When starting up or shutting down a vacuum furnace manually, all the vacuum pumping systems need to be activated or deactivated in exactly the right sequence. One wrong step on behalf of the operator and the shutdown will be interrupted or the start-up process delayed.
This technical process will differ according to the make or model of the vacuum furnace, meaning operators are required to know and follow a range of different sequences depending on the machines or production lines in question. The risk of human error is high, with implications for uptime/downtime, energy expenditure, safety and production. It is no wonder, then, that to avoid these challenges, many operators leave the machines running.
“Imagine that to light your boiler you needed to do half a dozen things in the right order, at the right time, or something would break. You’d leave it on 24/7.”
To help operators overcome these challenges and enable sites around the world to operate more energy-efficiently, VFE has developed a simple yet effective energy-saving solution for vacuum furnaces and autoclaves.
How could it help you to reduce your energy expenditure in just three days?
Remove the reluctance to shut down
The source of energy-saving here is not energy inefficiencies with the machines themselves but the operators’ reluctance to shut them down. Newer models no longer create this challenge but many middle-aged machines, typically those more than 3 years old, lack the functionality now built into the equipment as standard. As a result, many machines still in operation require the manual, labour-intensive startup/shutdown process described above.
To counteract this challenge, the VFE Energy-Saving System automates the startup and shutdown process. This has several benefits, from removing the business continuity risks associated with an incorrectly sequenced startup to freeing up operators for other, more valuable activities on-site. Chief amongst them is the ease of use that it grants.
With the VFE Energy-Saving System in place, machines can be shut down or restarted with confidence. It is no longer necessary for operators to leave them running indefinitely. As a result, sites operating these systems stand to make significant savings on their energy costs.
Optimise the switch between quench/purge gas
If nitrogen is available, the system can also switch quench/purge gas from argon to nitrogen in response to the loaded program cycle. This removes the risk of incorrect selection by an operator, but it also confers a second benefit.
For the gas switching, nitrogen is approximately 25% of the cost of argon, so every cycle able to be operated on nitrogen rather than argon will save that proportionate cost (dependent on furnace volume).
Immediate visibility over power and cost savings
Crucial to any energy-saving initiative is the ability to demonstrate how much energy — and therefore costs — are being saved. With this key functionality in mind, every VFE Energy-Saving System includes a small touchscreen interface (HMI) for operator monitoring and reporting.
Using this interface, teams can measure and report on the amount of power consumed as well as the estimated power saved by installing the system (in pounds, kilowatt/hours or CO2). This information can then be downloaded or, when installed in conjunction with VFE’s Remote Monitoring System, sent electronically via a remote communications module, promoting business-wide visibility over results generated and savings made.
From installation to operation in just three days
The installation process itself is quick and efficient. Over three days, our technicians will integrate the system with your vacuum furnace or autoclave, with the potential to start delivering energy savings straight away.
Based on customer feedback and approximate savings, the majority of furnaces fitted with a VFE Energy-Saving System will pay for themselves in less than a year, making the system an effective means of hitting corporate energy reduction goals and personal KPIs around energy efficiency/cost savings.
With the analytics at their fingertips, operators and their managers will be able to clearly demonstrate savings made.
How much could your operations save?
Behind every innovation is a challenge, waiting to be addressed.
Businesses looking to reduce overheads and lower costs as part of their long-term strategy could install multiple Energy-Saving Systems across their plants and accrue substantial savings within a single financial year, as well as improving their environmental footprint. Those benefits can’t be overstated.
But by automating their furnace’s activation and de-activation sequences, they will also be eliminating an element of risk currently hanging over their operations every day. For an industry governed by regulations, that’s a big step forward, and you can make it in just three days.
For more information about our Energy-Saving System or to request a system for your site, click the button below now.