The topic of energy saving in circuits using compressed air is by no means a new one. Precise guidelines have already been laid down for some time to help assess costs and potential savings, rules have been defined for designing systems, best practices drafted for maintaining them and products developed to facilitate maintenance and provide those footing the bills with not just tangible economic benefits, but also with concrete results to protect our environment.
The assessment of costs and potential savings is a specific aspect that precedes, accompanies and completes the more technical issues related to compressed air. It is crucial to decide how many and which investments to make to ensure an economic return in terms of energy saving, but it is a solution that must be tailor-made by taking measurements directly in the place where the compressed air is produced and used. There are a host of variables which range from energy prices to economic support that institutions offer companies to encourage energy savings (e.g. white certificates and EsCo), the age of the systems and the resulting maintenance costs to the perceived value of the issue of energy savings in a given target market where an automatic machine may be sold. This can translate into a real mark-up for the company that produces the machinery. The average production costs of compressed air, therefore, are very significant and undoubtedly a good starting point. They range from 0.015 €/Nm3 to 0.030 €/Nm3 and mainly take into account energy costs for operating compressors and the ratio between the compressed air produced by them and the compressed air actually used to perform the work on the systems.
From a more technical point of view, the topic of energy saving needs to be tackled by dividing the systems that use compressed air into three main blocks, each one with its own characteristics and problems in terms of optimisation:
- the block generating compressed air: compressors and the energy sources feeding them
- the block distributing the compressed air: distribution line design, construction and relative components
- the block of systems: where the compressed air generates useful work for the application
This division is valid both for systems intended as distribution lines, i.e. those in most workshops and production plants which take compressed air to automatic machines, pneumatic tools, compressed air guns, etc. both for the circuits that distribute the air inside the automatic machines themselves which can be considered distribution systems and consumers in their own right.
If we limit the scope of the discussion to air distribution inside automated machines, there are a host of products available on the market in terms of energy saving aimed at monitoring and optimising consumption. The situation is different when it comes to compressed air savings on consumers. Here the breadth of solutions is not particularly wide, possibly because of technical issues related to dedicated component costs that often do not justify investments in relation to their performance in terms of savings.
Among the main users in terms of numbers and importance for the consumption of compressed air that can be included in automatic machines, are pneumatic cylinders.
Can a part of the energy from the compressed air discharged be used by the cylinder to carry out other work?
Is it possible to optimise the operation of the cylinder based on the work it must perform to reduce the consumption of air?
Is it possible to easily and accurately identify any leakages on the cylinder or valve side to take prompt action and limit air loss?
In the event of leaks, is it possible to effectively limit the air loss until the next maintenance or replacement intervention
And finally, is it possible to optimize compressed air consumption on existing systems, easily and without jeopardizing their operation?
The answer to these and other questions is yes, you can with CROV_DS, a one-of-a-kind product which you are invited to learn more about here.