Focusing on technology, for sustainability

  • 27-Mar-2012 03:41 EDT

Ken Hank, Executive Vice President Hydraulics USA, Bosch Rexroth Corp.

From time to time, a topic or issue becomes so heavily discussed throughout industry and manufacturing circles that it becomes a buzzword. A few years ago “sustainability” appeared headed for that fate. However, sustainability and sustainable manufacturing will continue to be driving forces into the future for many industries, including mobile equipment, especially as many companies are developing Tier 4 platforms.

Like our customers, Bosch Rexroth is a manufacturer, and we continue to pursue our own sustainable initiatives to eliminate waste and reduce our carbon footprint, even as we grow. For example, all Rexroth plants worldwide are scheduled to reduce their CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020. We’ve minimized the use of packaging materials and are using low-emissions process chemicals for windings. In 2010, our Fountain Inn manufacturing facility was recognized by the state of South Carolina for our recycling efforts; the facility recycled over 5.3 million lb (2.4 million kg) of material.

Sustainability for a company like Bosch Rexroth is also related to our continuous process of engineering products to make them as energy-efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly as possible. This principle includes helping our customers achieve those same goals using our equipment in their machines. In that regard, energy efficiency is one key area where we have focused significant resources for innovation and sustainable growth.

To guide this focus into the future, Bosch Rexroth has instituted a program called 4EE, which is a comprehensive approach to improving energy efficiency across manufacturing and is based on four concepts or “levers” for achieving greater energy efficiency.

These concepts include energy-efficient components, products, and systems designed for optimum energy efficiency; energy recovery, designing systems that regenerate and store excess energy, so it can be reused rather than wasted as heat; energy on-demand, creating components and systems that only use energy when needed, utilizing advanced intelligent controls technology; and energy system design, analysis of entire systems and use of simulations to identify where energy is wasted or can be delivered, or stored, more efficiently.

By focusing on these four areas, Bosch Rexroth can help its customers significantly reduce energy consumption without sacrificing operational performance. Since energy costs can affect total cost of ownership anywhere from 50 to 70% for individual machines, and up to 90% for an entire series of machines and systems, applying 4EE across the entire spectrum of systems can quickly and permanently reduce operating costs. Investing in energy efficiency, therefore, is not just environmentally friendly; it’s also a fundamental way to help drive future growth.

Ultimately, we believe that meeting the challenge of sustainability into the future can best be addressed by engineers, especially design and manufacturing engineers. As a world leader in mobile hydraulics, Bosch Rexroth is focused on providing best-in-class products engineered for mobile equipment manufacturers to enhance the energy efficiency of their machines—especially important, as the Tier 4 Final regulations reach full implementation.

In 2014, Tier 4 Final will be in effect, and diesel systems will be required to operate generating near-zero targeted emissions of particulate matter (soot) and nitrous oxide. This significant reduction has forced many mobile equipment manufacturers to fully redesign their systems.

Without good engineering, manufacturers risk creating machines that lack function and power optimization, or incorporate exhaust treatment systems that take up valuable machine space, compromising performance.

Bosch Rexroth has invested continuously in developing technologies that address the requirements of Tier 4 Final. Rather than develop just one or two products for this challenge, we have created a state-of-the-art suite of systems, built on a holistic approach to optimizing energy efficiency and environmental compliance in mobile machines. These systems include:

•    Electronically controlled hydrostatic fan drives to keep combustion engines at their optimum operating temperature, providing the precise amount of cooling output needed while reducing fuel consumption up to 5%.

•    Diesel Hydraulic Control to intelligently network both hydraulics and diesel engine control functions to maintain high responsiveness of the travel and working hydraulics, even under worsened load assumption conditions and reduced engine speed. For example, builders of compact loaders can utilize this concept to optimize the performance of the travel drive, the working hydraulics, and the electronic control, so the diesel engine can be downsized from 91 to 74 hp (68 to 55 kW).

•    Hydraulic Fly Wheel systems, commercially pioneered by Bosch Rexroth, which capture unused/excess energy and efficiently make it available when needed, enabling diesel engine power smoothing and more efficient use of mobile equipment.

•    New energy-efficient excavator controls that combine multiple hydraulics and control technologies to enable the conversion of more engine energy into efficient mechanical motion, so motors do not have to be over-sized to deliver the desired excavator performance.

•    Green Valves, which use a free and readily available source of energy: gravity. When lowering a boom on a telehandler, lift platform, or crane, these valves reduce fuel consumption and increase functional performance.

•    Total energy management solution for tractors, where Bosch Rexroth is exploring ways to economize on fuel and reduce emissions.

Engineering for sustainability and energy efficiency is not just good for the environment—it helps businesses reduce costs and get more efficient, productive work out of the systems and machines we use every day. 

The application of advanced, intelligent controls technologies to mobile hydraulic components and systems in the future will have a transformative effect—for those seeking to reduce emissions, comply with upcoming regulations, or produce better machines—or a combination of all three. It’s a smarter, more successful way to engineer a sustainable tomorrow, one which is cleaner, greener, and energized for growth.

Ken Hank, Executive Vice President Hydraulics USA, Bosch Rexroth Corp., wrote this article for SAE Off-Highway Engineering.

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