Resource-Efficient Products

At Schmalz, efficient use of limited resources (such as materials and energy) is a central business objective. In this regard, Schmalz places the main focus on its products: in addition to groundbreaking innovation, top quality, and maximum energy efficiency, the carbon footprint of a product is an important gauge of its resource efficiency. Schmalz minimizes the factors that influence product carbon footprint in all phases of the product life cycle. The carbon impact of a Schmalz product is therefore less than that of comparable products on the market.

Development of CO2 emissions during the product life cycle (Product Carbon Footprint)
Development of CO2 emissions during the product life cycle (Product Carbon Footprint)

Product Creation

The CO2 emissions that occur during the creation of a product are in large part subject to the design features of a product. For example, the materials and production techniques that are used and the energy that is later required are already determined during the development and design of a product. The main factors that influence the product carbon footprint have already been determined long before production of the first part begins.

During product development, Schmalz relies on state-of-the-art methods. Design variants are analyzed and compared in order to reduce the percentage of energy-intensive materials and production processes. When new products are being developed, clear environmental objectives are already defined in the functional specification – for example, by specifying energy values.

The manufacture of a product at Schmalz includes all processes that can be attributed to the value creation process, which also includes upstream processes. For this purpose, Schmalz routinely audits its suppliers, trains and advises them on matters of resource efficiency, and directly involves the most important partners in its own manufacturing process in the context of the Schmalz Value Creation System. This makes it possible to procure purchased parts and assemblies that already have a low carbon impact.

Since Schmalz’s production process is already carbon-neutral, the product carbon footprint is not further increased during the manufacturing process. If the entire company’s net reduction in carbon emissions is also taken into account, the Schmalz products are even exempt from the bulk of the carbon footprint that has been incurred up to that point.

The logistics processes are also examined and optimized. On the procurement side, Schmalz is increasingly relying on regional suppliers. This eliminates unnecessary transport distances. Schmalz uses climate-neutral shipping methods such as GoGreen shipping from DHL to transport the product to the customer.

Example of Resource-Efficient Product Creation

Making good things even better – this is one of the most important aims of product development at Schmalz. For example, the basic ejector SBPL works with highly efficient eco nozzle technology. This results in maximum energy efficiency in the handling of airtight and porous workpieces – as well as a much higher suction rate compared to its predecessor SEM. Air consumption and sound level are significantly lower for the SBPL. And in use of materials the SBPL convinces as well: Instead of aluminum, body and nozzle system of the new basic ejector will now be made of extremely robust, lightweight plastic. The variant with 0.8 kg is approximately 45% lighter than the SEM. Thanks to the modular product design, the SBPL vacuum generator is fast and simple to maintain. And also a look at the CO2 balance is worth while: savings in material and weight improve the balance sheet by around 65%.

Product Operation and Industry 4.0

When operating products in the field of vacuum technology, it is especially important to use the resources of compressed air and electricity in an efficient manner. Schmalz designs its products so that the only energy consumed is needed for the actual handling operation.

Energy consumption during downtime is prevented. Intelligent products also allow for process communication with the user’s control systems in order to adjust all process parameters for energy- efficient operation.

The basis for such functions is that all relevant process data is available in real time. Schmalz provides an entire range of socalled smart field devices for this purpose: They are fitted with comprehensive energy and process control functions, they gather and store data and make it available in the network. With the aid of their diagnostic and forecasting functions, they derive information regarding the condition of the unit and detect subtle changes or imminent malfunctions. With products such as these, Schmalz supports its customers heading towards Industry 4.0 – the switch to the intelligent factory. The steadily increasing networking inherent in this is resulting in a break up of traditional automation pyramids. The emphasis is now on vacuum generators, like the compact ejector X-Pump, within an automation cloud in which intelligent devices and services communicate with each other and organize themselves.

Communication Cloud
Hierarchical architecture in the traditional automation pyradmid and future communication in the automation cloud

With the new VSi vacuum and pressure switch, Schmalz is demonstrating how intelligent field devices can be used to support more efficient process design. This switch not only monitors excess pressure and vacuum pressure in automation and handling systems, but it also provides the users with important data. For example, thanks to NFC (Near Field Communication), process settings and the operating instructions can also be displayed using a smartphone or tablet – for reading directly at the plant, with no wires, in a few seconds, and in a user-friendly format.

Vacuum Handling Without an External Energy Supply

Vacuum lifting device VacuMaster Eco without external energy supply
Vacuum lifting device VacuMaster Eco without external energy supply

The modular vacuum lifting device VacuMaster Eco allows for vacuum generation without an external energy supply. The vacuum is generated and dissipated by the lifting and lowering force of the chain hoist that the VacuMaster is attached to. This eliminates the need to operate an external vacuum generator and also reduces operating costs. In a technology study, Schmalz also applied this principle to a wide variety of grippers in automated handling processes.

Radio Remote Control for the Vacuum Tube Lifter

Radio remote control SRC for vacuum tube lifters

The vacuum tube lifters Jumbo can be equipped with radio remote control SRC. This allows to use the operating unit to switch the vacuum generator on and off during work breaks. Through the use of energy harvesting no external energy required for radio control is needed. The energy is recovered via the piezoelectric effect (pressing the button) or photoelectric effect (integrated solar cell) and is converted into a radio signal. When operating a tube lifter with the radio remote control SRC it saves up to 40% in energy.

Product Usage After the Utilization Phase

System design of a recyclable suction pad
System design of a recyclable suction pad

To complete the product life cycle in an efficient way, attention is paid to the separability of the individual materials when the product is first created. For example, the elastomer part on special suction cups can easily be separated from the aluminum connecting part. Since the elastomer is a part that is subject to wear and tear, it can easily be replaced without having to purchase a completely new suction cup. Separating the two components also allows for proper disposal of both materials.