Sugar has been extracted from ”Saccharum officinarum” – commonly known as Sugar Cane – since the 5th century B.C., East Asia was where this important industrial branch originated. Even today, Asia is one of the world’s top sugar producing centre combined. Presently, the Sugar Industry sector is being confronted with changes that focus on process optimization and energy generation. In this “Cogeneration” process, High and Ultra High Efficiency Drive Systems play a vital role – starting with selecting the right Drive Technology.
“The sugar industry has always been an industrial sector that is rich of versatile applications. The industry perfectly showcases the performance capabilities and sustainability of our gear unit and coupling solutions,” says Andreas Evertz, Managing Director and Group CEO of Flender GmbH. Almost since its beginnings, more than one hundred twenty years ago, Flender has been manufacturing products for the sugar industry. And since then, the name Flender has been associated with strong, high-quality and extremely durable mechanical power transmission products and system solutions. Andreas Evertz points out, “With our comprehensive gear unit and coupling solutions, we serve all industrial sectors and are able to offer tailored solutions to each customer’s requirements.” In fact, Flender’s reputation as first-class manufacturer is acknowledged around the world.
Cogeneration as a challenge for present and future
Evertz addresses further that Flender always had an eye on renewable energies. In 1977, the company started to produce gear units for wind turbines. This business developed into the sub-brand Winergy which today is one of the global market leaders for wind turbine drive systems. Renewable energy production is also one aspect in Flender’s sweet tooth: the sugar industry. The development of sugar drives is dedicated towards making the whole drive system more compact, reliable, dependable, energy efficient, and contributes to greater process control. This approach perfectly matches with the shift of sugar factories’ from purely producing sugar to generating electrical power and manufacturing clean fuels as co-products, called cogeneration.
Automated process controls and high efficiency drives properly support cogeneration in sugar factories. The basic idea of sugar cane cogeneration started with residual fibers from the extracted cane, called bagasse. Bagasse is fed into boiler houses and burned to generate high pressure steam. In many older factories, major machineries that require high amounts of power and torque for cane preparation and milling are driven by steam turbines. These steam turbines consume high amounts of high-pressure steam. New modern drives with high efficiency frequency inverters and motors in combination with modern and efficient gear units replace these steam turbines. Alongside with this development, the previously manually controlled processes changed to automated systems. The consumption of high-pressure steam for propulsion is thereby reduced and diverted to drive a bigger steam turbine generator to provide electricity to the grid.
All sounds simple, but in practice drive system suppliers like Flender need to be able to consult customers instead of just providing the requested products. Flender cultivates these passions for specific industries. Flender product experts dedicate their knowledge and time all to the better understanding of applications and processes. Thus, Flender can serve customers’ needs with the implementation of mechanical drive solutions that optimize their plants.
Broad portfolio of standard helical and bevel-helical gear units
Walking through a cane raw sugar factory from end to end, we can see that a lot of raw material transport and processing is essential in the total process of sugar generation. When transportation of raw materials is of concern, Flender is there to lead. With Flender standard helical and bevel-helical gear units, commonly known as FZG, raw materials are transported and processed efficiently. Providing a torque range from 2,300 to 1,400,000 Nm, they are suitable for nearly all raw cane preparations before going to the mills for extraction. Andreas Evertz summarizes, “With our helical and bevel-helical gear units, we are talking about the most developed range of industrial gear units in the world. There are 28 different sizes, covering transmission ratios from 1.25 to 450. Ultimately, Flender standard products are so versatile that we can say: one original – 1 million versions.”
Application-specific planetary gear units for the extraction house
In the extraction house, where the shredded raw cane is being extracted, high efficiency application-specific planetary gear units drive the process. For this application Flender developed the new 3rd generation planetary gear unit “Planurex 3” and set a new milestone within the sugar industry. Andreas Evertz explains: “As a premium manufacturer, we focus above all on ruggedness, availability and durability in all of our drive solutions, in addition to efficiency.” The higher power density of individual drives in sugar cane mills, for example, permits closer roller spacing and reduced weight loads. This is complemented by a higher overload capability which means that there are no operation interrupts during milling, despite any process fluctuations.
One platform – three solutions: this simple strategy describes the potential of Planurex 3 planetary gear units. With torques up to 10,000 kNm and ratios from 1:45 to 1:4,500 they are driving throughput enhancements in the extraction house. The version for individual drives is directly mounted on the mill roller shaft and provides a compact drive setup without specific requirements on the foundation and oil supply system.
The central drive version is a conservative drive system approach. It is highly robust and without any unneeded setup, it focusses on driving the cane mill from the top roll. In its standard version the gear unit comes with square shaft and axial thrust bearing and follows Flender’s strategy to have all application-specific requirements in mind. No further safety devices are needed since safety aspects have already been considered during the product development process.
Planurex 3 diffuser drives are a true marvel by itself. Huge amount of torque at very slow speeds demand also the optimal gear strength at almost static speeds. Andreas Evertz summarizes, “Our Planurex 3, which is ideally suited for use in the extraction house, is available in 16 standard sizes for maximum torques up to 10,000 kNm, ratios in excess of 4,500”
After Sales Service with Remote Condition Monitoring solutions
Just as in many other industries, the sugar industry depends on large, powerful plants which must always run glitch-free, especially during the milling seasons. This means that suppliers like Flender must be able to avail themselves of a high level of quality awareness, application know-how and ease of servicing. Since the company was founded in 1899 by Alfred Friedrich Flender, these objectives have been passed on down from generations to generations. The result is a global drives specialist with a vast portfolio of gear boxes, couplings and complete drive solutions. As a partner to industry, the company is continually developing new systems which are perfectly coordinated with the specific application or drive technology.
In order to systematically enhance the availability, design, simulation, materials and production are all subjected to a continuous development process. Signal generation and processing are also integrated into the overall solution at Flender. “Diagnostex”, for example, is a master concept combining different measuring sensors to form a sophisticated Condition Monitoring solution.
Any Flender gear units can be equipped with condition monitoring sensors that encompass multiple data gathering and processing such as: vibration, acceleration, temperature, speed, and torque. “We don’t just want to convey to our users our high degree of service orientation, we also want to assure them that sudden, unplanned downtimes can be systematically avoided,” declares CEO Evertz.
Modernization of the drive engineering for more efficiency
Whether you are building a new sugar factory or want to modernize an existing factory which has been running for years, you would be well advised to get support from experts. Higher levels of efficiency, more compact systems and more rugged units can replace “old” drive solutions, inevitably resulting in more effective or economical processes. So that modernization projects can be implemented as easily and quickly as possible, Flender has launched a rejuvenation initiative, which is especially suitable for sugar factories. Flender CEO Andreas Evertz comments, “We offer the sugar cane industry perfectly coordinated and harmonized drive solutions. Besides highly efficient gear units and couplings this can also include electrical motors, our so- called Flender Integrated Drive System.”
Whoever wants to benefit from cogeneration and whoever wants to transform their plant to a much more efficient makeover, can rely on Flender’s expertise. As Flender CEO Andreas Evertz says, “At Flender, we are aware of our responsibilities and together with the sugar manufacturers, we want to promote high quality and high efficiency drive technology in the industry.”