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6/9/2014 | 1 MINUTE READ

Autoclave upgrades save energy

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AIC Group made upgrades and repairs to an existing autoclave, resulting in significant operating cost savings as well as fewer environmental impacts.

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AIC Group (Poole, U.K.) has saved a prime aircraft manufacturer over £48,000 ($81,000 USD) in running costs of one of its autoclaves, and at the same time reduced the amount of propylene glycol used by 24,500 litres annually. Just as importantly, the time taken to complete the project was minimized, so that the machine could be quickly brought back into production. Work involved upgrades to the autoclave, including a water cooling upgrade, pipework replacement  and replacing the air blast coolers.

AIC’s work involved replacing the existing autoclave cooling system with a more efficient water cooling system to overcome problems of leakage and corrosion caused by additive reactions within the existing system. The upgraded water cooling system delivered a significant reduction in chemical usage, which contributed to the aerospace company meeting its environmental targets with running cost savings as well as energy cost savings. This new system allows for untreated pure water to be used, rather than coolants and additives, eliminating the risk of ground contamination from glycol leaks. This also has a considerable financial benefit, significantly reducing chemical costs by as much as 98 percent, which includes disposal costs.

A new fresh water tank has an immersion heater that automatically switches on at temperatures below 5 °C monitored via an air temperature probe, for frost protection. AIC’s redesign allows for smaller glycol cooling circuits , which are only necessary for the protection of critical equipment including coolers, heat exchangers and pumps.

The new parts of the systems consist of welded stainless steel pipework to eliminate any risk from galvanic stripping by chemicals. The previous galvanized steel autoclave pipework was over 10 years old and at the end of its service life.

The final part of the upgrade, the replacement of the air blast coolers, also gave savings in energy and high cooling performance. A new inline independent air blast cooler removes heat from the system, which is supplied by duty and standby pumps. The cooler motors run on a randomised basis to reduce power consumption and wear.

Tim Denison, AIC’s operations director, says “This cooling system upgrade will greatly enhance the integrity and reliability of the autoclave and increase its availability for production. It will accomplish this whilst also being environmentally and commenrcially beneficial. It was a complicated job and I am pleased we were able to complete it quickly and minimise the amount of down-time.”