ebm-papst Fans, Blowers and Technology

Looking Back and Moving Forward in the World of GreenTech

Posted on Thu, Feb 13, 2014
BobSobo 110x135
by Bob Sobolewski - President & CEO

If one thing was evident at last month's Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration (AHR) Expo in New York, it's that innovation and sustainability must go hand in hand.

AHR provides us with an opportunity to meet our partners, suppliers and customers face to face. Every year, the show renews our belief that energy savings and resource conservation are a priority. It renews our commitment to our GreenTech philosophy: that every product we develop must exceed its predecessor in terms of efficiency and economy.  At this year’s expo, we gave a group of editors and industry experts a re-cap of our company’s achievements in 2013.

2013 Growth

2013 marked the 50th anniversary for the ebm-papst Group. Founded by Gerhard Sturm and Heinz Ziehl in 1963 with only 35 employees, the company now has 11,400 employees at 57 sales offices and 18 production facilities worldwide. ebm-papst Group grew 10 percent to around 730 million euros ($993 million) for the first half of the current fiscal year (April 1 - September 30, 2013). Over the past three years, the global company has grown by 37 percent.

The double-digit growth of ebm-papst USA last year was fueled by a growing need for climate control across nine major markets and the applications within each, as well as employees’ focus on exceeding customer needs.

Awards for AxiTop

The epylen wood-plastic composite AxiTop diffuser, introduced in 2012 as a new, passive component in ebm-papst 800 and 910 mm series fans, recently earned ebm-papst top honors at the MATERIALICA trade fair in Munich. AxiTop was honored in the Material category for its combined energy savings, noise reduction and energy efficiency.

US production of Axial and RadiPac fan assemblies
Over the past decade, we’ve expanded our product portfolio into much larger dimensions. Ten years ago, a large ebm-papst fan was 500mm to 630mm in diameter. Now, we’re selling fans up to 1.5 meters in diameter that are used in large-scale refrigeration and ventilation applications.

To increase responsiveness to our NAR customer base, we began localizing production of our larger axial fans, which are typically used in condensers and chillers, and for our RadiPac backward curved impellers used in rooftop A/C units, computer room A/C units and other applications.

Localizing production of these fan models also helps us customize the venturi, housing, mounting and paint color specs to customers’ requirements, speed turnaround and further reduce our transport-related carbon footprint.

GreenTech in practice at our Farmington, CT production facility and offices

Last year, our production facility completed installation of a new large capacity powder paint application system complete with an automatic feed system and new spray guns. The guns allow for more even coating and better use of powder at lower air pressures – further reducing powder spray waste and improving paint quality. The new powder paint system’s dual cyclone technology feeds back (recycles) the 40% of powder that hits the parts and falls into the bottom of the paint booth – increasing our actual powder usage efficiency to about 95%. As a result, production has increased our powder spray efficiency, disposed of less scrap powder, achieved higher quality for painted parts, and significantly reduced color change times.

We also replaced all highbay lights in our production facility and warehouse, and all outdoor lighting around the plant with new energy efficient LED fixtures. Energy savings for this recent installation will be measured throughout 2014.

A comprehensive new high-efficiency 15-unit HVAC system with an average Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating of 12.0 is being installed to replace a circa-1999, 9.0 SEER-rated 200 ton cooling system on the roof of our US headquarters. Based on today’s energy rates, we expect that these new HVAC units will save the company 20% per year in electricity expense. To further boost efficiency, a sophisticated web-based control system will allow for in-house and remote monitoring. What’s more, the new HVAC units employ ebm-papst impellers!

Tags: ebm-papst, GreenTech, RadiPac, ebm-papst Group, AHR, AxiTop, epylen

Why Personal Connections Still Count in a Digital World

Posted on Thu, Feb 06, 2014
MarkPierce 110x135by Mark Pierce, Senior Director, Sales

Everywhere you look, digital communication is exploding. Baby Boomers and Generation Xers must adapt to how Millennials — our first generation of digital natives — are changing the way we live and work.

According to Pew Research, 56 percent of American adults now own smartphones. Mind-blowing factoid: A recent United Nations study reported in TIME found that while more than 6 billion people (85 percent of the world’s population) have cell phones, only 4.5 billion have access to working toilets!

Because of their time constraints and work demands, we often find that our customers are more comfortable using email, text, or social media. Digital communications offers us new ways to build direct relationships with our wired and educated customers and give them the tools to be advocates for our brand. Their input through digital channels also offers an important feedback loop for product development.

But in our quest to speed up the process, are we dropping the ball? Author-entrepreneur Austin Allison thinks so. In his words, “Physically connecting with another individual creates the ability to sell without using a machine as the mediator.” His new book talks about how we need to juxtapose traditional face-to-face interactions with digital communication that makes sense.

Our customers must feel confident that ebm-papst will support them through both good times and tough situations.   

So while we’re adept at communicating through digital, we also know that sometimes it is more important to pick up the phone, get in the car, or jump on a plane to make the personal connections and have detailed conversations.

Strengthening relationships with our customers is one of the most important responsibilities of our sales team, and communicating effectively is a key ingredient.  We continually strive to build the trust that leads to great products and excellent service.

About Mark Pierce
ebm-papst Senior Director of Sales Mark Pierce thinks like a customer because he’s worn that hat. Before joining ebm-papst in 2000, he served as a purchasing/operations manager for an international refrigeration compressor manufacturer. With a B.A. in Business Administration from
Mercer University in Atlanta, Mark enjoys working with ebm-papst customers to solve their thermal challenges and provide solutions for their applications. In his free time, Mark and his wife keep busy with their four children’s many activities.

Tags: Customer Relationships, ebm-papst, Digital Natives, CRM, Peoplework, Mark Pierce, Sales

Cooling the Cloud, One Data Center at a Time

Posted on Thu, Jan 30, 2014
describe the imageBy Peter Kimmett - Business Development Manager

In my last post, I discussed how we're reducing acoustic levels for equipment that cools today's fast, high-powered computer systems. Today, I'm exploring the other side of the equation: heat reduction.

In our world of growing cloud-based services, users want more online storage, faster video streaming and quicker access to information. In a recent article in The Data Center Journal, Jeff Clark discusses how, as energy prices and demand for cloud services increase, the demand for efficient systems to save data center floor and rack space is also growing.

While higher density data system racks can reduce facility size requirements, their cooling systems also need to accommodate higher heat loads within these smaller areas.

With an increase in rack density – both in power and airflow impedance – the challenge of keeping these systems cool while still remaining within old standards limitations is becoming significant. The dilemma? How to keep one’s data center upgrade costs low while providing the additional cooling that’s essential for higher-power density equipment which can now approach 20+ kilowatts per rack.

In this changing environment, equipment manufacturers must accommodate aging standards while also meeting higher cooling flow needs in denser rack systems. As rack densities increase, air-cooling becomes more expensive and more challenging.

As cloud-based services continue to grow, ebm-papst continues to refine technologies that help maximize cooling capacity of our air movers to meet a wide range of data center requirements. Whether it’s our new line of highly efficient compact RadiCal impellers or high-pressure capable axial fans, such as our new DV6300 series, we are always pushing the improvement curve.

Have you experienced any of the above cooling challenges in your IT/Telecom applications? If so, how did you resolve them? What solutions did you choose moving forward? We welcome your feedback in the comments box below!

About Pete Kimmet

ebm-papst Business Development Manager Peter Kimmett approaches projects in the IT/Telecom market with the same focus and determination he applies to his sports and technology interests. With a B.S.M.E. from Western New England University, he uses his engineering background, detail-oriented mindset and sense of humor to work towards common goals across the company’s disciplines and teams. A tech geek and Apple enthusiast who keeps up on the latest personal and mobile product trends, he enjoys rock climbing, snowboarding, soccer, running and experiencing different cultures through travel.

Tags: DV6300, RadiCal, ebm-papst, IT/Telecom, Pete Kimmet, Data Centers, Axial, cooling, cloud computing

Finding new ways to a 'green' enterprise

Posted on Thu, Jan 23, 2014
LizCallaghan 110x135by Liz Callaghan – Director of Customer Service & Logistics

As 2014 begins, we're continuing our GreenTech commitment to reduce our carbon footprint in all that we do. From packaging and shipping materials to logistics and customer service to lighting and equipment, here are just a few of the ways that ebm-papst makes good on our commitment to sustainability!

  • Wareshouse 350pxWe recently replaced all lighting in our warehouse with new LED lighting, which will significantly reduce our energy usage.

  • Over the years we have gotten away from the use of chemically based InstaPak foam and moved toward the use of recyclable brown paper. 

  • We recycle and reuse wooden skids for shipments.

  • We save all small cardboard boxes and dividers, to reuse them again.

  • We have reduced our paper consumption by emailing purchase order confirmations and customer invoices, rather than mailing a paper version.

  • In our logistics center, we've replaced our older pallet scales with new state-of-the-art scales. The floor scales are not only more accurate, they're also saving energy!

    FloorScale 300px

  • Our Logistics Center and Customer Service departments work with our customers to consolidate their shipments where possible. Bundling several orders together helps reduce the number of boxes and skids needed.

  • Our Logistics Center is equipped with motion sensor lighting in all aisles, helping reduce electricity costs. 

  • We continue to upgrade equipment, such as order pickers and forklifts, to more energy efficient models.

About Liz Callaghan
As Director of Customer Service and Logistics at ebm-papst, Liz Callaghan enjoys meeting in person the customers with whom she’s developed productive relationships over the past 17 years. Her responsibilities include warehouse logistics, international purchasing and inventory control. A constant learner, she leverages her diverse experiences to anticipate and address logistics issues in advance, ensuring the best possible service to prospective and current customers.

Tags: Customer Service, Every Day is a GreenDay, LED Lighting, Logistics, Recycle, Liz Callaghan, ebm-papst, GreenTech, Energy Efficiency, Carbon Footprint, Green, Energy Saving

Ergonomics for the manufacturing floor – keeping it healthy and safe

Posted on Thu, Jan 16, 2014
BrianLadegard 110x145
By Brian Ladegard- Director of Operations

In manufacturing, we have to anticipate and react to several challenges that arise when building
our products – product weight and required fastener torque are two of the most common.

Product Weight
Our products have become increasingly larger over the years, as our product range has expanded and our EC motors began to proliferate. We now work with parts that are much heavier than previous generations.
To avoid unScizzor Jacknecessary injuries (such as back strain or pulled muscles) from product lifting, we researched, specified and installed many lift assist devices. These devices range from the simplest form of a Scissor Jack, whereby the product pallet can be raised off the floor to a more comfortable 32” working height, to more elaborate larger crane systems.

Generally, we use two main types of cranes – overhead bridge cranes and freestanding jib cranes. Overhead describe the imageBridge Cranes allow for mechanically assisted part lifting
and then movement from station to station in a work cell. Typically, this type of crane assists in moving product through 3-5 stations in succession. Freestanding Jib Cranes perform the same assisted lifting – but only do this in a small circular area around their base. Typically, we use jib cranes to pull parts out of boxes, put parts into boxes, or assist with lifting in a single work space. Both are designed to keep operators from becoming fatigued over a full shift of work.

Required Fastener Torque
The other related challenge is fastener torque. Along with our product sizes – the fasteners we use have also grown overtime. Generally, fastener torque is proportional to the size of the fastener. Torque is the twisting force required to install a specific fastener so that it tightens the mechanical joint and keeps it from separating.
The issue with torque is one of physics – for every force there is an equal and opposite force. So, when we use a pneumatic or electric screwdriver to apply this force, there is an equal and opposite reverse force felt by the person (or device) that is holding the screwdriver.  This is called a “torque reaction” or “break back torque”. If left unchecked, it can cause muscle damage, aches and soreness to operator wrists. So, whenever we use devices with higher torque values we employ an “ergo arm” or a “counterbalanced arm”. These arms are supplied by the makers of the screwdrivers and are designed to allow for free movement of the screw gun, while eliminating break back torque on the operator’s wrists. Typically, they also balance the physical weight of the tool – so operators can work for long periods using this tool with comfort.

About Brian Ladegard
A lifelong tinkerer with a passion for product engineering, ebm-papst Inc. Director of Operations Brian Ladegard draws his expertise from the variety of engineering and sales positions he has held at the company over the past 20 years. He’s managed ebm-papst operations since 1996, including manufacturing engineering, production planning, component purchasing, production/plant operations, building maintenance and external contractors. Brian also oversees the company’s MRP planning, inventory control, capacity planning, bar coding, shop floor control systems and strategic sourcing activities.

Tags: ebm-papst, GreenTech, Manufacturing, Scizzor Jack, Product Weight, jib cranes, break back torque, counterbalanced arm, Efficiency, ebm-papst Inc. Director of Operations, Fastener Torgue, product lifting, fastener, torque, ergonomics, Brian Ladegard, Ergo Arm, overhead bridge cranes

How to avoid HVAC motor failure

Posted on Thu, Jan 09, 2014
describe the image
by Matt Menard, Market Manager - Air Conditioning

In the world of HVAC, motors move conditioned air throughout the system. When a motor fails, cooling or heating ceases, leaving occupants of that building uncomfortable. The motor can be replaced relatively quickly with an experienced technician. However, diagnosing what caused the failure is difficult, time consuming and often ignored.

Motor failure is a major headache that can cost building owners significant money. With limited budgets and resources, implementing a preventative maintenance program on motors to minimize failures can be difficult for most. So what is the solution?

HVAC System 400pxThe December 9 issue of ACHR News discusses causes and prevention of motor failure. All of these types of failure can be avoided by choosing external rotor EC motor technology, such as is utilized in ebm-papst’s product line, to boost reliability and efficiency.

  1. Belt — Belt tension is critical in avoiding vibrations between the fan wheel and motor. Belts tend to stretch throughout their lifetime, so technicians tend to over tighten during replacement. A belt that is too tight overloads the motor and shortens the lifespan. ebm-papst external rotor motors do not use belts—the fan wheel is mounted directly to the motor rotor.

  2. Overheating — This is the most common cause of failure. Dirt buildup on the fan wheel and poorly designed/installed ductwork causes additional strain on the motor resulting in overheating and a shortened lifespan. ebm-papst EC motors have temperature sensors built into the internal electronics package that act as a safety device in the case of overheating.

  3. Electrical Fluting — When utilizing a Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) for speed control, users can experience a phenomenon called electrical fluting, which basically equates to a mini-lightning storm that occurs within the motor as voltage and frequency are regulated by the VFD. This ‘storm’ affects the bearings, resulting in premature failure. Electrical fluting is unpredictable and requires additional measures such as shaft grounding kits and ceramic bearings to prevent. ebm-papst EC motors have built-in speed control and do not require a VFD, eliminating the electrical fluting issue.

In addition to eliminating belts, adding temperature sensors and built-in speed control, industry experts such as Jim Connell of AirXChange Inc. believes that ECM fans are more reliable and use less energy than traditional AC motors and drives.  Utilizing external rotor EC motor technology provides not only the most reliable, but most efficient technology available.

Tags: speed control, air conditioning, motor failure, motors, Overheating, EC motors, ebm-papst, HVAC, HVAC&R, EC Technology, Efficient Technology, Efficiency, Electrical Fluting, External rotor motors, Belts, Variable Frequency Drive (VFD)

Solar and wind power: keeping the moving parts cool

Posted on Thu, Dec 12, 2013
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By Todd Cardillo, Market Manager - Industrial Markets

Generating wind and solar power presents an interesting challenge. As energy is generated, other power must be generated to help keep the whole process cool.

In the case of wind power, wind-turbine capacity continues to grow each year, with 6 to 10 megawatts (MW) on the horizon, key power generation components are needed to manage increasing heat within limited nacelle space. The generator, power-conversion electronics and transformers (inverter), gearbox unit, blade pitch motors and tower structure all need to be cooled within a wind-turbine nacelle. Each of these components requires different cooling needs. That’s where ebm-papst Inc.’s wide range of products comes in, Whether it is a small axial fan for blade pitch motor cooling or multiple large impellers to exhaust heat and pressurize an inverter, we provide innovative solutions.

Inverters: the heart of the system
While the infrastructure for solar applications is much less complex than that of the wind sector, there is still a need to convert DC power to AC with an inverter. As a main component in both wind power and photovoltaic (PV) systems, it is important that the inverter function properly to optimize system output. Factors that affect the life cycle of the inverter include:

  • Operating temperatures, which are caused by power loads and ambient conditions

  • Location of the inverter

  • Time of year and day the inverter is operating

  • Size of the wind turbine or solar array involved

Air movers are essential to mitigating heat and improving long-term reliability of wind power and photovoltaic systems. One of our key products, the GreenTech EC fan, provides the ability to remotely monitor operation via the Internet or a modem. All critical information, including speed, motor temperature and operating messages or alarms, can be monitored.

Click here for an overview of our cooling fans and blowers, and download our Alternative Energy brochure to learn more about the different air moving solutions we offer.

Tags: Fans, Solar Power, Wind Power, photovoltaic (PV) systems, Solar Applications, Power generation, Wind Turbine, ebm-papst, GreenTech, energy, Inverters, Alternative Energy

Using Computational Fluid Dynamics analysis to reduce our time "back at the drawing board"

Posted on Thu, Nov 21, 2013
Scott Beauchemin
By Scott Beauchemin, Vice President – 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:

  • CFD 200pxRun 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 sales@us.ebmpapst.com.

Tags: ebm-papst, engineering, Efficiency, design, CFD, Computational Fluid Dynamics

4 ways we value and support our employees

Posted on Thu, Nov 14, 2013
DonB 110x135
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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

          Tags: ebm-papst, jobs, employees

          Tools of the High Mix Manufacturer

          Posted on Thu, Sep 26, 2013
          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.

          IMG 0427 resized 600

          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.

          Tags: ebm-papst, Manufacturing, Efficiency