IWF 2018 and EcoGate Dust Collecting Technology

Welcome to the first student blog post for the Georgia Tech branch of the Industrial Assessment Center(IAC)! Let me first introduce myself; I’m Sarah Panitz, 4th year mechanical engineering student. I like long walks on the beach and lazy Sunday afternoons… now that I’ve piqued your interest with my very cliché response let me actually introduce myself and the rest of the team. The Georgia Tech IAC program from left to right includes Shum, Kelly, Sai, Frank, Sinan, Rachel, Toffee, me, and Mikaela.

As the stereotype of the type of engineering goes I bet you can probably guess what the majority of the IAC students are studying…and you wouldn’t be wrong! Mikaela, Shum, Sai, and Rachel are studying mechanical engineering, otherwise known as my personal favorite engineering discipline. While Frank and Toffee are both Industrial and System Engineering majors (ISyE). Kelly, a recent Tech grad in mechanical engineering and former IAC student, now works for Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2, yes we actually say “E I squared”, yes we are nerds, this is Georgia Tech after all) and helps out with the IAC program. Next there is Sinan, he is the main dude running the program on the EI2 side of things, AKA the Assistant Director. Finally, there is Dr. Comas Haynes, he is not in this picture, but he is the Director for IAC program and he is on the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) side of the program.

As the semesters go by, many students will come and go, as they are studying abroad, co-oping, interning, and graduating. But, for Fall 2018, the above picture represents the core Georgia Tech IAC team.

OK! Now that we’ve gotten all the pleasantries out of the way, it’s time to dive into what goes on during an average week for the IAC program and its members.

On Friday August 24th in the early afternoon, Shum, Frank, Mikaela, and I all met up at the Georgia Tech student center to carpool down to the Georgia World Congress Center to attend the International Woodworking Fair 2018 in order to visit a company called EcoGate and get an in-depth view of their dust collection technology. Why, you might ask, would we want to investigate dust collection and the potential technologies out there? Well, that’s an excellent question and the answer is simple, the IAC program in a nutshell is all about energy efficiency and minimizing waste–we look at manufacturing sites and find all the things that can be changed, updated, or potentially installed to help reduce the energy and water consumption, and/or improve productivity. We do this by giving assessment recommendations (ARs) that break down potential savings as well as the return on investment in years. If that is a bit tricky to understand, essentially we recommend things like changing all of the lights in a facility to LEDs, updating motors, adding motion sensors to low occupancy areas, and repairing compressed air leaks, to name a few ARs to promote both savings in energy consumption and cost.

Now, back to Ecogate and why we all went there in the first place. Dust collection is a very important aspect in many manufacturing sites, you’ve got to have it to remove debris like sawdust in a woodworking plant. Dust collection systems typically use large motors and fans to pull debris from work stations into overhead ducts, which route it to external baghouses or other storage facilities. These motors that run dust collection fans are typically major energy users. They can also produce a lot of noise pollution, and if not designed right can be extremely wasteful. Ecogate’s demo was to point out all the ways to make the system more efficient and simpler. Their system uses individual gates for each work station that automatically close ducts when equipment isn’t being used. This system communicates to the main controller to decrease the dust collector fan speed accordingly. This is done through the use of a variable speed drive (VSD) on the fan motor.

So, Ecogate showed us some really cool technology, in fact we’ve already written an AR on this exact topic! We suggested that through the installation of a VSD and a control system using the same sort of technology that Ecogate demonstrated, our client could not only reduce dust collection air flow by 27%, but also reduce their motor energy consumption by 75%. This is possible due to the fan affinity laws, where power consumption decreases by a cubic function based on flow or speed reduction.

If we just look at numbers, implementation cost alone of this dust collection control/VSD system can be upwards of $50K but with this specific AR we estimated that they their payback period would only be 1.58 years as there were savings in both the natural gas and electrical energy side.

And with that comes the end of the IWF and a Friday afternoon in Atlanta, GA.