Converting from steam to thermal fluid heating for its process heating needs has allowed one manufacturer to gain process efficiencies and increased production output, but the addition of specialist software has enabled them to go a step further.
Precise Temperature Control
Established 60 years ago, TRB Lightweight Structures is a leading OEM for the rail, aerospace, defence and marine industries, designing and manufacturing tailor-made lightweight solutions and bespoke fabricated assemblies.
The company uses advanced processes and manufacturing techniques to produce Cellite panels that are subsequently fabricated and assembled into finished, ready to install products, from train doors and interiors, aircraft galleys, satellite components to race car chassis.
TRB Lightweight Structures’ Huntingdon site covers over 9000m² and includes multi-daylight heated platen presses, metal pre-treatment, CNC machining, large ovens for vacuum moulding, full painting facilities and a clean assembly area.
Adapting to Change
Facilities Manager Barry Kimber has been integral in ensuring the manufacturing facilities and processes are maintained at peak efficiency together with meeting the developing needs of the business. At the heart of this recent development has been a move away from steam heated platen presses to a thermal fluid heating and cooling system, whilst at the same time installing new platens that completes the investment programme.
Barry explains his decision to replace the steam heating system: “When I joined TRB, we were using two steam generators to heat the presses, with water cooling and condense return systems. The water in a steam system can become corrosive as acid builds up in the condensate, which can lead to damage in the pipework, and although we had converted to stainless steel pipes, we were always aware of the potential environmental impact. The boilers were old and were becoming expensive to run and, conscious of the possible safety issues of using an 8 bar steam process, we made the decision to investigate other systems.”
Let the Software Help
This is made all the easier with the software taking automatic readings every six seconds. The data is readily retrievable by simply downloading onto a flash drive. Statistical information is then available in a variety of formats, including clear graphs.
The software operates the new Babcock Wanson Temperature Control Units on each press. They are connected to both the heating and cooling distribution loops to automatically feed the hot and cold fluid to each press as and when required meaning that each part of the line can be at a different part of the thermal cycle at any given time.
For Barry and TRB, the new heating and cooling system has provided a genuine competitive edge. “Control of temperature is very important to the product and therefore to the business as a whole” states Barry. “With the new system and software, we can be highly accurate with the temperature control which not only increases the range of products the company can process but also considerably increases panel capacity.
It’s also a lot more compact. “We have now removed the old boiler house, the treatment system and the oil tank. We no longer need these as the thermal fluid system is fuelled by gas. It makes for a much cleaner, safer and easier system to manage on top of all the other benefits.”
— Loucas Antoniou, Engineering Manager at Bakkavor Meals London
“The Thermal Oxidiser is the most efficient way of removing any smells and it’s also very straightforward to use. We have been a customer of Babcock Wanson for many years and have always enjoyed a good service.”
— Carbon Trust Annual Report 2009/10
“A major carbon footprint reduction will be achieved when the scheme currently in progress to change the main boiler fuel from heating oil to gas is completed in summer 2010. This £900k project will reduce our carbon emissions via energy usage by around 15% by removing the need to use heavy fuel oil, as the new boiler plant will use natural gas as its main fuel source.”
— Webster & Horsfall
“What we hadn’t expected initially though is the level of control the new system provides us with; it’s amazing. It alerts us to any potential issues, is easy to maintain (no annual statutory inspection is required) and is quick to respond. All that and it doesn’t take up much room.”
— Peter Connolly, Production Engineer at Vacu-Lug
“The ESM 2000 installation, together with an ongoing programme of process plant lagging and steam trap maintenance, has enabled us to significantly reduce our gas usage and cushion the company against rising gas prices.”
— Dave Scrivens, Facilities Manager at Plastic Omnium
“Babcock Wanson’s expertise and ability to provide a whole package made them the leading contender for this project. On further investigation, their proposal was also commercially viable, which sealed the deal.”
— Denis Kelly, Engineering & Construction Manager at Stolthaven Dagenham
“The Thermal Fluid Heaters themselves were ideal for this project as they are based on mature technology and are well proven in the field. They are robust and also require very little maintenance.”
— Ian McQuarrie, Engineering Manager at Puredrive
“During my three years here, the Steam Generators and Thermal Fluid Heaters have worked flawlessly. Babcock Wanson carries a good name in the business for both quality and equipment longevity. Their knowledge, company wide, is exceptional and the whole package from installation through to service is managed professionally.”
— Jason Hall, J&A Young Engineering Manager
“We had estimated our steam requirements, but Babcock Wanson had the experience to understand that we had underestimated this. In fact, the erratic nature of the steam loads would have been impossible to meet under our existing spec. Babcock Wanson was able to identify this as well as provide a very energy efficient solution with a number of enhanced features”.
— Lee Bullen, Corrugated Services Manager at Board24
“It’s running very well, both easy to use and efficient. The service from Babcock Wanson has also been very good.”
— Peter Shrimpton, Engineering Projects Manager at Bridgnorth Aluminium Ltd
"We were unfamiliar with Babcock Wanson, but we’ve had no problems with it whatsoever; you simply switch it on and it works – simple as that! The service we have received from Babcock Wanson has also been great.”