by Tom Costello, Market Manager – Heating & Appliance
As we sit down to dinner at night, most of us do not give any thought to what’s in our kitchen appliances or how they even work. We take for granted that our refrigerator keeps our food from spoiling, that our oven cooks the food to a perfect temperature, that our range hood removes all the odors and smoke from the room, and that the dishwasher cleans and dries our dishes at the end of the meal. We simply expect our appliances to work to free up our time for other interests!
To help meet that expectation, our R&D engineers are developing air moving solutions that allow your kitchen appliances to work better, longer, and safer. That's right, you may not be aware that each of the kitchen appliances listed above often includes a fan that improves the transfer of heat for cooling, heating, or simply air quality. For example, cooling insures the controls don't overheat in your oven or that the food remains cold enough to last for days or months in your refrigerator or freezer. Conversely, convective heating improves cooking performance in a range or wall oven and also improves the drying performance in your dishwasher.
Our fans are used in all types of kitchen appliances for cold, hot, and wet applications. In addition, now they are being designed to further improve the quality of your life by reducing the electrical energy consumption and, thereby, your "carbon foot print". A good example of this is a recent development program with one of our European appliance customers that manufactures one of the highest rated dishwasher products in the world market. The development was based on a strategic partnership between ebm-papst (supplier) and the appliance OEM (manufacturer) that resulted in both parties achieving their goals to grow sales with a progressive technology that also is environmentally friendly or "Green".
For many years, conventional drying technology would include a radial fan driven by an AC shaded pole motor in combination with a humidity valve and a custom scroll housing to remove the moist hot air from the dishwasher and then cool it to a safe temperature before venting into the kitchen.
Although effective at accelerating the drying process, energy consumption and drying time was still too high; however, recent advancements in motor technology and materials now allows for a new improved drying cycle. ebm-papst is a leader in electronically commutated (EC) motor technology in many markets and now recent design advances allows us to bring this technology to kitchen appliances. In addition, since we design the impeller and scroll housing too we can optimize airflow, size, and material selection to provide a robust assembly that meets the demand of the application and operates with very low energy consumption.
This progress in air moving technology has now allowed the appliance OEM to introduce a new drying process that can further accelerate the drying time in an environmentally friendly manner. So in the end, advancements in technology applied in an eco-friendly manner result in lower energy consumption and reduced drying time!
By Scott Beauchemin – VP of Engineering
In almost every development process, multiple design iterations are unavoidable. Optimizing an air flow system in a single iteration is rare. In fact, some projects require three or four design loops before the targeted air flow is met. In 2009, ebm-papst Inc. set out to find a way to minimize these steps and thus reduce development costs and get projects to market more quickly. The answer was Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) software.
Optimizing air flow systems during development can be challenging. Before ebm-papst introduced CFD to our development process, we would fabricate an initial prototype design using knowledge gained from previous projects. After testing it in the lab, we would compare the results against the air flow, efficiency and noise targets defined at the beginning of the project. In an ideal case, the results from the first prototype would meet or even exceed the targets defined for the project. But typically, the prototype would not exactly meet the targets, and we would move on to a second design. Each new iteration would require engineering time, material costs to fabricate another prototype and lab time to test the new version.
Using CFD software has reduced the number of design iterations by allowing us to:
Run numerical simulations of the flow field in a system using relatively basic CAD geometry to define the system. The software predicts the air flow through the system, determines the pressure drop, and helps identify problem areas in the flow field. It also looks at heat transfer to determine if critical components are being cooled adequately by the flow through the system.
Simulate various designs to determine the optimal one for that specific system. CAD models for each design modification are created.
Run those simulations simultaneously, often times after hours so the data is available the next morning. The various design options can be directly compared to determine which characteristics provide the best results.
CFD simulations don’t eliminate the need for experimental data. We still must build and test a prototype in the lab to verify that it meets the design targets. And we still use our knowledge from previous projects – but now, a characteristic can be simulated in the new system to see if it is beneficial. The simulations allow us to quickly narrow in on an optimized design.
The addition of CFD analysis to our capabilities has been a tremendous asset, and is just another example of how ebm-papst is constantly investigating and innovating to offer more efficient processes and solutions to our customers. To learn more, contact email@example.com.
By Don Beckwith, Senior Vice President, Finance and Administration
Great things happen when employees know their work is valued, when they’re encouraged to take on new challenges and when they have opportunities to contribute to a greater good.
Tom Rath and Jim Harter, Ph.D., authors of Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements, reveal that wellbeing encompasses five distinct, interrelated elements – Career, Social, Financial, Physical, and Community. All of them affect the bottom line.
Some of the world’s most successful corporations have put non-traditional but innovative practices in place to keep their employees happy, healthy and productive.
At ebm-papst, helping employees improve the quality of their lives has and will always be a part of the ebm-papst DNA. Here are four ways we support our employees.
- Open Communication
Effective communication builds trust. Our open-door policy allows employees to express their ideas and concerns. When managers openly communicate with their teams and when employees understand the value of their roles, our entire organization becomes more productive and innovative.
- Social Events
Community — along with a dedication to environmental sustainability — is a big part of the ebm-papst culture. As we add employees, e-mails and conference calls become more convenient than face-to-face interactions. Yet without outlets for personal interaction, employees may feel removed from the corporate identity. ebm-papst regularly celebrates employee-centered events such as our Every Day is a GreenDay picnic where local fresh foods are sourced, Apple Day where apples are brought in from a local farm and shared, ice cream afternoon breaks and more. These events foster camaraderie and create a positive atmosphere in the workplace.
- Explaining the Big Picture
Because employees need to understand how their accomplishments contribute to the overall success of the company, it’s important that we regularly share our overall goals. At least twice per year, we hold a companywide meeting to address the current state of business, future plans and projections. This further reinforces a sense of community and encourages teamwork.
- Promote Wellness
Employee wellness is important for any business trying to reduce health care costs, but it isn’t the only benefit. Wellness improves employee morale, increases employee retention and creates more productive workers. A wellness program encourages healthy habits to prevent serious health conditions later. Yearly, we hold a wellness fair that incorporates healthy eating tips, blood pressure and cholesterol screenings and information on the prevention and diagnosis of serious health conditions. We also offer flu shots and gym membership reimbursement programs.
When our employees’ lives are happy, healthy and balanced, the entire organization benefits. The proof? We experience it every day in the innovative products we create, the efficient ways we produce them and the responsive customer service we provide.
By Matt Menard, Market Manager - Air Conditioning
Imagine it’s a sweltering day, and you’ve entered a nice cool office building, school, hospital or large retail store. Aaah. Now imagine you’ve entered that same building but the air conditioning’s not working. Would you accept that the building’s owners shut it off to be green and consume less energy?
Given that 40% of commercial building utility bills go to power their HVAC systems, manufacturers are placing a strong emphasis on energy efficiency in product design for the rooftop units that move the cool (and hot) air that keeps us comfortable at work, in school, and at play.
Ranging from 3 to 175 tons, rooftop HVAC systems provide a turnkey solution, and can be installed on most large buildings. All components of the system, including fans, compressors, coils, electronics and filters are packed tightly into the unit, making installation, operation, and maintenance as simple as possible.
To meet the energy-saving specifications of HVAC system manufacturers, component suppliers have improved the efficiency and operation of the compressors, motors, fans, gas/electric heating devices and controls inside them.
Within rooftop units, compressors and fan motors consume the most energy. However, both have changed dramatically. Compressors have been transformed from inefficient, single speed devices to variable speed devices with electronic controls, making them 40 percent more efficient than their predecessors.
Similarly, fan motors have evolved from inefficient, single-speed units to variable speed, highly efficient designs. For example, the ebm-papst external rotor EC motor touts an efficiency of 90%.
If you’re responsible for keeping HVAC costs down in your building, this is great news. However, motor and compressor technology is nearing the limits of efficient design. Meanwhile, state and federal minimum energy standards are becoming more stringent.
As the mechanical components within HVAC systems begin to hit their efficiency limits, OEM’s are looking to computer-generated designs that can optimize the heat exchangers and aerodynamics in packaged rooftop systems.
Evolving the heat exchanger
Recent work by the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) is focused on air conditioning heat exchangers. Using computer generated design and analysis, they produced a unique heat exchanger design that yielded an 8% gain in efficiency for the heat exchanger and a 3% gain in overall unit performance. OEM manufacturers are actively pursuing these ultra-efficient designs. They’re also utilizing materials such as aluminum instead of copper in new heat exchangers to reduce cost and improve efficiency.
Evolving the fan
While current fan motor technology is up to 90% efficient, the blades and impellers within a fan are aerodynamically inefficient. Forward curved fans, used in indoor applications, are about 50% efficient. Axial fans, used in outdoor applications, are between 30 and 40% efficient.
Offering expertise in EC motors and aerodynamic design, ebm-papst is working to boost the efficiency of future products through computer generated design and analysis. We’re also working closely with our OEM partners to test new blade and impeller configurations within rooftop HVAC systems, with the goal of reducing power consumption and lowering operating costs to meet their customers’ needs. So now imagine being green and keeping the air conditioning on!
What IT/Telecom Customers Demand in Fan Acoustics
By Peter Kimmett, Business Development Manager – IT/Telecom, ebm-papst Inc.
In the computing world, our customers face an ever-growing challenge; faster running systems with higher power requirements. Increases in performance, power, and speed generate additional cooling needs that, in turn, present us with our own challenge; a high performance fan that’s acceptable for use in acoustic sensitive applications. At ebm-papst, we strive to rise to the occasion.
Acoustical noise limits defined by the Telcordia NEBS standards are system level requirements and fundamentally, have not changed in some time. Customers are constantly pushing the limits of what can be done with an air mover – most commonly by increasing the speed of an existing fan technology. This solution ends up being a double-edged sword; although the cooling needs can now be met, the overall solution is significantly louder. Doubling the fans performance doubles the noise created by the fan. This can be a significant challenge when such stringent targets are currently in place, due to decade old standards.
Luckily, at ebm-papst we invest significantly in R&D to create innovative technologies. Part of our GreenTech philosophy is to always improve upon the previous generation of fan technology – whether that’s in the manufacturing process, the performance capability, increasing overall efficiency or reducing noise produced by our fans. Our teams of Research and Development Engineers work tirelessly to meet these goals. Our knowledgeable teams of aerodynamicists have decades of experience in the realm of acoustical reduction with many innovative technologies that we incorporate into the development of each and every fan.
Some of the more common reasons for high acoustical noise in customer applications are systems with considerable resistance or many small fans running at very high speeds. Typically, these tubeaxial fans are very inefficient and must be run at fast speeds to achieve the necessary cooling performance. One of ebm-papst’s newer, more innovative products is our DV6300 series. This fan allows us to not only combat systems with high impedances, but it also incorporates some of our innovative technologies to help reduce fan noise. One of the ways we are able to design a more acoustically optimized fan design is through the use of noise optimized motor struts allowing us to reduce noise as much as 8 dB(A)!
Another way we are able to help combat noise increase is by working closely with our customers on system-level developments. The combination of our team of experienced Applications Engineers along with our on-site airflow and semi-anechoic acoustics chambers, allow us to provide end-to-end services. Our test results and engineering expertise provide useful suggestions for changes to customers systems to help reduce acoustics at the system level. At the same time, we can also help improve efficiency within a customer’s assembly allowing us to further reduce fan performance (in turn reducing acoustics even more!).
Have you experienced any of the above acoustical nightmares in your IT/Telecom application? If so, how did you resolve them? What solutions did you choose moving forward? We welcome your feedback in the comments box below.
By Phil Hartman, director of marketing, ebm-papst Inc.
Litter is sometimes caused intentionally by people, and other times litter ‘just happens’: Wind, rising waters, accidents and other unintended events can affect the distribution of garbage without anyone trying to be destructive. In the end, it takes the efforts of volunteers to clean up “out of sight – out of mind” places like wooded areas and waterways.
I enjoy being part of organized efforts to clean up our environment. For several years, I’ve helped ebm-papst volunteers organize trash clean ups in Farmington, Conn. at the Farmington river and around our plant and offices as part of our GreenDay campaign. I have also participated in annual Source to Sea clean ups in West Hartford and Hartford which are coordinated locally by the Connecticut River Watershed Council and Park Watershed. The purpose of these cleanups is to remove garbage from, and improve the quality of smaller waterways that lead to larger water sources. Each year a different area is chosen for clean up, and on October 5th our group met in West Hartford along the Trout Brook waterway. We worked on a section that runs along a new bike trail off South Quaker Lane across from Beachland Park. The link below describes the greenway project designed for safe biking and walking:
We covered less than ½ mile of the brook but our estimated haul was ~ 150 lbs of trash and recyclables, including several large bags of recyclable bottles and cans, a car muffler, a 10-foot length of steel rebar, plywood, Styrofoam, metal pipes, and bags of assorted garbage with a heavy concentration of decaying plastic bags.
On a positive note, nothing too toxic was found, and even with all of this garbage the waterway appears to be somewhat healthy as we found frogs and evidence of waterfowl, freshwater clams and snails.
Waterways like Trout Brook lead to rivers that lead to the ocean, so the more garbage we can keep from reaching the ocean, the better. Cleaner beaches, lower toxicity in our seafood, and a better habitat for nature are all worth pitching in for.
How is Connecticut developing tomorrow’s advanced manufacturing workforce?
By Bob Sobolewski, President and CEO, ebm-papst Inc.
In my last post, I encouraged us to discard old ideas about how we used to make things in the U.S., and to be open to careers with today’s advanced manufacturing companies.
President Obama’s National Strategic Plan for Advanced Manufacturing aims to increase investments in advanced manufacturing technologies, expand the number of workers with advanced manufacturing skills, make our training and education systems more responsive and support partnerships to create new manufacturing technologies.
As part of our country's manufacturing strategy, a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation and advanced manufacturing institutes at the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy are looking at how we can improve our use of materials and our production methods.
Meanwhile, Connecticut’s focusing on helping train and connect workers to fill open positions. What have we done so far?
Manufacturers have expressed their needs.
With funding from the U.S. Department of Labor’s High Growth Job Training Initiative grant, in The Connecticut Business and Industry Association’s Education Foundation created certificate programs (college credit and noncredit) in lean manufacturing and supply chain management.
Educators are responding.
The CBIA Foundation’s lean manufacturing and supply chain management certificate programs were so successful that the Regional Center for Next Generation Manufacturing (part of the Connecticut Community Colleges’ College of Technology) and CBIA members continue to build on this training curriculum for both students and teachers.
We’re creating pathways to high tech manufacturing careers.
Connecticut’s Technical High School System and the Connecticut Community Colleges (COC) work together to offer our state’s technical high school students a College to Career Pathways program. The program allows students to earn up to 14 college credits at the same time they’re in high school, while benefiting from college-level counseling, career fairs, job shadowing and internships. It’s a great way to help our technical high school students jump start a 2 or 4-year degree and begin plotting their career options.
We’re supporting our teachers.
As part of the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association and in affiliation with the New England Association of Technology Teachers, the CT Technology and Engineering Education Association (CTEEA) offers training and education for all teachers who want to present the latest advances in manufacturing to their students. If you’re a tech teacher, don’t miss CTEEA’s annual conference November 8 at Central Connecticut State University.
We’re beginning to connect job seekers with employers.
Earlier this year, U.S. Representative John Larson introduced the Connecticut Manufacturing Job Match Initiative, an effort to link employers with qualified employees. Read the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ here.
We’re calling upon UConn.
Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s Next Generation Connecticut initiative aims to leverage the University of Connecticut’s resources to build Connecticut’s future workforce, create jobs, and bring new life to our state’s economy.
Some of Connecticut’s initiatives have just begun, while others have already trained and placed skilled employees. Our challenge is to keep up the momentum, translating job requirements to relevant education and training programs.
Most importantly, we must continue to demonstrate how advanced manufacturing will help fuel our economic recovery, and why careers in this sector are both challenging and fulfilling.
What parents and students must know about today’s manufacturing jobs
By Bob Sobolewski, President and CEO, ebm-papst Inc.
During the Connecticut Business and Industry Association’s (CBIA) Connecticut Creates! Manufacturing Forum this past January, representatives of our state’s manufacturing community discussed their challenges in recruiting and retaining skilled people.
During the forum, Dave Tuttle, manufacturing department head at Platt Technical High School (part of Connecticut’s Technical High School System) shared a story that made the audience groan with frustration.
A young man that Dave taught had just obtained his advanced manufacturing certificate. He was on the verge of accepting a highly skilled, good-paying position. Before he could accept, however, his parents nixed the deal and forced him to continue his schooling at a four-year college.
What happened? Rather than envision their son’s productive (and profitable) career in a clean, modern facility that makes innovative products, they imagined him in a dead-end position hammering widgets on a dirty, hazardous and dimly lit shop floor.
Our young people want to make a difference. To be on the cutting edge. Their families want them to have secure jobs with growth potential in modern and stimulating work environments.
Here’s why today’s advanced manufacturing jobs offer both.
1. Manufacturing’s renaissance is gaining steam. According to this recent U.S. Treasury infographic, private investment in U.S. manufacturing is high, and the products we produce are increasing our exports.
2. Jobs anxiously await. According to a recent report from Deloitte, about 600,000 manufacturing jobs remain unfilled in the United States simply because employers cannot find people with the skills they need. Last year, Connecticut manufacturers had 22,000 openings for manufacturing jobs. Many went unfilled.
3. It’s no longer the factory your dad, mom (or grandparent) worked in. As Cisco’s recent blog points out, the business of making stuff no longer requires hard manual labor by many. With technology improvements, today’s manufacturing jobs do require intelligence, training and a willingness to continually push the efficiency envelope. In stark contrast to factories of the past, today’s production floors are bright, open, organized, clean and safe.
4. The pay’s better than the job you (might) find after a four-year degree. With manufacturing jobs going unfulfilled and office jobs scarce, surveys are revealing that increasingly, it’s the two-year technical degree that’s creating income and security.
CollegeMeasures.org recently found that students who receive an occupational and technical associate’s degree could earn $10,000 per year more than those with a non-occupational associate’s degree.
Reinforcing this new reality, more than half of Connecticut’s manufacturers are hiring graduates of Connecticut’s technical high schools, more students than from any other educational institutions, according to the 2011 Survey of Connecticut’s Manufacturing Workforce conducted by CBIA’s Education Foundation.
5. There are few obstacles to advancement. Factories of the past focused on repetitive, mindless assembly tasks. Today’s manufacturers understand that flexible, adaptive workers who demonstrate initiative on the floor and strive to learn new technology are critical to the company’s success, and reward them accordingly.
In next week’s post, I’ll explore how government, industry and education are working together to begin to address our manufacturing skills gap, nationally and in Connecticut.
By Brian Ladegard, director of operations, ebm-papst Inc.
As a high mix, low volume (HMLV) manufacturer, ebm-papst Inc. produces more than 700 unique engineered-to-order products every year for a wide array of market applications at our Farmington, Connecticut facility.
We’re continually evaluating new products’ manufacturability – how can each be produced easily, effectively, and with maximum reliability? As we serve custom-order requirements, we’re also balancing our plant’s level of automation, organization and manufacturing flow to improve throughput, lower costs and ensure quality.
CNC Machines: A custom shop’s best friend.
Our sheet metal processes — laser cutting, turret punching, press brake bending, hardware insertion, rolling, and single point resistance welding (spot welding) — are set up nicely for low to medium volume production. Our computer numerical controlled (CNC) machines help us rapidly change part geometries through the machine’s software.
For example, our laser cutter allows us to move holes and edges by changing X and Y positions in the machine‘s program code. If the same part were “hard tooled” (with dedicated die sets and a coil-fed stamping process), these changes would require significant costs and time to re-make sections of tools within each die set.
Our sheet metal methods are appropriate for annual volumes from 5 to 20,000 pieces – representing a good balance between low initial tooling costs, fast time-to-market, and modest piece costs. Sometimes we can make simple investments in punching tools that rapidly reduce our sheet processing times.
Keeping it simple (and flexible)
In our final assembly area, we use simple, generic tools (air screwdrivers, simple wire cutting devices, single-shot pop rivets, and manually initiated testing plans) and develop the final assembly process with minimal need for assembly-specific fixtures. We’ve set up work cells of 2-3 operators each who divide up that cell’s tasks. We balance the time for each task, so that no one is left idle as the product moves through assembly. When volumes increase, we utilize dedicated assembly jigs (to assist in standardized label placement, for example) and fixtures to speed the process up. These are typically developed and purchased when products have consistent “every week” demands.
Just in time’s ally
When volumes ramp up again, we often setup a dedicated work cell space with dedicated tools and KANBAN (“ready floor stock” in bins) component inventories. These dedicated work cells allow us to respond rapidly – as soon as the last component arrives – and begin assembly with very little setup time.
When to automate. When to go manual.
How does the level of automation at our German facilities compare with automation at our U.S. plant, and why?
Our German operations produce larger quantities that require fewer product variations. This enables them to standardize the way they move parts from one position to the next, utilizing conveyor belts (trolleys) or robotic arms.
In comparison, our U.S. facility lives by the mantra “any way you want it – quickly.” To accommodate shorter product life cycles for sheet metal assembly shapes and sizes that are constantly evolving, we take an agile and adaptive approach. Typically, small sets of products are moved from work cell to work cell along with each product’s priority. We also work with a computer driven “dispatch list” in each work cell. Once parts finish “upstream”, they immediately show as available in the next work cell – and take their proper place in the queue of work in the next cell. Of course we also have the ability to manipulate this list – to reflect the constant changes in customer demands.
By Joe Landrette, Market Manager - Ventilation
I love learning about emerging technologies. Weekends, you’ll find me, coffee in hand, reading about electronics, science or physics on my tablet device or smart phone. My son will soon enter kindergarten, and I want technology to play a positive role in how he learns.
Among the stories about teachers posting homework online, the latest tablet devices and laptop loans to students, a recent article in Engineered Systems appealed to me as a both a father and as a marketer of fans for a wide array of ventilation applications.
The article’s revelation? When we increase the quantity of fresh air per person to 10 cubic feet per minute in classroom settings, our children become more alert and engaged in learning. In fact, the quantity of fresh air needed to help students learn better is approximately twice that of ASHRAE’s ventilation standard for commercial offices, hotels, banks and even pharmacies.
What’s the challenge? During the cold winter days ahead, bringing fresh air into a school comes at the expense of lost energy. Therefore, precisely controlling outside and inside air is critical to balancing a school’s operating costs with high quality, high volume air for its students.
Precision air management focuses on the controls portion of this task. The article advocates a multi-point approach, using C02 sensors, occupancy sensors and occupancy schedules to best manage a school’s heating and ventilation needs within tight budgets. The goal is to bring all an HVAC system’s ingredients — the air handling unit, variable air volume, double check valve, fan coil units, sensors and air movers — into equilibrium.
How can we help customers take advantage of the latest in ventilation controls and features while keeping their up front costs and return on investment goals in mind? Building on our GreenTech philosophy, our EC air movers integrate the energy efficient controls typically seen on large and complex systems into the heart of our ultra high efficiency motors. These motors are then part of our total system approach with the latest in aerodynamic advancements of our fans and impellers for a plug and play solution.
When applied in schools, these advanced ventilation technologies can give our children the air they need to excel.