Latest Energy-Saving Technologies

Some dryer manufacturers tout energy savings while others, who don't necessarily have testing facilities nor qualified personnel to conduct testing, try to convince processors that energy savings in  a dryer is not worth talking about. A look at the chart, "Energy Costs of Old vs. New Dryers" will quickly convince you otherwise.  The chart is based on current average electric costs.  The trend of electricity cost is UP so planning ahead to reduce your energy expeditures is a sensible thing to do. The larger the dryer - the greater the savings and the better the ROI.

The performance of any drying system is based on using the minimum heat to raise the temperature to the appropriate drying temperature while maintaining a constant material temperature at the throat of the injection molding machine or extruder. Also the regeneration system should minimize the energy used to heat the desiccant material while dedicating most of the energy to removing the moisture gained during the drying process.

Reducing Process Heat Loss

You must be cautious about how dryer manufacturers claim energy savings. Temperature Setback or Second Set Point are sometimes sold as energy-saving features but they are not.  Most rely on "Temperature Setback" - what does that mean?

Temperature Setback lowers the process temperature in the dryer and thus the resin temperature entering the processing equipment. The result is the processing machine must make up for the lower heat in the resin by increasing the heat from shear and the band heaters. The processing machine ends up using more energy to overcome the shortcomings of the dryer, resulting in no energy savings, and contributing to an inferior end product or product consistency.

Reducing process heat loss to increase energy savings can also be accomplished through the use of VFD's (variable frequency drives) to control process blower speed.  If the air flow rate and temperature rise are minimized, the process heating energy can be as low as necessary to heat the resin. The idea is to minimize the air required so that the minimum energy is used for process heating.  The temperature of the resin is still raised to the appropriate temperature for the process machine but all of the energy remains in the drying hopper and a minimal amount heat or energy returned to the dryer.

To accomplish this effectively the temperature of the resin and the temperature leaving the drying hopper should be continually measured and the air flow rate adjusted so the return air temperature (the temperature returning to the dryer from the drying hopper) is only slightly higher than the temperature of the resin entering the drying hopper.  This process is controlled by varying the speed of the blower with a Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) which changes the speed of the blower and thus the flow rate of the air. By minimizing the air flow rate, while maintaining the temperature of the resin, the process heat is maintained at the lowest possible level. This allows the required power to adapt to any changes in material rate, resin moisture and temperature of the resin.

energy savings by controlling the air exiting the hopper.

Figure 1- Controlling the temperature of the air exiting the hopper reduces heat loss and increases energy savings.


Reducing Regeneration Heat Loss

Regeneration can account for as much as 35% of the total power used.  To maximize energy savings, the power used in regeneration of the desiccant must be minimal.  Regeneration consists of heating the desiccant to a temperature at which it releases the moisture gained during the resin drying process. This involves raising the temperature of the desiccant to a point where the moisture retained in the desiccant dissipates.

There are two parts to this system - each with a specific task. We will demonstrate this using the desiccant wheel dryer as our model:

First, the speed (RPM) of the desiccant wheel is minimized which reduces pounds per minute of desiccant media to be heated. This is important because heating of the desiccant media detracts from the primary goal of vaporizing moisture and heat is lost without accomplishing the primary goal of water removal.  The wheel speed is controlled by a variable frequency drive (VFD) to no more than that required to adsorb the moisture from the return air.  By controlling the speed of the wheel, the desiccant media is loaded to its maximum while maintaining a consistent dew point of less than - 40°F/C.

The second part is accomplished using a VFD on the regeneration air blower. The VFD minimizes the air flow to a point where water is desorbed from the molecular sieve but only minimal heat leaves the wheel during the regeneration process.  As the ambient air is heated and passes through the wheel, the discharge temperature is constantly monitored and the VFD adjusts the air flow ensuring that minimal air flow is used to remove all of the moisture gained in drying but no excess air is used.

The temperature of the air exiting the top of the wheel is just enough to remove the moisture and carry it away but is kept to a constant temperature. This ensures that the wheel will remove all of the moisture from the resin regardless of the resin moisture level and will automatically adjust as the moisture changes due to seasonal variations or changes in the virgin/flake ratios.

Reduce regeneration heat loss
Figure 2- Controlling the regeneration blower speed and the desiccant wheel speed reduces regeneration heat loss and increases energy savings.