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AIC Group has enabled a prime aircraft manufacturer to save over £48,000 from the running costs of one of its autoclaves, and at the same time reduce the amount of propylene glycol used by 24,500 litres annually.
It explains that, just as importantly, the time taken to complete the project was minimised, so that the machine could be quickly brought back into production. This was achieved through upgrades to the autoclave, comprising: a water cooling upgrade; pipework replacement; and replacing the air blast coolers.
AIC’s work involved replacing the existing autoclave cooling system with a more efficient water cooling system to overcome problems of leakages and corrosion caused by additive reactions within the existing system.
It explains that the upgraded water cooling system delivered the significant reduction in chemical usage which contributed to the aerospace company meeting its environmental targets with running cost savings as well as energy cost savings. This new system allows for untreated pure water to be used, eliminating the risk of ground contamination from glycol leaks.
Environmental impact is described as a key feature of the design which eliminates the need for large quantities of coolant and additives. This also has a financial benefit, reducing chemical costs by as much as 98%, which includes disposal costs.
According to AIC, a fresh water tank provides frost protection with an immersion heater which automatically switches on at temperatures below 5 °C monitored, via an air temperature probe. AIC says its design allows for smaller Glycol cooling circuits , containing additives which are only necessary for the protection of critical equipment including coolers, heat exchangers and pumps.
The new parts of the systems consist of welded stainless steel pipework to eliminate any risk from galvanic stripping by chemicals. The previous autoclave pipework had been over 10 years old and was at the end of its serviceable life. It was constructed from galvanised steel and had corroded in several areas leading to multiple chemical leaks.
AIC explains the new pipes are made of 316L stainless steel, which provide prolonged longevity of service. The specification of stainless steel also allowed for ‘clean’ welds which will not leave burr residue inside the pipe that could potentially damage the water cooling system.
The cooling to the fan motors run on an automated control system which initiates pumping of coolant when any motor reaches 30°C and will continue circulating coolant for 20 minutes from the time the air circulation fans stop to ensure their temperature returns to normal. The motors are protected by flow switches which initiate alarms in the event of reduced coolant flow.
The final part of the upgrade, the replacement of the air blast coolers, also gave savings in energy and high cooling performance.
A new inline independent air blast cooler removes heat from the system which is supplied by duty and standby pumps. The cooler motors run on a randomised basis to reduce power consumption and wear.
Tim Denison, AIC’s Operations Director, said “This cooling system upgrade will greatly enhance the integrity and reliability of the plant installed and increase the availability of the Autoclave for production. It will accomplish this whilst also being environmentally and commercially beneficial.”
“It was a complicated job and I am pleased we were able to complete it quickly and minimise the amount of down-time.”
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