Energy conservation and efficiency are subjects that seem to come and go, at least in the minds of consumers. But in industry, they're issues that are always front and center. And they will be all the more prominent in the next few years, according to engineers contacted by Design News editors.
The automotive and electric motor industries are leading the way with development projects that aim at producing breakthrough energy-conservation technology on several fronts. For example, the move toward 42V electrical systems for cars could very well result in major fuel savings. Likewise, fuel cells, originally developed for aerospace applications, could soon find their way into the family car, bringing with them even greater energy savings. And the motors that drive factory equipment and other products are getting more efficient all the time.
Indeed, several studies show that motor-driven systems consume more than 60% of the energy used in industry. Suppliers of those systems are working hard to lower that number:
Baldor, for example, is now offering energy-savings workshops to teach engineers how to control their energy costs. The company labels its Super-E Premium Efficient Motors with an energy guide sticker to let users know the energy the motors use, and provides customers with software to calculate their energy savings. Company President John McFarland says the Super-E motors can cut electricity usage by 9% per year.
Rockwell Automation is combining variable-speed drives with motors to cut motor speeds and energy costs. Recently, the company demonstrated for U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta a 1,600-hp motor with superconducting coils that's designed to cut energy costs by 50%. Says Rick Payton, Rockwell's lead engineer for energy-efficient motor systems: "Engineers have to look at each component of the motor system—motor, drive, and reducer—to truly save energy."
Regal-Beloit President Gary Schuster agrees with that holistic approach, and has several energy-efficiency initiatives underway at the Rockford, IL company. Regal-Beloit makes motors and generators for driving pumps, conveyors, machine tools, and other devices.
Energy efficiency is coming to be seen as a must rather than a nicety. The updates on the following pages will show you what to expect in a few important applications.
From home enthusiasts to workers on the manufacturing floor, everyone's imagination is captured by the potential of 3D printing. Prototyping, spare parts creation, art delivery, human organ creation, and even mass product production are all being targeted as current and potential uses for the technology.
ABI Research, a firm based in the UK that specializes in analyzing global connectivity and other emerging technologies, estimates there will be 40.9 billion active wirelessly interconnected “things” by 2020. The driving force is the usual suspect: the Internet of Things.
Just in time for Earth Day, chemicals leader Bayer MaterialScience reported from the UTECH Europe 2015 polyurethane show on programs and applications using its materials to help reduce energy usage. The company also gave an update on its CO2-based PU as that eco-friendly material comes closer to production.
Solar and wind energy are becoming more viable as a source of energy on the electric grid. For decades, the major drawback to solar and wind was that they’re temperamental. A cloudy day kills solar and a still day renders the wind turbines useless. Automation tools, however, are providing a path to help these renewables become practical.
In honor of Earth Day, the National Security Agency has launched the STEM Recycling Challenge in Maryland schools to encourage kids to think about where the garbage they throw out every day actually goes. The agency has also introduced “Dunk,” a muscular blue cartoon recycling bin wearing shorts and sneakers.
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