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ABB variable-speed drives (VSDs) are saving office equipment manufacturer Ricoh more than GBP100,000 per annum on energy costs at its production plant in Telford.

Ricoh’s 52-acre site employs 750 people over its three production buildings and operates processes involved in the production of colour imaging technology, as well as machine recycling, toner production, injection and blow moulding.

With extensive office and production areas, the site has a large number of air-handling units (AHUs), as well as water circulation pumps and compressors, contributing to a total utility spend of GBP1.25m per annum.

Andy Smith at Ricoh was keen to reduce energy consumption and initially trialled two ABB drives – one on a pump and one on an AHU.

These were provided on a hire-drive basis by ABB Drives Alliance member Central Group.

‘The favourable results encouraged us to evaluate all possible motor-driven applications on site for their energy-saving potential,’ said Smith.

‘Our project prioritisation process evaluates criteria such as CO2 saved, technical complexity, risk and return on investment.

‘VSD installations were subsequently identified as a key energy-saving technology, being simple to install and giving excellent payback,’ he added.

Some 90 per cent of the originally identified applications have now been retrofitted with ABB drives.

A total of around 70 drives run a large variety of applications around the site, with an average payback time of around six months per installation.

In addition to providing energy savings, ABB drives have allowed Ricoh to gain better control over a number of processes.

An example is the laboratory, where the properties of the manufactured toner are tested.

To achieve optimum test conditions, the temperature and humidity values within the laboratory must be maintained at constant levels.

Using an ABB drive to control the laboratory airflow ensured that temperature was controlled to within 0.5C of the set point.

An ABB drive-controlled humidifier ensured that humidity varied by no more than 1.5 per cent.

According to Smith, an important feature of the ABB drive in this application was the flux optimisation – because even at 50Hz, with no speed reduction, this reduced the power consumption from 5.5kW to 3kW.

Running at 35Hz, the power consumption was further reduced to 1.6kW, providing a payback of three months.

As Ricoh’s experience of using ABB drives has increased, the company is applying drives in more applications.

It uses three drives to synchronise two conveyors with a 22kW plastic granulator that grinds plastic parts for recycling.

Linked to a programmable logic controller (PLC), this allows Ricoh to run the granulator on demand.

Run time has been reduced by 95 per cent, cutting its energy use and increasing equipment service life.

Other features of the ABB drives that Smith has found useful include the supervised relay output function, which allows the drive to control motors dependent on the status of connected equipment and Modbus compatibility, which enables the control and monitoring of applications over a PLC network.

Ricoh has used the timer and constant-speed functions to run the AHUs at varying frequencies over the seasons.

In many cases, Ricoh runs AHUs at 45Hz in the summer, at 30Hz during winter and at 35Hz during other periods, all automated within the drive.

Another energy-saving feature employed by Ricoh is the sleep-mode function, which is programmed to put the drive into a ‘PID sleep’ mode whenever there is no demand from the process.

In addition, the latest ABB drives now have energy calculators that display total energy consumption on the control panel screen.

Ricoh uses this to increase energy awareness among staff by showing just how much energy applications such as granulators actually use.

Many of the tailored applications have been developed following technical assistance from ABB.

Ricoh’s Capital Equipment Specification now assesses the feasibility of installing VSDs on all new equipment.

ABB Automation Tech – Drives and Motors

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