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Energy--Do More With Less

 Ellen Kehoe








By Ellen Kehoe
Senior Editor

There's a lot of energy stored in the 16,000-document collection of SME Technical Papers. Really--plug in keywords related to energy (e.g., oil, gas, carbon, emissions, solar, wind, green, sustainable) and you'll see the evolution of topics and surges of interest during certain time periods, such as many papers on energy conservation and management from the oil-crisis years of the early-to-mid 1970s.


Industry Interest

Although energy consumption wasn't a new concern in industry in 1973, the oil embargo by Mideast oil producers that began in October of that year made it apparent that "energy conservation was going to demand much time and effort in the immediate future," stated a Westinghouse Electric Corp. manufacturing services director. The fall of 1973 also saw natural gas producers "coming to grips that winter demand would far exceed the supply" and notifying industrial customers of severe curtailments.

Papers from other companies-Du Pont, Rocketdyne, Dow and General Electric-and other industries-metalworking, appliance manufacturing, coatings, steelmaking-echo the same focus on energy conservation and efficiency. A paper from GTE Sylvania appears contradictory in recommending additional lighting but points out how more energy use in illumination "can make a significant contribution to total energy conservation by reducing rejects and increasing productivity."

A 1976 paper by a Honeywell manager of solar energy technology described the basic problems standing in the way of rapid commercialization of solar, both of which somewhat still apply today. First was the geographic mismatch of the southwest US's high insolation (solar radiation received), high heating requirements of the north and high population density of the East Coast. Second was the high initial cost of installed systems and the relatively slow economic payback through the displacement of conventional fuel. As the author points out, "solar energy is environmentally acceptable, inexhaustable, and cannot fall under the control of a small group of people."


Solar and WindSheets of ethyl-vinyl acetate (EVA) are used on both sides of solar cells to protect them from air and moisture. The EVA is flexible and sticky, requiring a slow-speed pick from a tray along with a manipulator rotation during retraction (D. King, E. Culberson and R. Feng, SME Technical Paper TP05PUB85).

Lockheed Missiles & Space explored the use of ultrasonic bonding for interconnecting photovoltaic solar cells. The alternative to more traditional methods of soldering and welding offered advantages of reduced costs, reduced solar array weight and less cell degradation.

For Shell Solar Industries, teaming with FANUC Robotics, automating the assembly of photovoltaic solar modules "presented a daunting task" due to widely different materials presented at each step. A robotic assembly cell featured a vacuum (end-of-arm tool) manipulator that successfully picked up each of the materials without a tool exchange.

Two papers from SME's Composites events address production aspects for wind turbine blades. Scott Blake of Assembly Guidance Systems, Inc. discusses the use of a laser projection system to solve problems in producing tooling and blades in wind turbine manufacturing. The benefits of lasers for cycle time reduction are seen in dimensioning and locating tasks such as layup, assembly/panel raising, orienting for drilling, machining and pinning, and for contouring/selective sanding.

Spanish authors Ferrer and Rodriguez describe the automation of after-mold processes of wind blades. The key feature of the automation system is a robotic tracking head that processes the input data taken from the composite surface, creating new trajectories for the robot in real time for pressure, distance and orientation to the surface being measured, trimmed, milled and sanded. An infrared system and software detect possible failures in the assembly of the shells.



Energy Efficiency

Lean energy analysis is a methodology presented at a 2004 SME conference on advanced energy and fuel cell technologies. Energy usage in manufacturing facilities encompasses direct production of goods, space conditioning and general facility support, such as lighting. With as few as 60 easily obtainable data points, the lean analysis method graphically and statistically develops multivariable change-point models of electricity and natural gas use as functions of outdoor air temperature and production data.

In a 2010 paper, the unit process life cycle inventories (UPLCI) concept is explained for the development of fundamental building blocks that describe energy use, material/chemical losses and product characteristics of individual representative processes/machines. The effort, known as CO2PE! (Cooperative Effort on Process Emissions in Manufacturing), is directed at estimating energy use and mass losses for processes from an environmental life cycle perspective.


All About Energy Today

In June, Advanced Manufacturing Media will publish Energy Manufacturing 2015. This sixth iteration of Advanced Manufacturing Media's Energy Yearbook will include an overview of energy-related papers presented at the 2014 North American Manufacturing Research Conference (NAMRC), and elsewhere, along with a preview of selected papers from the upcoming 2015 conference hosted June 8-12 at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.

Published Date : 4/7/2015

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