What tasks does research and development have at ebm-papst?
The first priority is expanding our competitive technological leadership worldwide: in basic development, we create the basis for new products and innovations, while application development comes up with market-specific and customer-specific solutions. With some 600 highly skilled employees worldwide and state-of-the-art laboratory facilities, we are able to develop marketable products that are ready for the future in the areas of aerodynamics, drive engineering and electronics.
How does the GreenTech philosophy influence your objectives?
The comprehensive view in terms of energy is the critical factor for us, and energy-efficient operation is only a means to that end. Even in the concept phase, ensuring that production conserves resources is firmly entrenched. In addition to technical marginal conditions such as “form, fit, function” and economic aspects such as target costing and time to market, the entire life cycle is evaluated from an environmental perspective and taken into account in the product design. Moreover, we are working on using more sustainable materials in our products. We were already succesfull in this field and we will take this topic into account with all our future product developments.
Concretely speaking, what does this mean for the product range?
Since 2008, we have been mass-producing our HyBlade® hybrid concept for large axial fans made of a polypropylene-based composite material with aluminium structure. We have now been able find a substitute that allows us to omit the aluminium – which is very energy-intensive to manufacture – entirely and lower the energy input from 33 kWh to about 10 kWh per fan blade. In line with this concept, we are now using composite materials on a large scale in our RadiCal® centrifugal series and for customer-specific installation modules.
In our materials laboratories, efforts were directed towards replacing the mineral-based fillers with renewable materials. The focus: wood-based fillers. Intensive studies and tests have showed that the product characteristics are completely comparable. The energy savings for producing the fibreglass content in the filler and reducing the plastic content together mean that this concept saves about a million litres of crude oil. The material of the future will be a composite of biopolymers with renewable fillers. Independence from crude oil and energy savings in materials manufacturing will become important parameters for the future viability of companies.