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“Electrification of machines is the trend”

“Electrification of machines is the trend”

Mr. Möller, what contribution can Baumüller, as a drive specialist for mechanical engineering, make towards mitigating the climate crisis?

We help to reduce the energy consumption of machines; less energy also means CO2 reduction. A good example is our drive automation solution for servo-hydraulics. Here we combine the advantages of hydraulic power transmission with the control quality and dynamics of energy-efficient electric drive technology plus intelligent software. In this way, a lot of energy can be saved. In the field of plastic injection moulding machines, the servo-hydraulic drive has already established itself as a standard.

Are there other advantages of electric drives besides energy efficiency?

It is much more precise. For example, high-voltage components of electrical connection technology and also complex plastic components for automotive interior or exterior components are produced on such machines. Such solutions are crucial for e-mobility and replacing heavier metallic components such as steel with plastic is very important for lightweight construction. This can reduce weight and increase the range of the vehicles. This also saves energy and is an important contribution towards the acceptance of e-mobility as well as climate protection.

The use of electric drive technology with its high precision and dynamics also makes an important contribution to high productivity with very good process reliability. This reduces scrap to a minimum, thereby generating additional savings. We have a very well-matched portfolio of solutions for the electrification of drive axes in plastics machinery, with which hybrid and fully electric machines can be realized.

Is the share of electrical machinery increasing?

We see a trend toward a further increase in the degree of machine electrification and the proportion of electrically driven axes in machines. We are witnessing increasing demand for drive solutions for hybrid and fully electric machines. This is understandable, as these machines are used to manufacture packaging or medical technology products for example.

So how extensive are the savings in terms of carbon footprint?

It is easy to quantify the energy savings in terms of kilowatt-hours saved. For servo-hydraulic solutions, for example, the benchmark is defined as savings of at least 30 percent. Ultimately, of course, the level of savings achieved always depends on the application. In addition, machine builders and users benefit from other advantages of electric drive technology.

Keywords here are productivity increases through parallel functions, less material input as a result of shorter start-up times after set-ups, better repeat accuracy in production, and lower noise emissions to protect production employees. This has always been important, which is why even earlier on, machines used electric drive technology. But the advantages of electrics have become even more significant with the current quest for combined sustainability.

To what extent does digitization help in this context?

In principle, digitization is an important catalyst for achieving ambitious climate targets. It is also a good tool for efficiently exploiting the potential of drive technology with optimum manpower and resources. One example is simulation software. By means of a digital twin, you can anticipate commissioning; you can optimally design the drive components before you start the real machine. Another example is modern communication interfaces for intelligent machine communication within the production network, with peripheral devices or, for example, with upstream and downstream value creation stages.

Apart from its core business of mechanical engineering, Baumüller also drives electrification forward in other areas. What are you doing specifically?

We have been enabling the electrification of mobile vehicles and ships for very many years. Here too, we work with fully electric and hybrid systems and combine the advantages of different technologies. In addition to a fully electric concept with batteries, we also use hybrid concepts with conventional fuels or hydrogen as a storage method.

For example, we often use such hybrid concepts for larger mobile machinery or ships, whereby the combustion engine always functions at the optimum operating point and supplies the electrical consumers via a high-voltage intermediate circuit. The result is fuel savings of 20 percent and more, meaning a further contribution to CO2 reduction and thereby to sustainable climate protection.

Is demand also increasing in this area?

We definitely see a push here as well. The quest for sustainability is clearly the driver. As is the case in the plastics industry, this trend is irreversible. Solutions have to be developed and implemented continuously. It’s a long road, but there is no alternative to this path. There has always been discussion about energy efficiency and energy saving, but it is only our current climate protection and our CO2 reduction targets that cause these concepts to be pursued more consistently and implemented to a greater extent, also as a result of stronger consideration of the total cost of ownership.

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