WOOD DUST IN THE CONTRACT FURNITURE INDUSTRY IS INEVITABLE ANYWHERE MACHINES CUT AND SHAPE WOOD MATERIALS. A few years ago, Tekwood, the wood division of international contract furniture designer and manufacturer Teknion, began looking into a more effective dust collecting system.
“During production, the system was constantly running at full power,” says Olaf Boehm, Manufacturing Engineer, Teknion. “It would not modulate based on actual dust generation and, in turn, was consuming enormous amounts of energy.”
Tekwood realized that the new system would need to significantly reduce electricity costs while not negatively impacting the environment, or employee health and well-being. That’s when SyENERGY Integrated Energy Solutions entered the equation. SyENERGY designs, supplies and installs specialized energy efficiency technologies including the Ecogate dust collection system.
Ecogate is completely automated through its sensors. To improve suction and reduce electricity consumption, 26 motorized gate systems were put in place. When a machine is turned on, a sensor sends a signal to open the appropriate gate(s), adjusting the velocity in the ducting to match the new demand. When the machine stops, the gate closes and the dust collector fan speed slows down again.
“We’ve become what we behold. First we shape our tools, and then our tools shape us.”
- Marshall Mcluhan
Ecogate monitors the activity of all 20 machine centers – 18 main and two finishing. The amount of power supplied to the fan is continually optimized through a variable speed drive to minimize power consumption while ensuring excellent dust collection. Energy consumption is continuously monitored, measured and logged to a database in five minute average intervals.
“If a designer designs just the well-balanced dust collection system that is fully open at all times but doesn’t keep in mind the cost effectiveness of the system, they can’t take advantage of the benefits of modern on-demand computer control,” explains Tom Ryan, President of SyENERGY. “Once we have continuous machine center status information from our sensors, we can then provide useful additional tools beyond energy management such as workcenter uptime and performance tracking over time using Data Mining.”
Teknion installed the new collection system in December 2013. After a few minor hiccups, such as adjusting shut-off times to allow employees to use the suction to clean the workstations after powering down, Ecogate went live in January 2014 and is now fully operational.
The energy savings have been impressive, as John Martinovic, Director of Operations at Tekwood, summarizes: “So far, we are witnessing drastic savings in electricity. We continue to project energy savings of around 60 percent on dust collection, which translates into $90,000 per year.”
For the two dust collectors combined (350HP & 50HP, the average fan electrical load has dropped from 280 to 114kW.
Seeking out new technologies and implementing devices such as Ecogate is part of Teknion’s corporate culture to attain a more sustainable outcome. In addition to saving money and reducing environmental impact through the reduction of electricity, it also allows for cleaner air and less noise in the workplace, resulting in improved employee health benefits.