Atlas Copco’s new compressor concept saves tire manufacturer around EUR 300 000 a year
Wilrijk, Belgium, August 2013: At the Michelin plant in Homburg, Germany, an oil-free variable speed drive ZR air compressor from Atlas Copco is at the core of a new compressor concept that has already saved the company a six-figure sum in energy costs over the first year. The system functions so efficiently that the specific energy requirement for the compressed air supply fell from 0.143 to 0.108 kWh per standard cubic meter.
The Homberg plant predominantly produces 22.5-inch front truck tires. Homberg is home to the entire production process, right through to the finished tire: from the rubber mixing process to the tire substrate and shell construction, through to vulcanization and quality inspection.
It was established that the existing compressors and their manufacturer were unable to deliver a satisfactory solution, and a master control system and an oil-free ZR 315 VSD FF screw compressor supplied by Atlas Copco now form the core of a new compressed air concept. In the designation ZR 315 VSD FF, “VSD” stands for “Variable Speed Drive”, the number 315 refers to the installed power in kilowatts, and the “FF” is for “Full-Feature”: full specification with integrated adsorption dryer.
The ZR 315 VSD FF works at a variable, regulated speed. Thus, instead of constantly generating more than the required amount of compressed air, the exact quantity required can now be produced. According to Schäfer: “We never look for the cheapest or quickest solution, but always the most reliable – and it must be efficient.”
The solution with the master control system and the new compressor has already provided significant savings: the specific energy demand was previously 0.143 kWh per standard cubic meter, but now reaches an average of 0.108 kWh. “This means the system now runs almost 25 percent more efficiently,” reports Winfried Schäfer. “Four compressors are usually in operation at the same time – three turbo compressors and the Atlas Copco VSD compressor, which adjusts to supplement the ‘missing’ air up to the target pressure of 7.0 bar and compensates for pressure fluctuations.”
The new compressor is water-cooled and compresses with absolutely no oil – and therefore absolutely no risk; another argument that impresses Michelin. Since oil in the production process could impact product quality, this is an absolute no-go for the tire manufacturer. If a single drop of oil were to enter the rubber mixture, the material would become unusable. The MD adsorption dryer integrated in the compressor, which is also speed-regulated, helps to dry the air and cool it to a pressure dewpoint of –30°C. The integration of the dryer also keeps pressure drop to a minimum, and the energy demand of the MD is extremely low due to its speed regulation system and the use of compression heat for regeneration.
“With the new system and the new compressor, we have made savings of at least EUR 300 000, projected over a year, based on 10 000 cubic meters of air per hour and the specified increases in efficiency,” explains Schäfer.
Closed circular pipes are used wherever possible in order to prevent loss of pressure. This has allowed the working pressure to be reduced from 8 to the current level of 7 bar, achieving an additional energy saving of approximately 7%.
The fact that the integrated MD adsorption dryer in the ZR uses its compression heat to directly regenerate the drying agent aligns well with the Michelin philosophy, which focuses not only on quality but also on sustainability. In Homburg, the tire manufacturer uses the steam generated during the vulcanization process to recover energy for its own factory, and feeds any excess into the district heating network in the town of Homburg. “Based on our positive experience, a new compressor could pay for itself after just two years,” says Schäfer.
Michelin is one of the world’s largest tire manufacturers, with a global market share of 14.8%. The French company sells its products in over 170 countries, and manufactures at 70 factories in 18 countries. The five German production locations employ 5 930 of the company’s total workforce of around 11 500 employees. The factory in Homburg in the Saarland manufactures more than one million truck tires annually. The plant also recycles 500 000 used Michelin tires every year (“MICHELIN Remix”). The majority of the new tires are produced for new vehicles, with the rest for the spare parts market. Michelin is also known for its road maps and travel guide books.
- Michael Gaar, PR Coordinator for the Atlas Copco Compressor Technique Business Area
Telephone: +32 (0) 3 750 80 88
Atlas Copco’s Compressor Technique business area provides industrial compressors, gas and process compressors and expanders, air and gas treatment equipment and air management systems. It has a global service network and offers specialty rental services. Compressor Technique innovates for sustainable productivity in the manufacturing, oil and gas, and process industries. Principal product development and manufacturing units are located in Belgium, Germany, the United States, China and India.
Atlas Copco is an industrial group with world-leading positions in compressors, expanders and air treatment systems, construction and mining equipment, power tools and assembly systems. With innovative products and services, Atlas Copco delivers solutions for sustainable productivity. The company was founded in 1873, is based in Stockholm, Sweden, and has a global reach spanning more than 170 countries. In 2012, Atlas Copco had 39 800 employees and revenues of BSEK 90.5 (BEUR 10.5).