The white heat of cooling technology

Maria Harding finds out what it is that makes a British company ahead of the the world when it comes to refrigeration

At the end of July this year Bundy Refrigeration was able to announce that it had won a contract to supply wire-on-tube and hot-wall condensers to the third largest manufacturer of refrigerators in India, Voltas. For the year 1997/98 Voltas manufactured 40,000 units. These are marketed under the company’s own name and that of LG – a recently arranged joint venture means they will also be producing fridges for Electrolux.

This is not Bundy’s first Indian contract nor its only contact outside Europe, the company supplies product all over the world and is, according to Malcolm Aitken, Bundy’s chief executive, the only truly global supplier of refrigeration systems.

This is no empty boast, Bundy’s turnover is around £200million and it has 20% of the world’s business. Despite its size and the fact that Bundy has engineering and manufacturing operations throughout the world, Bundy has become highly customer focused.

Many of the company’s engineers have previously worked refrigeration OEMs. It is their job to work closely with customers, understanding their business and responding to their needs. In some circumstances Bundy’s designers have permanent offices at customer premises to ensure hand in hand development. Close relationships are not limited to design it also extends to manufacture. For example to meet the just-in-time requirements of Whirlpool in Brazil and Electrolux in Hungary Bundy has set up satellite factories to the customer’s plant so supply is guaranteed

The Indian market in which Bundy has realised its recent success is growing in sophistication of purchase. Because different countries and regions will show their own trends Bundy has local representation to monitor and respond to that market. The UK for example has smaller kitchens than the US which determines the type of product, in the US 95% of fridges purchased are frost free in the UK it’s currently only 10%. The trend for built in kitchens in some parts of the world effects design.

Bundy prefers to employ local people who understand the culture as well as the business of a customer.

GOING GREEN

To remain highly competitive with global, regional and national manufacturers of refrigeration equipment Bundy must be close to the market and manufacturers’ concerns. The recent environmental restraints on ozone depleting substances meant that cooling systems would need to use a less harmful refrigerant. Bundy recognised this requirement well ahead of time and was working in isolation on green refrigeration systems. This enabled the company to get a head start on competitors. In the event the refrigeration industry (the reputable part) acted as one and wanted to have ozone friendly fridges on the market before the Montreal Protocol became law.

Bundy admits that it was an onerous task redesigning to accommodate the new refrigerant which had a smaller molecular size and ensuring the refrigeration system was energy efficient.

The key to successful refrigeration systems is to transfer heat efficiently. This is reliant on the type of materials used, jointing techniques and the layout of the components. Bundy is able to stay at the forefront of technology by working with a team of refrigeration experts in Michigan and Italian Universities.

Another important consideration to this and any other new design is that of cost. One of the more expensive items in the whole fridge is the compressor accounting for some 10% of the cost. Bundy’s customer focus policy means that often they are involved right from the beginning of a new project and have a marketing cost concept which they can incorporate into design parameters. This means the product designed is more likely to meet customers’ expectations first time.

Another important cost consideration is flexibility: will the refrigeration system adapt to more than one model or even the next generation of models. Again it is close contact with customers that ensures success.

WHAT’S COOLING

Bundy’s refrigeration product range includes: condensers – wire on tube, tube on plate and forced draft; freezer shelf evaporators, serpentines and wrap around evaporators and condensers; aluminised steel on plate cold wall evaporators; bonded aluminium evaporators; door warmers/defrosting coils for refrigerators and freezers; compressor shock-loop coils, inlet and outlet ports; compressor oil coolers and heat exchangers.

A recent development is Bundy’s range of Waveline condensers. These were developed for the built-in fridge market where less air circulates and cooling is more difficult. The condenser has a wave-like shape which increases air turbulence resulting in improved heat transfer characteristics. A staggered wire configuration increases the effectiveness of the secondary surface. The design increases the surface area of the condenser for a given height.

The Waveline is available in a broad range of tube materials, coatings and diameters and modern automatic bending equipment ensures the condensers have high dimensional accuracy.

Bundy is the largest division of TIGroup and has over 75 years’ experience in the automotive sector and a little less in the refrigeration industry. There are a total of 90 engineering and manufacturing units in Europe, South Africa, Latin America, North America and in Asia Pacific.