Creative Heads keep their cool

Temper­a­ture fluc­tu­a­tion and white noise was a real nuisance for the staff working in the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motor­sport Team paint shop in Brackley. The atmos­phere has been much better since the air condi­tioning system was upgraded with EC fans from ebm-papst.

The Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motor­sport head­quar­ters in Brackley, UK is where hundreds of engi­neers, tech­ni­cians and designers contribute to the success of their World Cham­pi­onship Formula One team − seven days a week, all year round. In their number are 15 employees who staff the paint shop, respon­sible for adding the final layer of prepa­ra­tion to the race cars and equip­ment that lends the team its moniker of the Silver Arrows.

However, working in the paint shop during the hot summer months has never been much fun. Why was that? Following complete re-orga­ni­za­tion of the premises and work­places, the air condi­tioning system no longer met the require­ments of the employees. And the AC fans were diffi­cult to regu­late. The air was propelled through the ducts at such a rate that it liter­ally whis­tled through the ceiling vents in the paint shop, creating a perma­nent back­ground noise. To combat the noise nuisance, the employees would close or block the air outlets near their work stations. The conse­quence was that the atmos­phere was hot and sticky in summer, despite having the air condi­tioning system oper­ating at maximum output.

Too noisy, too inef­fi­cient, too expen­sive


RadiPac EC fans are working quietly and effi­ciently.

This was an unsat­is­fac­tory situ­a­tion for Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motor­sport. “Our air condi­tioning system was too noisy, the temper­a­ture was erratic and what’s more, the oper­ating costs were going up and up,” explains Robert Yeowart, Director Busi­ness Devel­op­ment & Logis­tics at Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motor­sport. “With their concept for cooling our racing cars in the pits and for cooling the track­side garages, ebm-papst had already shown that they were capable of devel­oping inno­v­a­tive solu­tions at a reason­able cost. So we consulted our team partner again with our latest problem.” ebm-papst product manager James Cooper took the matter in hand. His first step was to visit the Brackley head­quar­ters to have a look at the system and take some initial measure­ments. In doing so, he discov­ered an extremely high pres­sure of 1,366 Pa, but at the same time an average air flow of only 6,000 cubic meters per hour. This was caused by the air condi­tioner outlets being almost completely closed. “The system was using a lot of energy without the employees actu­ally having much benefit from the cooling output,” Cooper recalls.

Go-ahead for testing

To improve the system, Cooper proposed replacing the AC fans with EC fans, which are easy to adjust to the required speed. He further suggested fully re-opening the ceiling vents to opti­mize the system. The Fitting of user-friendly fan control would also enable facility managers to exactly adjust the system to any future require­ments. The aim was to provide quiet-running, effi­cient and easy-to-adjust air condi­tioning for the paint shop. Robert Yeowart and his colleagues were convinced by these sugges­tions and gave the go-ahead for conver­sion of a trial unit in the paint shop. Together with an external partner, ebm-papst upgraded the A/C unit and replaced an old AC fan with two RadiPac EC fans from ebm-papst. These new fans were mounted in anti-vibra­tion hous­ings to keep the noise nuisance to an absolute minimum.

We received extremely posi­tive feed­back from the paint shop personnel, as the atmos­phere was now pleas­antly cool and quiet. Robert Yeowart, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motor­sport

The next step involved the retrofit team opening all the over­head air vents to be able to set the air condi­tioning system correctly. With an air flow of 8,000 m3/h at a pres­sure of 450 Pa, the air flowed almost noise­lessly to the work­places after a few adjust­ments and created a pleasant temper­a­ture. “For simple regu­la­tion, ebm-papst fitted a fan control system with a safety mech­a­nism,” says Cooper. “The cold air for the air condi­tioner is gener­ated by an evap­o­rator coil. To stop this icing up, the air always has to travel through the system at a certain velocity. We programmed the control system in such a way that speeds below this minimum value cannot be set.”

Baptism of fire in a heat wave


The appear­ance of the current race car was designed in Brackley as well.

As soon as the retro-fitting work was completed, the UK expe­ri­enced one of the hottest weeks of the year — a real test for the converted air condi­tioning system in extreme condi­tions. “We received extremely posi­tive feed­back from the paint shop personnel, as the atmos­phere was now pleas­antly cool and quiet,” says Yeowart. “A further bonus is that freshly painted parts now dry better as the air is circu­lated evenly around the room.” The upgrade was a worth­while invest­ment in finan­cial terms as well. Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motor­sport can now save 64 per cent of the energy required for oper­ating the air condi­tioning system. Which means that it will have paid for itself in just two years.

And finally, the upgrade had another unex­pected benefit, as Yeowart explains: “Prior to the upgrade people used to open the doors to create a draft. Now these doors remain closed we have elim­i­nated an unnec­es­sary safety risk.” In view of the results obtained, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motor­sport decided to convert all the units in the paint shop and to consider further retro­fitting across its sites in the future. “We are currently taking a look at the air condi­tioning systems throughout the plant,” says Yeowart. “We are keen to do the same sort of upgrade wher­ever it makes sense.”

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