MechChem Africa

Brian Abbott, product manager for SMC Pneumatics South Africa, takes us on a tour of some of its his company’s energy-efficient product displays at its Midrand showroom.

Protecting the environment, carbon footprint reduction and saving energy are global trends that have been driving the development of new SMC products for several years. “Reducing consumption of air and energy, along with the associated costs, contribute towards competitiveness and sustainability for modern producers that depend on pneumatics,” says Abbott, adding that SMC supports these initiatives through small and big innovations and product enhancements.

Globally, SMC’s energy-savings campaign includes energy-saving products; leak detection systems; savings assessment tools and audit services: “And local expertise is on hand to help clients to benefit from any of these initiatives,” says Abbott.

SMC cylinder volumeAt the simplest end of the spectrum, Abbott takes us to a display of standard actuators. “But these are not so standard,” he notes. “With the carbon footprint of our products in mind, we have redesigned SMC’s standard pneumatic cylinders to make them smaller, lighter and made from less material – this without changing the pressures or strokes or removing any of their functionality.

SMC´s optimised J Cylinders offer weight and volume reductions. The cylinders themselves s are 11% shorter in length, although the net stroke is unchanged; weigh 27% less and have 30% less volume than their CM2 series equivalents.

Through lightweighting and design optimisation of components such as shafts, pistons, end-caps and cylinder barrels, the same amount of force can be generated from a lighter actuator with a much smaller physical size and carbon footprint. “For mobile equipment, for example, as well as the material saving, less weight has to be moved so less energy is required to move it. Cylinder installation space is reduced by a third. This all adds up to significantly improved operational efficiencies; more cost-efficient machines, improved cycle times due to cylinder’s lightness and increase productivity,” Abbott notes, before asking us to compare the weight of J cylinder and its CM2 predecessor.

Moving to a nearby display, he shows us a simple initiative linked to right-sizing actuators to save energy. “We have always manufactured pistons in 40, 50 and 63, 80 and 100 mm sizes. We have now added intermediate sizes, though, 45, 56, 67 and an 85 mm. This allows customers to select a cylinder that will provide exactly the right force for their application. This saves energy because it avoids having to oversize a cylinder to achieve the force required. To move 95 kg, the 40 bore may not have been quite enough, but the next available size was 50 mm, which would be too big. By introducing the 45 bore cylinder the cylinder can be right-sized for the 95 kg application, without consuming unnecessary additional air,” Abbott explains

“This is where SMC is very strong. We go outside the norm and create products that are tailormade for their application,” he says.

SMC’s VBA Booster regulator is another simple innovation designed to overcome oversizing at plant level. Most pneumatic systems air lines in production facilities operate at 3.0 bar (0.3 kPa) pressure. But plants often have one or two cylinders that need more, 6 or 12 bar for example, to perform their moving, clamping or forming function.

“This pressure booster system uses only incoming compressed air and a clever arrangement of pistons to double or quadruple the available pressure. So, a higher-pressure application can be run without having to increase the line pressure of the whole system.

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