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Product design the eco-friendly way

Published: 11 October 2012 - Joe Bush

Tsubaki is helping its customers reduce the environmental burden of their operations and improve economic efficiency via a new approach to product design and development

Tsubaki’s new Eco & Eco philosophy (Ecology and Economy) of product development has been created to promote efficiency, improve resource recycling and increase reuse potential for its customers. The new ethos also aims to reduce running costs through long wear life and maintenance-free operation, and by producing inherently simpler products, customers can also help to reduce procurement costs.

Tsubaki has instituted a policy that all products it develops must be environmentally friendly. This results in products that save energy, reduce CO2 emissions, eliminate lubrication for a cleaner workplace, reduce waste, ensure long life, reduce noise, enable re-use, and eliminate the use of harmful materials and substances. Now the company has formalised these joint development goals into the Eco & Eco range.

Tsubaki UK sales director, Derek Mack, commented, “The entire Tsubaki Group has been working together for some time to ensure that all new product developments are environmentally friendly. We have looked at the ecological factors that we can directly control, and classified them into seven categories - resource conservation, with a reduction in waste; energy saving, with reduced CO2 emissions; clean workplace and usage environments; consideration for the surrounding environment; ease of disposal; reuse; and consideration for harmful substances.”

Product characteristics

The small size, low weight, lube-free design and long wear life of the Tsubaki chain products, combine with reduced weight, elimination of residue and the ability to recycle aids in the conservation of resources. In addition, the low friction and high efficiency help to reduce energy consumption, thus lowering energy costs and reducing CO2 emissions. By running lube-free, and with minimal dust, the chains help to ensure a cleaner working environment.

Consideration for the surrounding environment comes by minimising all forms of pollution, including lubricant, noise, vibration and odour. Use of a rationalised, simpler range of materials in the manufacture of the products, promotes ease of disassembly and disposal, and many of the materials can be reused. Tsubaki has also worked to eliminate harmful substances, many in line with customer requests, and instead has promoted the use of safe materials such as edible grease.

Eco & Eco products are already available in the full range of Tsubaki chains, including Lambda chain, NEP corrosion resistant chain, BX-PC corrosion resistant chain, GT4 Winner chain and G7 chain, and all new additions to the Tsubaki range will be Eco & Eco products.

Making economic sense

In addition to the ecological benefits for users, there are also economic advantages. The increased wear life means a reduction in maintenance time and effort, and the elimination of regular chain switching costs. In addition, the chain products deliver significantly increased performance, which means users can reduce chain size for a given application, lowering product costs and reducing overall equipment size.

An example of this can be seen when Tsubaki recently looked at a brewery project where 18 conveyors were being used to transport pallets of barrels. Each conveyor ran for 9.75m, with a 7.5kW electric motor driving a 3-strand chain at 15m/min. However, chain lubricant splashing onto the pallets and barrels was resulting in defects, contamination problems and rejects. The customer tried to solve the problem by stopping lubricating the chain, but after a few months, the running of the chain became stiff and the rollers showed a flat surface. Vibration increased significantly, and the motor started getting very hot, resulting in constant thermal tripping.

As a solution Tsubaki recommended a lubrication-free alternative, using a 2-strand bearing roller chain. The rollers are completely maintenance-free, and because of the lower friction the customer was also able to use a smaller power motor - just 1.5kW. The end result was that energy consumption was reduced from 27,000kWh to just 5,400kWh. This both lowered the energy costs, and meant a CO2 reduction from 15,255kg to 3,056kg.

In addition, there was a significant equipment cost saving, both from the 2-strand chain, meaning fewer chain meters, and from the significantly smaller electric motor. With no need for lubrication, there were significant maintenance savings, while the long-life design of the chain meant an operating life increase from just four years promised by the existing product to approximately 15 years.

“At Tsubaki we are mindful of the environment in all of our operations, and recognise that we have a responsibility to develop products which are more environmentally friendly,” Mack concluded, “This is a key driver for new product development. But at the same time we see that our customers are also facing environmental pressures, and therefore our own ecological design principles can offer direct customer benefits too.”



 
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