tens of thousands of dollars annually as well. Similarly, air conditioning and heating can be revamped with new systems in order to save. Many companies are holding on to old boilers, but they are a huge energy pull. Something as simple as turning off lights when they aren’t needed or adjusting the temperature in the plant more frequently can make a larger impact than you might think.
Looking down the line, machine to machine communication and cooperation seem to be the next step in better utilizing energy. These new communications and the other devices mentioned may have a higher sticker price than larger, less efficient machines, but the future savings are crucial when looking at long term goals.
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