Eco-friendly refrigerators, dishwashers, and laundry machines don't just save you money – they're also better for the environment. Factory automation could reap the same rewards, but optimizing production lines isn't easy. That's where the energy efficiency analysis software, developed by the EU-funded Energy Software Tools for Sustainable Machine Design (ESTOMAD) project, enters the picture.
The ESTOMAD software program was created to "model, simulate and analyze energy flows and losses throughout the whole machine." It could be used to help engineers get the most of out of existing machines and will likely become an integral component in the design of new ones, because it can simulate them before they're built.
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“A virtual approach is always a preferred one. You can even simulate strange conditions; very fast or very high temperatures. In real life those tests are very expensive” explained Tom Boermans of LMS International, one of the project's partners. The researchers believe that their optimization software could, on average, reduce energy consumption by up to 30 percent over the life of a machine.
Initial trials yield dramatic savings
A trial was conducted by PICANOL, a company that produces industrial weaving machines. Its production line scored 10-15 percent lower power consumption with just a few modifications – a significant reduction that will benefit the company's bottom line. Also, researchers at the Flanders' Mechatronics Technology Center (FMTC) in Belgium did even better with their badminton-playing robot. They were able to reduce its energy consumption by 50 percent, by targeting areas deemed wasteful by the software.
Sustainability doesn't seem too high on the list of priorities for most industries, but if they can save money by going green, they will. Just as home appliances do, industrial machines and robots will highlight energy efficiency to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
You can learn how the software improved the badminton robot's efficiency in the following video.