Compressed Air Upgrade Improves Lumber Mill Air Quality and Costs

SNLSeptBekoWhen a saw mill upgraded to air moisture-management dryers from BEKO Technologies, Corp., Siemens PLCs and HMI Panels helped reduce costs.

The hot, humid days of summer are as vexing for users of compressed air systems as they are for the average person. Removing moisture from the air makes humans more comfortable and it eliminates problems that moisture causes in compressed air applications as diverse as lumber mills, automotive paint shops and dental offices.

The operating environments that require dry air vary widely. In the automotive industry for example, getting lustrous paint finishes is a critical factor in success. Moisture in the compressed air that powers the paint systems can cause problems, making dryers an important component in painting process. In dental offices, dry air is required for procedures such as crowning a tooth. Many companies deploy systems from BEKO Technologies, Corp. which makes heatless desiccant air dryers that are both efficient and easy to maintain.

In the lumber industry, moisture can be a big problem in summer as well as winter. A saw mill in northern Michigan, for example, needed a system that wouldn’t freeze up on cold winter days. Pneumatic systems drive many operations in this plant, helping bring felled trees into the mill and powering the saws that rip timber into salable lumber.

When temperatures drop well below freezing, it doesn’t take much moisture in the air line to fell one of these machines. When mill owners decided to search for equipment that wouldn’t fail on cold days, they also searched for robust equipment that wouldn’t need constant maintenance to clean out sawdust and dirt.

They opted for a BEKO DRYPOINT® XCp dryer. The dryer operates by running intake air through metal cylinders filled with desiccant. Water is drawn out; leaving dry air that won’t freeze up.

It’s compact, trimming height by 30% without taking any more floor space. Freeing this space by using smaller systems provides more floor area for storage or additional equipment.

Energy savings was perhaps an even more important parameter for the mill. The timber industry is highly competitive, so mill owners want systems to reduce costs. The DRYPOINT® XCp dryer will constantly monitor and adjust operations to contend with changing temperatures and air flow rates while trimming energy consumption by as much as 70% over some of its competitors.

To achieve these features, BEKO needed a good control system with upgraded capabilities without adding much cost. They met this challenge with the SIMATIC S7-1200 and HMI Basic Panels. The technical analysis, and the eventual integration, was simplified by working with AWC, Inc., a Siemens distributor.

A control system that would be easy for both customers and BEKO’s technicians to maintain was a key goal for developers. To make things easier from an engineering and production perspective, they created one master SIMATIC S7-1200 controller program for all automated drying systems. It’s easy to select the specific model ordered by customers, features and functionality can be enabled or disabled according to each customer’s requirements. This allow for tremendous flexibility while simplifying support for the engineering team, which only has to maintain one controller program.

The current generation of dryers also has improved diagnostics. BEKO uses the customizable webpages on the integrated webserver in the SIMATIC S7-1200 controller to provide key diagnostic information.

snlSeptBekoDrypointRoutine maintenance is needed once a year. Maintenance timeframes are programmed into the dryer. This maintenance status is displayed on its own screen, which shows maintenance interval time, total time from last reset. When the maintenance interval has passed, an alert will remind users that they need to address it before greater problems occur. Whenever alerts are displayed, they include the cause and time of the alarm.

To make it easier for their customers to order replacement parts, BEKO has created and stored a comprehensive spare parts list in the SIMATIC S7-1200 controller. This list, which can be displayed on the SIMATIC HMI Basic Panel, is automatically customized to match the specific system that was ordered by the customer.

BEKO sells drying systems through distributors while also selling to an OEM channel. To make it easier for their production team to build a system for their OEMs, they have created separate themes for the SIMATIC HMI Basic Panels. That allows quick changes to all the graphics and text to meet specific OEMs’ specifications.

The combination of flexibility and ease of use has been beneficial for BEKO and its customers. It’s easier to get systems up and running, and to keep them running without unplanned downtime.

Building on the success of the DRYPOINT® XCp, BEKO is launching a new dryer: the DRYPOINT® XFi, a heat regenerated unit designed for applications where dry air is needed for higher flow rates. AWC, Inc. again helped develop a product which uses the SIMATIC S7-1200 controller and HMI Comfort Panels. This combination adds additional capabilities like advanced system monitoring, energy saving program selection and maintenance assistance with built in videos.

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