It is estimated that 20 million scroll compressors, covering a wide range of applications, are currently installed worldwide. Within the air conditioning and refrigeration industry, there has been a long standing view that scroll compressors upon reaching the end of their product lifecycle are unable to be repaired or remanufactured – and for the end user the only solution is a new compressor.
Traditionally, when a scroll compressor failed it went straight into a waste bin where the raw metal would be reprocessed – a very energy intensive job. The only components saved for re-use were the scroll sets and then only by some manufacturers. If somehow scroll compressors could be remanufactured there would be obvious benefits. The environmental impact would be lessened from the view of waste disposal and the resources incurred in the original production process.
Steel and most metals can be recycled continuously, making them some of the most sustainable materials available in products today.
Importantly, each ton of steel that we re-use will now produce the following savings:
- 1.5 tons of iron ore
- 0.5 tons of coal
- 1.28 tons of solid waste
- air and CO2 emissions cut by almost 100 per cent
- energy needed to make steel from virgin materials reduce by almost 99 per cent.*
Re-used copper from the motor can also make an impressive 15 per cent saving on original energy requirements to harvest and produce new material.
Set against this background, the research and development team at J & E Hall International – a company with a long tradition of innovation in compressor manufacturing – asked themselves the question: “what’s stopping our industry remanufacturing?” One answer may have been the high research and development costs which can be an immediate barrier for the start and completion of a successful project.
However, thanks largely to J & E Hall’s commitment to resolving the problem and access to research and development resources further afield, approval was given and work began in conjunction with sister company McQuay.
Internal ComponentsThe project was managed at the McQuay Technology Centre based in Dartford. The engineering resources available included the help of research graduates from universities in the UK.
Over the next two and half years, test facilities were built, countless hours of development work undertaken and many compressors remanufactured and rejected until the remanufacturing technology was perfected.
Engineers began the task by examining damaged scroll compressors. Slowly, very slowly, a picture emerged on reasons of failure, the extent of damage to internal components and most importantly if remanufacture was feasible. Unfortunately, not every compressor can be remanufactured. Approximately one in five compressors have internal components which are simply too damaged or worn. These compressors are dismantled and recycled with proper disposal procedures.
This early work proved invaluable in the search for an answer to the scroll remanufacture question – providing information on environmental impact and commercial viability. The next, and perhaps the most important phase of the project, required developing a process whereby it is possible to enter the main body of the compressor, remanufacture and close. The closure must be precise as the outer casing plays an important part in determining the compressor’s performance and reliability.
Re-welding the case precisely and ensuring ultra cleanliness within the compressor was a challenge. A technology was developed and subsequently patented.
Working in parallel with the development group were manufacturing engineers. Their task was to perfect the best, most efficient manufacturing method for what became known as “the grave to cradle process”.
By the end of last year, the product had passed its extensive testing programme and was ready to be unveiled.
In March, the RAC 07 Show provided a perfect launch venue. The product, now known as the Rescroll was a star exhibit.
Initial interest generated at RAC has been steadily built on in the UK, with early sales’ targets exceeded and a bright future expected. The Rescroll provides the industry with an environmentally-conscious alternative when purchasing a replacement compressor – the existing failed compressor will become the donor for a new compressor in the remanufacturing cycle.
To date, attention has been focused on a limited range of machines which predominately serve the supermarket industry – Rescroll is already powering refrigeration systems in High Street supermarkets.
We believe that as the product awareness grows the technology can be introduced beyond UK shores, thus expanding the environmental impact.
*Production Data courtesy of Corus UK, 2007