Five Becomes One: German Manufacturer Improves Efficiency by Turning to Centralized Compressed Air Control

Controlling multiple compressed air stations centrally was the goal for German electronics expert, Weidmüller. So, they turned to BOGE and its airtelligence provis 3 system, which has enabled them to maintain control of its five compressed air networks in one location. With all information clearly displayed and all components controlled individually, Weidmüller has been able to optimize its monitoring and measurably improve efficiency.

Weidmüller GmbH & Co. KG is a family business which employs 6000 staff across the globe. At the company's headquarters in Detmold, Germany, approximately 2000 employees are responsible for the manufacture and sale of many electric connection technology products and solutions. These include web-based AI applications in the context of digitization, as well as components for device manufacture and switch cabinet construction. In 2022, the electronics specialist generated over 1 billion euros.

Initial situation: Separate Control of Five Compressed Air Networks

Compressed air is required in the company for assembly processes, as process and control air as well as for electroplating. To this end, Weidmüller installed five separate compressed air networks, each featuring up to seven compressors and other components.

The company primarily uses BOGE compressors, but also uses air compressors by other manufacturers. The machines cover many performance levels within a pressure range of 7 to 8 bar. In recent years, the larger networks have been controlled using an individual control, while the smaller ones have been controlled via a cascade control using pressure sensors.

Weidmüller went to BOGE because they wanted a new control that would incorporate all five compressed air networks and offer a better overview. Other requirements included a reduction in idling and thus increased efficiency. They also wanted to keep operating pressure and power consumption to a minimum.

Successful Field Test

In addition to the existing BOGE S 150, S 20, S 15 and S 29-2 compressors, there are two S 90-4s, one S 60-3 and one S 40-3 in use, which feature the focus control 2.0.

"We can read out the temperature, system pressure, network pressure and operating statuses directly at these machines," explains Jens Mühlbauer, project manager at Weidmüller. "This in itself is a huge advantage over older systems, which usually only display information about faults, load and idling as well as on/off."

But with the airtelligence provis 3, Weidmüller is now going one step further.

The functionality and operation of the interlocking control were first tried in a field test. This went so well that Weidmüller promptly decided to go ahead with the installation. The new control is backward compatible and easily integrates all models via Modbus Interface Module 2.0.

Furthermore, the airtelligence provis 3, together with the Open Platform Communications Unified Architecture (OPC UA) standard, enable secure and reliable communication with higher-level systems, for example a control room or energy management systems, based on the companion specification OPC 40250-1 Compressed Air Systems -- Main Control System. Weidmüller therefore now uses one central control for all components in the five compressed air networks.

Optimal Adjustment to Direct Demand

The control is installed on a powerful industrial PC and integrated in a switch cabinet. The individual networks are each connected to the new control via a single patch cable. Within the network, the signals of the control are distributed to the individual compressors via the Ethernet switches.

"Thus, the conversion was complete in next to no time," says Jens Mühlbauer. "We provided our own power supply units and Ethernet switches to further boost the signals from the control. The transfer rate is very high and the system is very stable."

Less compressed air is required at Weidmüller at weekends and on public holidays. The control regulates this intelligently. It automatically selects the optimal compressor combination and optimizes the load and idle times. It can also manage fluctuating compressed air generation in different shifts. Over-compression can be avoided.

Energy management by the airtelligence provis 3 includes setting machine priorities. For example, a 90 kW compressor is connected to take precedence. It supplies Weidmüller's entire electroplating shop with both compressed air and heat and must, therefore, run constantly. The whole control was programmed to optimize efficiency. To this end, the volumetric flow rate generated is analyzed regularly.

24/7 Overview

The user can consolidate maintenance intervals, optimize running, and is automatically notified when the integrated machines require maintenance. This has a positive effect on the operating life of the machines.

The airtelligence provis 3 offers a perfect overview of all networks. For example, the operating hours are directly visible. "You can always keep your eye on utilization, the current power consumption and the free air delivery of the individual systems," says Jens Mühlbauer. "In the past, I had to go to every machine to get the information locally. It wasn't very handy at all."

Another advantage: improved energy efficiency. The electronics expert has been able to increase this by four to five percent. "That's quite a lot in a system of 450 kW," says the project manager emphatically. "This allows a significant improvement compared to systems that run purely via a cascade control or pressure switch -- not least because the pressure can be reduced on holidays and at night using redefined pressure ranges."

This can be done minute-by-minute and for every compressed air network separately, using a few touch commands, without having to laboriously search through the program. According to Mühlbauer, operation is child's play. The information of the individual networks and compressors can be displayed on several end devices.

Weidmüller is also set for the future because the airtelligence provis 3 can be expanded indefinitely as desired. Any further components that are added to the individual compressed air stations or additional networks that are formed can be easily integrated.

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