Three Simple Ways to Reduce Energy Consumption in Your Welding Operations
Matt Albright, Product Manager, The Lincoln Electric Company
|Today’s manufacturers face a daunting challenge: running a production line that not only delivers quality product on time and on budget but also meets various demands for energy efficiency and savings. Welding operations in any manufacturing facility are no exception. In fact, welding annually consumes at least $15 million worth of electricity in the United States and about $99 million worldwide.
Today’s manufacturing environments need an energy-efficient, reliable welding program that not only produces quality welds using multiple processes but also saves on operating and electricity costs. If you’re ready to boost the overall efficiency and reduce energy requirements of your facility’s welding operations in efforts to achieve this goal, consider following these three, easy steps:
1) Assess your existing equipment’s efficiency
Take a hard look at your welding shop and determine a time to make crucial upgrades that will increase overall productivity and quality as well as energy efficiency.
||Welding equipment is no exception, seeing that it can be a major power consumer on the shop floor. Rather than living by the old adage, "if it’s not broken, don’t fix it," ask yourself this: "are our current welding power sources maximizing energy savings and efficiency?"
Chances are if they are more than even five years old, they’re not. Even if they’re running in like new condition, older welding power sources lack the energy-saving capabilities of newer technology. While the upfront cost of upgrading might seem a bit daunting, the payback on upgrades may be faster than you think.
The latest welding power sources offer many benefits on the production line – from increased weld quality and deposition to increased energy efficiency. New software-driven production monitoring capabilities are also available.
To determine if your existing equipment is putting a dent in your bottom line, follow these steps:
Step 1 – Calculate output power
Take the output voltage, which is given as volts on your welding power source and then multiply it by the output current, found on your power source in amps. The total is known as output power.
Step 2 – Calculate input power|
Divide the total output power by the power source’s efficiency, which is provided by the welding equipment manufacturer to yield input power in kilowatts (KW).
Step 3 – Calculate daily operating costs during welding
To calculate KW hours used in one day, take the input power and multiply it by the hours per day that the power source is actively welding. Now, take this total and multiply it by the price per KW hour.
Step 4 – Calculate the daily operating costs during idle periods
To calculate the idle consumption per day, first take the input power multiplied by the idle hours per day. You’ll need this number later in your calculations.
Now find your power source’s input power idle number provided on the rating plate or in the instruction manual in watts and multiply it by the idle hours. Then, multiply by the price per kilowatt hour of power.
Step 5 – Calculate the total operating costs
Take the daily operating costs for welding as determined in Step 3 and add the daily operating costs for idle periods as calculated in Step 4. This equals the daily operating costs in dollars.
By comparing this final number for an older welding power source with the estimated daily operating costs of newer, more efficient power source, you can easily tell which machine will provide cost savings and an ultimate return on investment.
2) Consider switching to inverter technology
Inverter-based power sources allow manufacturers to deliver more power output from new power electronics technology, resulting in a better performance-to-size ratio. These models also deliver smooth operation with greater efficiency than many older, conventional welding power sources.
In the past, welding power sources were based on conventional transformers. The power supply took in 60 Hz 230, 460 or 575 volt power. A metallic transformer changed it from the relatively high input voltage to 60 Hz current at a lower voltage. This current then was rectified by a device known as a rectifier bridge to get a DC welding output, which was controlled by relatively slow control systems.
Older industrial power sources built on this technology are typically heavy and large, weighing in at 400 pounds or more. All tend to heat up during use and have limited ability to pulse any faster than 120 pulses per second due to control inefficiencies.
||With inverter technology, the incoming 60 Hz power is first rectified to DC and then is fed into the power supply’s inverter section where it is switched on and off by solid-state switches at frequencies as high as 120,000 Hz. This pulsed, high-voltage, high-frequency DC then is fed to the main power transformer, where it is transformed into the low-voltage DC that’s suitable for welding.
Some of the newest welding power sources, rated at 650 amps at 100 percent duty cycle with a range of 10 to 815 amps, weigh in at only 165 pounds vs. over 700 pounds for a single traditional power source of similar amperage. The new inverters also have a much smaller footprint than traditional welding power sources.
Inverters also feature advanced input voltage protection – a must for high-performance use on job sites where power supplied to the welding power source isn’t always necessarily robust or reliable, and instead can be more erratic. Lincoln Electric worked with some large end user customers to develop the latest inverter technology so that it is capable of surviving as much as 1000-volt input spikes on the job, and their welding equipment has survived and continued to operate.
Portable and lightweight, inverter-based welding power sources provide precise arc-starting capabilities and advanced output controls that allow welders to fine tune their welding output to desired parameters. The technology behind these units provides manufacturers with a power source that can perform high- and low-amperage flux-cored, stick, TIG and MIG welding, not to mention arc gouging and even CV submerged arc.
Today’s re-imagined inverter models deliver multi-process welding capabilities, offering faster arc response, smoother arc action and a more consistent bead appearance. This yields quality welds the first time around, eliminating the need to re-weld and also lessening the incidence of scrap.
3) Closely track shop floor production and efficiency|
Another way to track energy efficiency, overall production efficiency and quality is to begin using production monitoring tools in your welding operations. The latest welding power sources provide data collection capabilities through special weld data acquisition tools, allowing monitoring of weld performance, equipment condition and efficiency.
These tools provide immediate, user-friendly access to a wide array of data monitoring information regarding the welding arc, helping fabricators deliver and verify procedure adherence, including current and voltage information, as well as True Energy™ and heat input verification, especially for those applications requiring heat input records. These units feature advanced digital controls to sample the welding arc parameters at extremely high speeds to deliver consistent and reliable statistics.
The latest monitoring tools now use the "cloud" and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) technology. No computer hardware is required – saving on both capital expenditures and the energy to run such equipment – and the welder information can be viewed anywhere, anytime, and with any web device, without any special software.
With SaaS, the software application is not installed on a client computer or server like traditional licensed software. Instead the software is hosted remotely and accessible to a client over the Web. With SaaS, up-front expenses are minimal because of the subscription-based pricing model; implementation is quick, and software upgrades are easily accomplished.
AlwaysOn™ alert systems in the newest monitoring programs can track and analyze welder and facility faults, alerting you to issues even while you are away from the shop.This feature allows you to access your welder data anytime from anywhere – giving you 24/7 production and efficiency statistics that can be crucial to business decision and savings.
Energy savings: easier than you think
While the idea of revamping welding operations and equipment to reap much-needed energy savings might seem daunting at first, even a few simple changes can make a difference.
No two manufacturing facilities are alike. And, thus, no two facilities have the same level of energy usage in their welding shop. Careful assessment of your plant’s needs and power usage is the first step in generating savings. From that point forward, you can decide to upgrade, streamline and monitor your welding equipment in the way that best suits your shop’s needs and overall savings goals.
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