Left to right: Dr Ing. Paul Refalo, Dr Ing. Emmanuel Francalanza, Mr Kyle Abela, Ing. Alistair Ciantar (AIM Enterprises Ltd.)
A successful collaboration between AIM Enterprises Ltd and the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering at the University of Malta was established during the past academic year to strive towards a more sustainable future through industrial compressed air systems.
Dr Ing. Paul Refalo and Dr Ing. Emmanuel Francalanza have together supervised the final year engineering project of Mr Kyle Abela, supported by AIM Enterprises Ltd., a leading supplier of automation components. The project resulted in the design and construction of a compressed air system to act as a test bed in order to highlight the unsustainable effects associated with typical compressed air shortcomings found in industry.
Industrial manufacturing companies are recognizing the financial, environmental and reputational benefits of meeting sustainable targets concerning waste and excessive energy consumption. Compressed air systems, widely used in manufacturing automation, assembly and inspection equipment, provide a significant improvement opportunity in this regard. Typical systems have a very low output efficiency of 10-12% with around half of the available compressed air lost due to leakages, inappropriate uses and artificial demand (excessive system pressure). For this reason, compressed air systems comprise a growing field of research and innovation in both the academic and commercial sectors.
Preliminary tests carried out using the developed test bed show that fixing just one simple 1mm leak in a compressed air pipe saves around 1,600 kWh of electrical energy a year, which costs about 190 euro annually and results in 720 kg of carbon dioxide emissions. A typical compressed air network in a factory could have tens of unnoticed leakages.
Technical sales engineer for AIM Enterprises Ltd Ing. Alistair Ciantar said that “Such a partnership shows that a close relationship between academic institutions and industrial partners is beneficial to all parties involved. This test bed will give us the possibility to look into the impacts which various compressed air uses have on sustainability”.