Extractly Ltd has retro-fitted Ecogate® ‘on-demand’ control technology across an extensive dust extraction system serving JTC Furniture Group’s manufacturing plant.

Over the last four decades, JTC Furniture has grown to become one of the UK’s leading high-volume manufacturers and suppliers of fitted kitchen, bedroom and bathroom furniture for the Local Authority and Housing Association property sector, as well as for private property developers, student accommodation and MoD facilities.

Established in 1986, in Dundee, Scotland, the company now operates from two sites in the city, as well as a third satellite office in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. Since 1995, the company’s headquarters, warehousing, distribution and mainstream manufacturing facility have been housed in the historic Camperdown Works; formerly Timex Corporation’s flagship factory.

JTC Furniture produces hundreds of thousands of MDF/MFC laminated cabinets, panels and worktops every year, for both new-build and refurbishment projects, as well as undertaking specialist manufacturing for specific applications in education, healthcare and washrooms.

Powered by a total of nine main fans, consuming over 300kW of electricity per hour, the dust extraction system at Camperdown can extract vast volumes of dust-laden air from the workplace. However, delivering this powerful capability comes at a high cost and, with energy costs rising to an all-time high, JTC’s senior maintenance engineer, David Verrall, was asked to investigate the feasibility of installing Ecogate technology and the potential impact that it could have on future energy usage.

“JTC’s electricity bills were eye-wateringly high and, because the company’s focus is on volume production, machinery utilisation is very high,” explains Jake Oldfield, Extractly’s sales director.

Ecogate’s On-Demand technology is capable of achieving substantial energy savings when machinery utilisation varies throughout the working day, but respectable savings can also be achieved when machines effectively appear to be working non-stop.

“Even though key equipment was operating virtually continuously, findings from our energy appraisal survey at Camperdown Works still indicated that worthwhile savings could be made by capitalising on the reduced demand for extraction during operators’ breaks and loading and unloading operations and, significantly, it showed that some equipment only needed extraction for minimal periods during the working day.”

In addition, although constantly powered up, some of the production lines at JTC are not continuously creating waste dust, and so don’t require continuous extraction. In the vast majority of installations, Ecogate® technology controls the demand for extraction based on a machine’s on or off status, but the technology is also capable of determining extraction requirements on a production line using a range of alternative ‘proof of cut/dust’ monitoring devices.

“Installing the Ecogate system at JTC has had a huge effect,” says David Verrall. “Just a few weeks after the system was commissioned, evidence of the promised financial savings were clear to see, but noise levels in the factory are also markedly lower, and the amount of airborne dust in the factory has also been reduced significantly.”

At JTC, Extractly installed two of the latest Ecogate greenBOX® Nxt controllers; one monitoring demand and controlling extraction provided by three of the main fans, and the second doing the same for the other six fans. These highly intelligent controllers can efficiently control the operation of an extraction system with multiple main fans and up to 72 individual workstations.

The greenBOX® controllers continuously monitor extraction demand across the factory and, in real-time, determine the exact amount of airflow each fan must provide to fulfil that demand. As well as controlling the extraction system, real-time performance data shows how much electricity the fan motor is consuming, confirms filter pressure, air volume and air velocity at dampers, branches, or for the entire system and, to ensure employees’ safety, minimal airflow is managed across the entire ductwork system to reduce the risk of fire or explosion.

Machine utilisation is monitored across the factory and, from data received, the greenBOX® controllers determine the optimum speed for each of the nine fans, and the motor speed for each fan is in turn controlled by an individual Ecogate® PowerMaster Variable Speed Drive Unit (VSD). The PowerMaster VSDs are individually sized to match the motor power for each of the nine fans, which range from 45kW to 75kW.

Ecogate’s greenBOX® Nxt has an industrial PC onboard, with a Linux-based operating system, and a built-in web server provides remote access for fast, automated updates of both Ecogate® and system software. In addition, the greenBOX® Nxt can automatically stop and start the extraction system at both ends of the working day – system performance is checked at start-up, and confirmed by text or email, and the greenBOX® Nxt will message again at the end of the day to confirm successful system shutdown.

“Extractly’s engineers did an excellent job; the installation took just a week and a half to complete,” concludes David Verrall. Based on the savings achieved so far, we expect to see a return on our investment in around 20 months and, as well as the financial savings, we’ll also be reducing our carbon footprint by around 20 tonnes of CO2 per year. Just from our experience here at JTC, I would say installing an Ecogate system could be a game-changer for any woodworking business.” 

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