KraussMaffei combines processes for efficiency gains
Dr. Bourdon, what makes the KraussMaffei Group a sustainable company?
Dr. Karlheinz Bourdon: Our very structure is geared to sustainability. The KraussMaffei Group is present and active in extrusion, injection moulding and reaction processing. Our combined processes in particular make for significant energy savings; ColorForm for example is a single-stage process for making painted components, while the injection moulding compounder combines extrusion with injection moulding.
How do you make the savings?
Dr. Bourdon: Compounding is a form of extrusion where the plastic material is plasticised in a continuous process, mixed with additives or fillers and then granulated and cooled. For injection moulding, the granulate is then again melted, processed into individual plastic components and again cooled. Combining these two processes in one machine dispenses with one of the two heating and cooling stages. The energy saving achieved can be as much as 40 per cent. For many formulations, such as very long glassfibre-reinforced thermoplastics or very high filler contents of as much as 90 per cent by weight, this process is the only way of obtaining the shape required.
Is there any further potential for increasing efficiency?
Dr. Bourdon: I can see potential savings particularly in drive technology. We can still increase efficiency levels appreciably here if we use more electric drives. Energy savings of as much as 50 per cent can be achieved with an all-electric injection moulding machine, for example. But I think the future belongs mainly to hybrid injection moulding machines, where some functions are driven electrically and others hydraulically. Rotary motion can be obtained very easily using electricity, but hydraulic drives will still be needed where high-power linear motion is required.
There are a lot of countries where energy is much cheaper than in Germany and Europe. Can energy-efficient plants make inroads there?
Dr. Bourdon: Sustainability isn't only about energy. All resources must be used efficiently, and energy is only one of them. Conservation of resources is important on every market. If, for example, we improve a machine so that it produces five per cent more useable parts for the same input, everybody gains. Production efficiency improves, waste is reduced and resources such as energy, cooling water and materials are saved. That in turn produces a cost benefit, wherever you happen to be. I would put it like this: sustainability is resource-efficient and cost-efficient at the same time.