Advanced air solutions in the two-piece industry

Pneumofore president Daniel Hilfiker examines the unveiling of the green path to low life cycle cost thanks to compressors and vacuum pumps.

More than 50% of the electric power used in a Can factory is spent for running Air Compressors and Vacuum Pumps. The continuous availability of pneumatic energy is a pillar in 24/7 can production.

Industry experts carefully choose equipment, considering the total Life Cycle Cost, with a keen focus on electric power consumption and maintenance costs that span for decades. In order to navigate seamlessly this intricate landscape, here are some key guidelines to steer clear of operational issues.

Compressed air and vacuum dynamics

Both vacuum and compressed air are crucial energy sources in can making. Pressure requirements are typically set at 3,5 bar(g) and, occasionally, they reach 7 bar(g) in specific operations. The most common vacuum level is 300 mbar(a). In can factories, the ambient air is quite clean, yet processes like the decorator are nasty, thus the use of effective filters for pneumatic machinery is recommended. In line with the long term nature of the initial factory set up investment, equipment should share a similar or even longer lifespan.

Power hierarchy

In the energy consumption hierarchy of a can factory, compressors and vacuum pumps claim the top spot. In an era where climate awareness is constantly rising and CO emissions are directly related to power usage, the selection of high efficient equipment is mandatory. The efficiency shall be kept as new with the support of a clear expense schedule for both routine and extraordinary maintenance over the years.

Technology comparison and reliability

High capacity air compressors and vacuum pumps flood the market, even if sometimes their technical data challenge scientific logic in favour of pure sales propaganda. More reliable are facts: references of installations running trouble free for decades are what to look for when durability is required.

Testimonials from customers with long term running machines offer insights into maintenance costs, overhauling expenses and spare parts availability. Choosing equipment with prolonged efficiency and durability reduces the need for costly overhauls and it turns to be the most convenient and sustainable choice over time.

Life cycle cost calculations

Durable equipment, that keeps the efficiency constant years after years, has to be the preferred solution. Furthermore, overhauling must be avoided as much as possible as it can be exorbitantly expensive. Capital expense costs for new machinery require long approval procedures as they are strictly controlled by the purchasing and accounting departments. Instead, maintenance cost can fall within a yearly maintenance budget. Electric power consumption, which is the way largest expense over 15 years, must be also considered, and again, it is not an item to buy, but a running cost.

Therefore, it is essential to adopt a more comprehensive approach in decision making, that take into account the total Life Cycle Cost, which is the addition of purchase cost, maintenance and electric power consumption.

Spotlight on efficient vacuum solutions

The Pneumofore UV50 Rotary Vane Vacuum Pump stands out in can production by boasting 75kWf or 2.700 m3/h in its standard, fix-speed version. Though the nominal installed power may initially seem high, this unit reveals an oversized electrical motor, which ensures an extended bearing life and an improved ventilation. Furthermore, it does not use the motor’s safety factor, but it operates in the designed optimal range. Quite the opposite, in equipment that uses the safety factor, the electrical motor lasts only as long as the warranty, soon becoming a component subject to ‘forcedr eplacement’ or ‘forced overhauling’. Pneumofore philosophy is in contrast with this ‘Programmed Obsolescence’ approach, a practice prohibited by law, at least in Europe. The company’s commitment to durability is extended to other essential components such as the Air-End, the cooling system and the electric panel, ensuring longevity and constant efficiency over decades of continuous operation.

The UV Series Vacuum Pumps access the extended 10-year warranty on efficiency with a simple maintenance contract. Pneumofore compressors and vacuum pumps can run trouble-free for more than 100.000 hours and they can be refreshed with an ordinary overhaul after 20 or 30 years to grant further decades of continuous running.

Operational independence and reliability

Last but not least, those companies that facilitate the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) Independence shine in the spotlight, empowering plant’s internal service teams to operate autonomously and maintain equipment efficiently. In a factory, where downtime translates into significant costs, having reliable equipment is a key factor and even more important when it concerns the five vital energy resources: electricity, water, gas, compressed air and vacuum.

About the author

Daniel Hilfiker is the President of Pneumofore, an Italy-based company that designs and manufactures compressed air and vacuum systems for industrial applications worldwide since 1923. He represents the third generation of Swiss engineers at the helm of the company, which continues the centenary legacy of pioneering innovative solutions for pneumatic equipment in Can factories. This commitment reflects the company’s dedication to sustainability, efficiency, and enduring excellence in the ever-evolving landscape of Aluminium Can manufacturing.

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