Life Outside of PMTS

Although a bit preoccupied with PMTS lately, we've still managed to keep up with our other editorial duties. I toured the expanded Rego-Fix facility in Switzerland.

Columns From: 3/14/2013 Production Machining, ,

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Lucerne

Chris Felix in Lucerne, Switzerland.

Fasnacht

Not Chris Felix, but rather a participant in the daytime Fasnacht celebration in Liestal, Switzerland.

Fire Parade

A burning cart in the Fire Parade in Liestal.

Top of Europe

This shot was taken on Jungfraujoch--the Top of Europe.

I’m not sure about the rest of you, but around here, we’ve been a bit preoccupied with PMTS. After all, it’s the most important show targeting manufacturers of precision machined parts, and our responsibility is to help our readers be prepared to take full advantage of what the show offers. The upcoming April print issue of Production Machining is dedicated to the show, jammed full of product releases from companies who will be displaying there, and highlighted by interviews with industry experts who provide their views on the significance of attending.

But of course the world won’t end on April 19. It will be business as usual (with new insights brought back from the show), and we need to continue to move forward. So with that in mind, we editors have managed to squeeze in a few of our other duties in the past month beyond our PMTS preparation.

Lori continued to steer the ship, keeping me and the other Chris on task while reviewing every bit of editorial content and piecing together the puzzle that becomes the monthly issue. Chris Koepfer spent a long weekend at PMPA’s Management Update Conference in Glendale, Ariz., continuing to keep in touch with the industry and building new editorial relationships. And I pulled the long straw for a not unpleasant trip to Switzerland, where I toured Rego-Fix’s recently expanded plant.

One thing I found particularly interesting about the factory’s additional space is its minimal impact on energy costs for the company. Although the plant has gone from 54,000 to 129,000 square feet, the company has incorporated several advanced energy and natural resource conserving features to keep energy costs to a minimum. A special air-exchange ventilator system, wood pellet heating, multiple progressive air conditioning units, a “green” roof, and the use of both natural and sensor-controlled lighting make a big difference.

The air-exchange ventilator system exchanges the air within the new building seven times per hour. It draws out wasted heat from the manufacturing floor—heat generated mostly by the large air-compressor equipment necessary for the company’s machine tools. During the cold months, recovered waste heat is then used to heat incoming fresh air that the system draws from outside the building and circulates to the manufacturing floor.

Additionally, circulated water in a closed system helps keep manufacturing floor air compressors cool during operation. In the cooling process, the water becomes hot, and this heated water is then stored in a 1,849-gallon tank and used to further help warm the building via a heating system built into the floors of the building’s office areas.

The new building also incorporates a 390-kW heating system that burns wood pellets as opposed to fossil fuels. The wood pellets are a by-product of the lumber and furniture making industries. The system consumes very small amounts of pellets because it operates as a back up to the other heating sources and only when outside temperatures are extremely low.

During the warm summer months, an energy-saving progressive-type, three-unit AC system working together with the in-floor system and the air-exchange system, keeps the new building cool. The air-exchange unit draws heat out of the building, and cold water circulates through the in-floor system.

If the temperature within the building rises above a certain level, one of the units in the progressive AC system will switch on to back up the floor system and air-exchange unit. The AC units are rpm-regulated, so if temperature levels continue to rise, forcing the first AC unit to exceed its limit, the second AC unit in the system will activate. And, in turn, if the second unit reaches its rpm limit, the third unit is activated. Once the building begins to cool, the individual AC units will switch off in reverse sequence.

The exterior walls of the new building are completely insulated, and unlike typical roof designs, the one Rego-Fix opted for is quite unique with high insulating properties. Referred to as a “green” or “planted” roof, it is covered with soil and actual growing sod. Plus, the roof captures rainwater that is then collected in a 13,200-gallon tank and used for toilet flushing in the building restrooms.

Combined, all the heating and cooling features of the building provide steady and constant ambient temperatures within the manufacturing area. Doing so has also proven critical in maintaining consistent machine tool accuracy for producing the company’s high precision toolholding systems.

For further energy savings while providing sufficient lighting, the new manufacturing building features many large, triple-paned insulated windows that let in lots of natural light. Plus, the windows are fitted with shades that automatically open and close, especially critical in helping to keep the building cool in the summer. Yet the shades are perforated to let in light.

Where additional lighting is needed, LED-type energy saving lights, along with motion control activation, are used. There are no wall switches in the building—lights turn on only when areas are occupied, and then switch off when they are not.

Deciding to expand its manufacturing facilities over 2 years ago was a bold move for Rego-Fix when considering the downturn in the economy taking place at that time. Making the new building as energy efficient as possible proved critical in helping the company reduce costs, yet increase its manufacturing capacity in preparation for the economic upswing.

I picked up another interesting tidbit on the trip regarding the origins of the ER collet, which I wrote about in a recent blog post.

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