© Lukas Zwiessele
© Lukas Zwiessele

Digital recooler: next-level effi­ciency and oper­a­tional reli­a­bility

In a pioneering devel­op­ment project at Kappler CNC, Heidinger, Cabero and ebm-papst neo are demon­strating how a digital twin can help take system reli­a­bility and effi­ciency to a new level.

If you ask Adrian Heidinger what sets his company apart, he is quick to answer: its capacity for inno­va­tion. This is what has made the third-gener­a­tion family company based in Mühlacker, Baden-Würt­tem­berg, a leading provider of refrig­er­a­tion and air condi­tioning tech­nology over the past few decades. With around 70 employees, Heidinger has made a name for itself primarily in the areas of clean­rooms and special systems and now builds systems with a cooling capacity of more than two megawatts.

In addi­tion to energy-effi­cient tech­nolo­gies and prod­ucts, Heidinger has been focusing for years on digi­tal­iza­tion projects that offer added value for customers. “The more complex the systems and processes become, the greater the impor­tance of digital solu­tions for proac­tive analysis and fore­casting,” says Adrian Heidinger confi­dently. So the digi­tal­iza­tion special­ists from ebm-papst neo and Martin Ugi from Cabero, a manu­fac­turer of heat exchangers, were pushing at an open door when they approached him for a research project on digi­tal­izing systems.

Advan­tages of the digital twin at Kappler CNC

  • Minimal instal­la­tion work – even for existing systems
  • Opti­mized energy consump­tion
  • High level of system reli­a­bility
  • Customized and plannable main­te­nance work
  • Preven­tive service inter­rup­tions

Specif­i­cally, the Dort­mund-based digital unit of fan specialist ebm-papst has devel­oped new sensors to measure vibra­tions on the dry cooler and to analyze the volume flow. The data from both measure­ments initially flows into gate­ways, from where it is uploaded to ebm-papst’s epCloud. A customer with a suit­able system was also found quickly: Kappler GmbH & Co. KG, a leading inter­na­tional manu­fac­turer of preci­sion compo­nents based in Birken­feld, Germany. Inno­v­a­tive, open to tech­nology and one of Heidinger’s flag­ship customers.

Heidinger & Kappler CNC

Heidinger GmbH

Adrian Heidinger

Heidinger GmbH

Adrian Heidinger

Kappler GmbH

Valentino Brechter

Kappler GmbH

Valentino Brechter

When Adrian Heidinger talks about his customer Kappler, he liter­ally bubbles over with enthu­siasm. No wonder, because Heidinger was able to throw all its exper­tise in refrig­er­a­tion, air condi­tioning, CHP and venti­lation tech­nology at the 2,300 square meter produc­tion facility. Due to the sensi­tive preci­sion compo­nents that are manu­fac­tured here, temper­a­tures at Kappler are accu­rate to plus/minus one Kelvin throughout the entire produc­tion process.

One system that contributes to this precise temper­a­ture control is the jumbo recooler system from Cabero with 24 HyBlade axial fans with AxiTop Diffusor units from ebm-papst, which was installed by Heidinger in 2022. “At Kappler, we’re talking about a state-of-the-art system that meets all the effi­ciency require­ments,” says Heidinger. “But here, too, it remains to be seen how high the added value can be with a selec­tive eval­u­a­tion of real oper­ating data.”

Enthu­siasm for preci­sion

Kappler is a leading inter­na­tional manu­fac­turing company for preci­sion compo­nents. On the roof is the jumbo recooling system from Cabero installed by Heidinger in 2022 – a top system that meets all effi­ciency require­ments.

„We cannot afford unplanned down­time“

Valentino Brechter explains the impor­tance of a reli­able system.

“We take our customers with us in the digi­tal­iza­tion process”

Adrian Heidinger explains what is impor­tant in digi­tal­iza­tion projects.

Digital upgrading in one day

The digital upgrade at Kappler was completed in a single day. The special­ists from ebm-papst neo installed vibra­tion sensors on all the recoolers. By comparing the vibra­tions of one recooler with those of others, or with the stan­dard values, data analysis can be used to draw conclu­sions about its oper­ating status. For Cabero, this provides impor­tant infor­ma­tion on possible opti­miza­tion poten­tial in the design of the devices. For Heidinger, unex­pected vibra­tions are a signal that a service may be required.

Moni­toring with sensors and ultra­sonic measuring devices

The current consump­tion is measured on every second fan of the recooler. Increased current consump­tion allows conclu­sions to be drawn as to whether, for example, the recooler slats are dirty and need to be cleaned. Other sensors measure the volume flow and the temper­a­ture in the flow and return. Here too, conclu­sions can be drawn as to whether the system is running effi­ciently. In order to keep the instal­la­tion costs for the flow rates of the cooling medium as low as possible, the experts at ebm-papst neo opted for an ultra­sonic measuring device that can be attached to the outside of the pipes.

“Fore­casts make main­te­nance plannable”

Adrian Heidinger explains what the digital twin’s fore­casting options make possible.

Gate­ways and epCloud for the digital twin

Another compo­nent of the digi­tal­iza­tion project are the Intel­li­Gate gate­ways. This is where all the data from the new sensors comes together and is uploaded to ebm-papst´s epCloud. Ulti­mately, recording the data from the volume flow, temper­a­ture, vibra­tion and current consump­tion makes it possible to create a model of the Kappler system: the so-called digital twin. This model can be used to deter­mine the current status of the system, making it possible to predict poten­tial prob­lems – which in turn enables Heidinger to react proac­tively to avoid unplanned down­time and service calls. The digital twin is completely autonomous and decou­pled from the Kappler network. Autho­rized users – ebm-papst neo, Cabero and Heidinger – can analyze the data and iden­tify opti­miza­tion poten­tial for the customer.

“Of course, the system has already supplied data in the past,” explains Heidinger. “Now, as a solu­tion provider, we can incor­po­rate the new data into our overall system control and process it in a way that makes it easy for us and our customers to under­stand and use.” At Kappler CNC, the digital twin has confirmed what everyone involved expected from its real-life coun­ter­part: the system is running extremely effi­ciently and smoothly. For Adrian Heidinger, the research project shows plenty of poten­tial for other customers: “Thanks to the minimal time and effort required for instal­la­tion, we can also use targeted data analysis to deter­mine where there are snags and where effi­ciency improve­ments are possible, even for compa­nies with older systems.”

Adrian Heidinger and Valentino Brechter at the Cabero recooler system.

The gate­ways are the collec­tion point for the data from the new sensors. From there, they are uploaded to ebm-papst neo’s epCloud.

Heidinger can transfer the data to the overall plant control system and process it in such a way that it is easy for customers to under­stand and use.

The current system status can be deter­mined and moni­tored using the digital twin.

Data is also becoming increas­ingly impor­tant when it comes to deter­mining a company’s carbon foot­print. Decar­boniza­tion is key here. Large corpo­ra­tions are already often demanding concrete state­ments on the effi­ciency of systems and their envi­ron­mental compat­i­bility. And in future, legis­la­tors will also expect reli­able figures. “Digi­tal­iza­tion is an issue that many compa­nies in the air condi­tioning and refrig­er­a­tion industry are reluc­tant to tackle,” says Adrian Heidinger. “Research projects such as this one by Heidinger, Cabero and ebm-papst neo show the real added value that intel­li­gent tech­nolo­gies can offer any company – even with very little outlay.”

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