How to make sustainable and energy-efficient manufacturing work

The ETA transfer project has been taking the latest discoveries of energy efficiency research to the factories of manufacturing companies – the places where they can make a real difference. The project will come to an end in 2021. Time for some stocktaking.

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Cutting, cleaning, hardening – these are some of the manufacturing processes a prospective hydraulics part, for instance, must go through before it can be used. Often it is possible to link up several of these steps in a way that conserves energy. The Stuttgart-based industrial company Bosch Rexroth, for instance, has been able to lower the energy consumption of cleaning facilities by up to 95% by using waste heat from the hardening process. Under the ETA transfer research projects, this type of reduction potential was studied in cooperation with eight more partner companies and – wherever possible – harnessed in the manufacturing process. Many of the industrial companies involved were able to bring down their energy consumption by similar rates to those achieved by Bosch Rexroth.

The project emerged from its predecessor, the ETA factory (in German only), which was led by the Institute of Production Management, Technology and machine Tools (PTW) at Darmstadt University of Technology. The key to the high efficiency gains realised under the project can be found in its holistic approach to energy exchange between different machines and the factory building

Germany’s carbon footprint: major potential for improvement in the industrial sector

This is a highly valuable success considering that the German industrial sector accounts not only for a fifth of the country’s GDP, but also a fifth of its greenhouse gas emissions. This means that there is major potential for better energy efficiency in industrial manufacturing – and for more effective climate action. The research project ‘ETA factory’ was able to demonstrate how exactly this potential can be harnessed.

The follow-on project on ETA transfer has now translated these results into practice. The nine partner companies involved, all working in mechanical engineering and the vehicles industry, tested out in practice how they can lower their energy costs and make better use of existing resources. The objective here is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and work towards in-house climate targets.

Partner companies have cut their emissions by an annual 1,400 tonnes

According to those in charge of the project within the partner companies, these have so far been able to reduce their carbon emissions by more than 1,400 tonnes a year, with some partner companies already beginning a rollout of measures beyond the scope of the project. The systemic approach underpinning the project should help prevent any misguided investment decisions, e.g. in overly large installations. It is true that many individual measures are already commonly known in the industrial sector, but others require specialist expertise – including those exploiting links between manufacturing equipment and building technology which have been developed by the ETA transfer project team and the technology partners involved.

What is also important to note is the piloting character of the project, which makes it easy to bring measures to other sites and areas of manufacturing. The abstracts (in German only) and video tutorials (in German onlöy) that can be accessed on the project’s website can help with the transition to other companies.