by David Hillburn, Business Development Manager - Heating
Recently I joined ebm-papst as a Business Development Manager to support the North American heating market. My previous experience includes design of combustion systems for industrial furnaces and kilns; so when I joined the company I had a good foundation in the application of various combustion systems and components but not in the manufacturing of these components. In March I toured two of our German manufacturing facilities in Landshut and Mulfingen in order to gain a more intimate knowledge of our products and how they are manufactured. Besides a new found love for pretzels, wheat beer, and white sausage, courtesy of the Hofbrauhaus, here are some lasting impressions of the facilities and trip.
Landshut, Germany and Mulfingen, Germany
Landshut and Mulfingen an overview
Landshut, situated approximately 45 miles northeast of Munich on the Isar River, produces the majority of our gas blower products. This includes the RG, NRG, G1G and G3G series blowers along with the recently acquired GB055 and GB057 gas valve lines. Mulfingen, our world headquarters and largest facility, produces the large G3G250-MW premix gas blower, M3G series motors and electronics along with a plethora of other products including our axial fan line and centrifugal blower/impeller products.
A large vertically integrated company
My previous employers were small companies, so I now find myself giving presentations that show stats such as 10,564 employees worldwide at 18 production sites and 58 sales offices. While touring the factories it felt like I met all 10,564 of these employees and they were working busily in various functions. Be it die-casting motor brackets, winding motor bobbins, stamping motor stators, checking printed circuit boards or assembling complete blowers. The factories were are state of the art manufacturing facilities, very vertically integrated and very automated. I saw these automation capabilities firsthand with the NRG118 assembly line in Landshut which produces an impressive number of gas blowers daily.
Reinvestment and R&D
Another key to success is our reinvestment into our facilities. On the A tour of our Landshut factory I viewed an impressive collection of climate chambers, halt testing machines and a new gas laboratory. At our facilities in Mulfingen I saw one of the largest combination air flow and sound chambers I’ve ever seen (big enough to park a truck in). I also toured rooms with racks and racks of fans running life cycle tests. So when we talk about quality and reliability it’s clear that is derived from continuous testing and commitment to reinvesting.
A company is only as good as its people
While the settings may be different, Landshut a small European city with a slightly metropolitan feel and Mulfingen a quaint rural village, the corporate mentality and image bridged the gap. At both facilities the people I met were not only knowledgeable and polite but happy to talk and discuss what they were doing within the organization. When asked to explain a process or a facet of design, they not only took the time to explain it but would walk me through the process, show me every piece that went into it and then bring me to a board similar to the one below so I could study the part or assembly further.
GB055 E01 Gas Valve Components
This level of cooperation and professionalism was displayed by all employees I talked to and it helped to make a business trip abroad a very productive and memorable experience. I look forward to future factory visits and traveling with my German colleagues to our heating customers in North America.
by Brian Ladegard, Director of Operations
As part of our GreenTech philosophy, not only is our goal to develop new products that are more efficient than the prior generation, but we follow this approach for our processes as well. That is, our commitment to sustainable practices extends to our production processes for gains in terms of economy and ecology. Case in point – we have just completed installation of a new Nordson ColorMax powder paint application system complete with their Automatic Feed System and new Encore spray guns. As a result
, we expect to see a significant increase in powder spray efficiency, less scrap powder, lower disposal charges, higher quality painted parts, and significantly faster color change times.
In our old booth, we typically got 60% of the sprayed powder on the parts and 40% became process scrap. We were able to recycle one color with our older booth, but this didn’t work too well because our primary color kept changing all the time. In the new Nordson ColorMax booth, we can now effectively recycle ALL colors through the use of dual cyclone technology. This automatically feeds back (recycles) the 40% of powder that hits the parts and falls into the bottom of the booth – increasing our actual powder usage efficiency to about 95%.
The other significant advantage for us is color change over time. The entire booth and all feed hoses had to be fully cleaned (manually) to prevent mixing of colors between production runs. Our new ColorMax booth has much of the cleaning cycle automated, so a typical color change time for the new booth should be reduced by up to 75% vs. the old booth. The booth Canopy is a state of the art material that allows for easy blow offs during color changes. This time regained is significant - as we typically change colors 2-3 times per day.
Finally, we also changed our actual paint application guns to the new Encore system. These guns are new Low Velocity technology that allows for more even coating and better use of powder at lower air pressures – further reducing powder spray waste. With the new Lower Velocity technology, we should also improve our painting finish quality for better parts on the “first pass” – with less defects and less rework and re-paints.
by Todd Cardillo, Market Manager - Industrial
The world’s population is getting older and living longer. Between 2000 and 2020, the number of people 65 and older is predicted to increase from 35 to 54 million. By 2050, that number will jump to 86 million! Life expectancy in the world’s top 29 counties is now 80+ years old. (U.S. Administration on Aging, U.S. Census Bureau)
To serve older patients, the need for medical equipment and supplies will continue to grow. Next-generation imaging technologies such as CT/PET scanners are expected to grow at double digit rates over the next five years.(Market Analysis, Radiation Oncology, MD Publishing, Oct. 2012) New robotic surgical equipment allows patients to benefit from shorter hospital stays and reduced recovery times.
Fans are the hidden yet essential ingredient within much of today’s advanced medical equipment. ebm-papst has supported ventilation solutions for the medical equipment industry for more than 25 years. ebm-papst fans and motors are used in an array of sophisticated equipment, from full-body imagers to smaller devices that improve patient comfort.
There are different components within medical imaging systems that need to be cooled. The type of air mover that’s required depends on how much cooling is needed, how much room is available for the air mover, air pressure, noise level and temperature requirements among other criteria.
As one example, computerized tomography (CT) scanners include three complex systems: the gantry, the computer, and the operating console. These scanners usually have one or more air movers inside that may include axial fans, impellers, and centrifugal blowers. Several of our fans are used reduce the heat generated by G-forces created within the gantry during the imaging process.
On a much smaller scale, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines — which are used to treat people with obstructive sleep apnea — employ small fans that provide the high-pressure, low flow air stream required to help keep patients breathing continually at night.
Although the medical equipment market is growing rapidly, the testing and qualification required for new or modified equipment can take years. ebm-papst has a proven track record of working with medical equipment manufacturers to ensure that our fans are reliable, meet low noise requirements, are energy efficient, and perform consistently under stringent medical operating requirements.
What kinds of ventilation systems do you think could be included in new hospital equipment? What kinds of air-moving systems could be added to make patients more comfortable before, during and after a procedure? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
ebm-papst engineers tell it from ‘the pits’: part 2
Hogan Eng and Bill Aston talk about the two FIRST Robotics Competition teams that ebm-papst supports in Farmington and Woodbury, CT.
Q: This year's FIRST Robotics Competition, Ultimate Ascent, game requires robots to fling plastic disks (Frisbees) and climb a metal pyramid. How did your teams approach this challenge as students conceived, designed and built your robots?
Team Beta teacher-mentor Mike Murphy in the wrench costume - Richard Murkland Digital Photos
Hogan Eng: To help Team Beta understand the pros and cons of alternative strategies, we begin by simulating several rounds of the game. Students acted out behaviors of robots that would have certain characteristics, such as a long shooting robot, a climb-only robot or a defense-only robot. After discussions on what strategies could work, we brainstormed what kinds of mechanisms could be built for each strategy. We then voted on what approach was best given the six week time frame allowed to build the robot and the resources available. Our team worked in sub-groups responsible for developing the robot’s drive train, shooter, climber, programming elements and pit design. Each sub-group was composed of two mentors and a mix of veteran and new students. This provided the best support for new students while training our veteran students to be future mentors.
Bill Aston: ebm-papst employee Matt Crossman, an alumnus of Farmington’s 2nd Law Enforcers, determined the team’s strategy for this year’s game. The team focused the robot on being able to effectively score points by throwing the discs. The robot’s design also had to allow it to climb the pyramid.
Q: What, and how, did ebm-papst contribute to each team's robots in terms of design, engineering and production support?
Hogan Eng: While at the team meetings, I volunteered my experiences with program management and engineering design reviews. I also mentored the team’s shooter sub-group. When each group had robot parts that needed more sophisticated fabrication, I would bring the sketches to John DeMarco who would draw the part in CAD and tweak the design for better strength, manufacturability and aesthetics. The CAD information was then sent to Bruce Thibodeau for programming the parts. Tom Shimeld cut parts on the company’s laser machine. ebm-papst employee Mike Warner bent the parts. Employees on our production floor helped insert and paint components.
In the meantime, another employee from ebm-papst Inc., T.J. Berti has come to our weekend meetings to train our students in TIG welding, making them quite accomplished welders!
Q: The 2nd Law Enforcers have been around since 1997, and Team Beta's been around since 2009. How have each team's students evolved over these periods? How have they grown support from their schools and in their communities?
Hogan Eng: Team Beta started out as a group of 12 sophomores at Nonnewaug High School. As the team's success grew in the school and in the surrounding community, we have grown to about 30 students and a dozen mentors. We’re now attracting students from other areas to Nonnewaug High who are joining our robotics team. During the team’s fund raising events, we displayed the robots and the students invite the community to ask questions. The team created the Connecticut Tech Fest, where we invite companies, other robot teams, universities, clubs and branches of our armed forces do display any really interesting mechanisms, inventions and products to the community. To promote careers in science and technology, the team actively engages other students.
Group of 2nd Law Enforcers sitting on the floor - Richard Murkland Digital Photos
Bill Aston: When I started as a mentor ten years ago, Farmington High School only recognized The 2nd Law Enforcers as a club. Now they are a team, with the same benefits as the school’s sports teams. Every year the older members of the team pass down what type of CAD files and geometry that we need to effectively produce parts off of our equipment. ebm-papst internal mentors Matt Crossman, Dale Watson, and TJ Swistro help with trouble shooting and working parts through production. ebm-papst continues to provide materials, our shop equipment time and the resources of our people.
Q: Why do you continue to dedicate your expertise and support to these teams?
Hogan Eng: I really believe in the ideals of FIRST, which encourages students to go into technical fields where they can have the opportunity to improve their lives, our communities, the country and the world. FIRST Robotics believes that our young people have a much better chance of becoming an engineer and making something useful as opposed to becoming a pro athlete. I have loved science even as a child and have become successful as an engineer, so this is my way of giving back to the community, sharing and teaching what I know to students who may have the same kinds of interests.
Bill Aston: My focus has shifted slightly; most mentor expertise comes from Matt Crossman, who is an alumnus of Team 178 and now manages most of the team’s activities for me.
Q: What would you say is one major way the students' robots have evolved since you became involved with the FIRST Robotics Competition?
Hogan Eng: I originally helped start a different robotics team in Woodbury back in 1997. That program focused on a mechanical design challenge with some basic program writing to customize how the robot is controlled. Being an electrical engineer, I commented that there wasn't enough of an electrical component for the kids who may have more advanced interests in electronics. Well, 16 years later, I am amazed at the level of sophistication of the robots and the skills of the students in C++ programming of gyros, accelerometers, visual image recognition, target tracking and more! As the technical world gets more complicated, these students have risen to the challenge. FIRST Robotics has provided an accelerated path to lead them there.
Q: Tell us about one moment or experience associated with CT FIRST that is either your favorite and/or one you know you will never forget.
Hogan Eng: It was 2009, our team’s rookie year. We had built a beautiful robot and headed to our first competition in Hartford. We won the Rookie All Stars award for our presence as a unified team, our robot design, and how well the students presented to the judges. Other teams thought we were a veteran team! We were thrilled. We realized this is not all about building a robot. It’s really about what the team had achieved over the six weeks in technical, organizational, interpersonal, and social and communication skills. We had formed a tightly knit group that was more like a family.
Bill Aston: One of my first years I showed a sophomore female student how to use an ordinary drill. She ended up being a leader in the engineering/build department of the team by the time she was a senior.
For additional information about CT FIRST programs, visit ctfirst.org. For additional information about FIRST, visit usfirst.org.
ebm-papst engineers tell it from ‘the pits’: Part 1
ebm-papst believes that experience-based learning is the best way to get our kids excited about science and technology…and have a blast along the way. Every year, our company and its employees devote time, resources and expertise to turning this belief into reality.
Along with like-minded organizations including United Technologies, General Dynamics-Electric Boat, Northeast Utilities and our state’s leading universities, we support high-school level FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) teams as they conceive, design, build, program and test robots that compete regionally and nationally.
FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.” This year’s FIRST Robotics Competition Connecticut Regional, sponsored by UTC, was held March 29 and 30 at the Connecticut Convention Center.
To get ready for the competition, ebm-papst manager Hogan Eng devoted nights and weekends to helping Woodbury’s FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) Team 2836, Team Beta at Nonnewaug High School.
Photo of Team Beta with Hogan Eng getting ready for battle - David Everett Photography
Meanwhile, manager Bill Aston mentored Farmington High School’s FRC Team 178, the 2nd Law Enforcers.
2nd Law Enforcers team members wheeling their 'bot onto the field - Richard Murkland Digital Photos
Hogan and Bill’s involvement with the two FRC Teams is backed by employees Matt Crossman, Dale Watson, TJ Swistro, John DMarco, Bruce Thibodeau, Tom Shimeld and Mike Warner who each contribute their engineering and manufacturing expertise to the two teams’ robots.
Together, ebm-papst’s engineering and manufacturing experts help students on the two teams master science and technology concepts while gaining valuable career and life skills that are carrying them to higher education and STEM-based careers.
So how did the two teams fare at the CT Regional?
FRC Team 2836, Team Beta, received the Excellence in Engineering Award sponsored by Delphi
Rebecca DiSarro, a member of Team Beta, was named Connecticut’s finalist for the FIRST Dean’s List.
FRC Team 178, the 2nd Law Enforcers, received the CT Regional Competition’s Engineering Inspiration Award.
Tim Barron, lead mentor for Team 178, received the Woodie Flowers Finalist Award for Connecticut.
Stay tuned for our next blog, where we catch up with Hogan, Bill and the ebm-papst team as they talk in depth about this year’s competition, the game, Team Beta and the 2nd Law Enforcers.
The fifteenth "Product of the Year" was presented on March 14, 2013, and ebm-papst achieved first place with the high-performance DV6300 diagonal compact fan.
Readers of Elektronik and elektroniknet.de chose the DV6300 as the 2013 Product of the Year in the category "Electrical Engineering" from among 111 nominated products. The award recognises the most innovative and ground-breaking products in the industry. Peter Metzger, Manager of Business Development and Marketing for ebm-papst St. Georgen GmbH & Co. KG, accepted the distinction at the awards ceremony in Munich: "We are gratified to receive this recognition from the readers of Elektronik. The DV6300 demonstrates how we are setting new standards in state-of-the-art development and production methods."
The winning product from ebm-papst has an electronically controlled S-Force motor with additional options such as temperature regulation, active motor cooling and filter monitoring with signal output for filter change. The diagonal compact fan is ideal for applications with strict requirements regarding air performance with high backpressure, limited installation space and a low operating noise level.
by Lou Moffa, Market Manager - Refrigeration
Take a walk outdoors in any suburban area and it is difficult to avoid the sounds created by the mechanical inventions in our modern society. The drone of an aircraft passing overhead, the rush of vehicles from a busy street or the buzz of a lawnmower in the neighbor's yard create a measurable soundtrack to our daily activities. Most of us are pleasantly surprised by just how quiet it becomes when these sounds suddenly stop and we are exposed to the underlying level of quiet that is present. We cannot eliminate these noises entirely, but by applying our GreenTech philosophy of continuous design improvement during our product development, ebm-papst can again help engineers create air moving systems that are found outdoors that we can comfortably live with.
In congested cities, with living spaces adjacent to supermarkets and small industry, the need for quiet operation is not just desired, it is mandatory by local codes. Fans that are used to move large amounts of air to cool our mechanical equipment or keep our refrigeration systems running are necessary components in the systems that are placed on rooftops and the outside of our buildings. Engineers and designers work very hard to meet the strict guidelines that are put in place to limit noise but these restrictions can negatively affect their final designs.
To lower noise in these applications, there are standard "fixes" that the designer can call upon to help meet the required noise and performance levels. With axial fans, the common fix is to reduce the motor RPM and increase the number of fans to handle the air performance needs and or increase the blade size. These solutions can lead to a reduction in system performance, add components increase the system footprint and increase energy consumption. Not an appealing solution with today's high electrical costs, small installation areas and increased refrigeration costs. Even worse, in many cases, these changes are not always effective and further fixes must be done on site where additional changes are even more costly.
AxiTop from ebm-papst, a leader in air moving technology, offers a groundbreaking solution. We have combined our high efficiency AC and EC axial fans with a passive diffuser assembled in one complete package to help simplify installations. Our optimized AxiTop design has been shown to reduce noise lower energy consumption when installed in typical applications. Integration of this assembly is simple. The fan and diffuser are delivered as a complete assembly that can easily be integrated into an existing design using our standard square wall plate. Or custom wall plates are available so that the AxiTop fan assembly can be integrated seamlessly into your air handling system.
AxiTop is currently available worldwide in 800 and 910mm diameter axial fans. These popular sizes are perfectly suited for use on rooftop condensers, fluid coolers, and agricultural ventilation applications.
If you need a real solution to meet applications with low noise requirements and at the same time reduce total cost of ownership and simplify your design, our AxiTop product line provides an answer!
Please visit us at booth #2967 at the upcoming AHR Expo in Dallas, TX, to see the AxiTop units on display and for a complete overview of this exciting new product. Or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to review the benefits of using AxiTop.
by Todd Cardillo, Market Manager - Alternative Energy
President Obama had everyone on their toes last month regarding the Fiscal Cliff, which also included the review of the Production Tax Credit (PTC). In an apparent last minute effort, the president said White House and Senate negotiators have agreed to “extend tax credits for clean-energy companies that are creating jobs and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.”
The PTC has been a major driver of wind power development over the past decade. It provides a 2.2 cent per kilowatt-hour tax credit for the first ten years of electricity production from utility-scale turbines; however, Congress has repeatedly gone back and forth between expiring and extending the PTC.
Preserving the tax credit is a major triumph for the wind power industry. Critics have argued that the industry is now mature enough to survive without the tax benefit, however, wind producing companies still feel it is important for US infrastructure, and would agree that phasing it out over the next few years would be a much better solution.
Wind companies pushed for a two-year extension, arguing that anything less would provide little certainty to investors in wind projects, but the industry later backed off and supported the extension for just one year. On a positive note, the qualification process was changed in their favor as well. The one year extension now pertains to projects “started” before December 31st, 2013, rather than like in the past, when the project needed to be “producing power” before the projected deadline.
Many projects had been put on hold in 2012 because wind developers knew the PTC was due to expire. The uncertainty caused wind developers to delay their projects, reduce their employees, and even close their doors because of lack of business. Now that the PTC has been extended, companies are dusting off their components, and pushing to get everything back up and running as quick as possible.
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) estimates that the PTC extension has protected ~37,000 jobs within this industry, however, we still need to be concerned with the jobs that have been already lost in 2012. In some aspects, the damage has been done, and introduces another important question “Is a one year extension enough”?
ebm-papst Inc. has recently replaced all the heating and cooling units in the main production areas at the U.S. headquarters in Farmington, CT. The units that were removed were mostly installed in 1998. Originally, we had only one gas fired central heating system in the assembly area (circa 1985) and one more gas fired central heating system in the sheet metal area (circa 1994). We added 9 separate air conditioning units in 1998.
The decision was made to replace 10 of these units with combination heating and cooling units that utilize the existing roof penetrations. We selected the highest efficiency model available in the 20 ton size.
The project was completed during the final two weeks of October – including all the new natural gas line piping, rigging of the old units off the roof, and installation of the new high efficiency units. We also added an Energy Management System (EMS) that allows for direct communication, regulation, and temperature adjustment of all the units. They are all connected in a machine network that is subsequently controlled through a single PC setup on our LAN system.
Also recently added was an emergency backup system that consists of two small generators for both buildings. These generators are hard wired into the building electric supply and sense when there is a loss of main power, then start up automatically and provide backup power to certain key systems. They also shut back down automatically when power returns. They also self-test themselves by starting up and running some diagnostics once a week – just to be certain that they are functioning correctly. Both generators (one outside the warehouse and one outside the factory) are fueled by natural gas. The natural gas services are hard lines coming into both buildings and flow gas under all conditions – regardless of utility power status.
The services covered by this tandem generator system are the site computer systems, phone systems, building alarm systems, and electronic building door locks. We have also added some fork truck charging and also some lighting for the warehouse. While they are not designed to run a laser cutting machine or a punch press, the thought is that they would allow us to continue to operate at the most basic levels during an extended outage period.
with Brian Ladegard, Director of Operations
Q: A recent article in Design News discusses how ergonomics and repetitive motion injuries are major issues in manufacturing. How does ebm-papst address these concerns?
A: We review ergonomics continuously on our shop floor. We work with outside consultants on an annual basis with tours and audit reviews – but we also use both engineering controls and supervisory controls to prevent injuries.
For example, we do ergonomic stretching exercises with each and every production employee at the beginning of the shift and then once again right after the lunch break. These stretches are a series of basic movements that were developed independently and given to us for this purpose. The total stretching time is approximately 5 minutes and is mandatory. Just like athletes would stretch out before a game – so do our workers!
Also, we use engineering controls like counterbalanced tool holders for any screw driver or torque tool that applies a strong “reverse torque” that would twist operators’ arms. We use supervisory controls like job rotation. This is where take three people in one working place and have them switch tasks – within a single job – every two hours. One person might be crimping for 2 hours, then switch to riveting for the next two – and then finally to testing for the last two hours. This basic rotation allows each person to change their range of motion during the day, thus preventing too much repetition.
In the sheet metal shop, we use part supports to hold heavy parts at the required tool height – along with extensive use of scissor style pallet jacks to help prevent operators from having to bend down to floor level for the first few layers of finished parts as they come off machines.
The final examples are the use of robotics for tasks that combine high levels of repetition with higher levels of production – like the new robotic welding cell and the robotic bending cell.