Significant cost savings made possible by modern vacuum technology

Maulburg - Phoenix Contact GmbH & Co. KG produces around 20,000 different injection-moulded parts for its own manufacture of all types of plug connector at its main plant in Blomberg. The supply of each individual injection moulding machine with plastic granulates and the transport of the crushed sprues to the collection containers is carried out via a centralised vacuum system equipped with Mink claw vacuum pumps, which offer Phoenix Contact significant advantages in its plastic part manufacturing in terms of maintenance, operational safety and energy costs.
Teilansicht der zentralen Vakuumversorgung mit Mink Klauen-Vakuumpumpen at Phoenix Contact
Partial view of the central vacuum supply with Mink claw vacuum pumps at Phoenix Contact

For Phoenix Contact's plastic part manufacturing, a new operational building was built and the previously decentralised workshop area for injection-moulded parts at the Blomberg site was consolidated and expanded. Head of single plastic part manufacturing Jens Fischer redesigned the manufacturing process and, as early as the planning stage, it was clear that they would be relying on dry-compressed Mink vacuum technology from Busch for vacuum generation in the pneumatic suction conveyor. This decision was based on the positive experience with a Mink from Busch back in 2004, when Phoenix Contact discovered that the maintenance expenditure was practically zero compared to the conventional oil-lubricated vacuum pumps previously in use.

When the manufacturing was incorporated into the new operational building, a new supply system from Digicolor was commissioned to supply material using a central vacuum system. It consists of a total of 28 Mink claw vacuum pumps in two different sizes that feed the material from the octabin or the collection containers via the dryers to the injection moulding machines and return the sprues crushed directly at the machine to the collection containers. Phoenix Contact processes a great number of compounds from various materials and in many different colours. Accordingly, this complexity is reflected in the suction conveyor system. 85 dryers alone are needed to reduce the residual material moisture prior to injection.

Production is performed to the greatest possible extent automatically in three-shift operation. This means that the material feed has to be ensured on all machines around the clock. The individual vacuum pumps are in operation between 70 and 90 per cent of the working time and therefore reach an annual operating time of 5,000 to 7,000 hours. Maintenance is limited to changing the gear oil, which Busch as the manufacturer stipulates should be carried out after every 20,000 operating hours. Under these conditions, this corresponds to a change interval of three to four years. Manfred Nunne, responsible for the production procedure, remembers the maintenance work required for the oil-lubricated vacuum pumps: an oil change, oil filter change and internal filter element replacement every year, which was combined with downtime, costs for the oil, its disposal and the replacement of wear parts.

Mink claw vacuum pumps compress the air they suck in without any operating fluids and without the moving parts in the compression chamber coming into contact with one another. Unlike with other mechanical vacuum pumps, this results in no wear. This is made possible by Mink claw technology in which two precisely manufactured claw-shaped pistons rotate in opposite directions without touching each other or the housing. In the minimal gaps between the moving parts, air turbulences ensure sealing and therefore the achievement of low end pressure. This construction principle made it possible to create an almost maintenance-free vacuum pump that does without wear parts to the greatest possible extent and thereby keeping all the costs and downtime associated with maintenance to a minimum.

Manfred Nunne can only confirm the high degree of availability of Mink claw vacuum pumps: since first using such a vacuum generator in 2004 and the continuous procurement of further pumps up to the current total of 28 Mink claw vacuum pumps, there has never been a breakdown, despite the high operating time.

The non-contact working principle of the Mink claw technology has another advantage: it achieves a higher degree of efficiency than other mechanical vacuum pumps. For the operator, this means that power consumption is significantly lower. At the same suction capacity, a Mink claw vacuum pump can be powered with a motor that is at least one output class lower than other mechanical vacuum pumps. At Phoenix Contact, this is clearly reflected in the annual energy costs: at least 11,000 euros in energy costs are saved every year.

Jens Fischer is therefore very happy to report that "We are pleased that we decided in favour of Busch Mink claw technology".

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