Ecogate UK Ltd made its inaugural appearance at last month’s long-awaited Ligna exhibition and, by all accounts, the sales and technical team couldn’t help but woo visitors from all sectors of the woodworking industry with the latest energy-saving technology for dust and fume extraction.

Sales director, Jake Oldfield, admitted that they were “hard-pushed to cope with the level of visitor interest, which was nothing short of outstanding, but I think we did manage to speak with everyone who approached us for information and advice.”

“The Ecogate® system has been around for well over a decade now, and over that time the concept has been well received by the UK market,” says sales manager Ian Rayner, “but electricity price hikes over the last 12 months have really hit home with manufacturers both at home and in Europe. Halving the cost of running your dust extraction system is an opportunity no factory owner wants to ignore, and the fact that the system can often pay for itself within 2 years, and then continue to reap savings, makes it a no-brainer.”

Here in the UK, Ecogate have a sole distribution agreement with Extractly Ltd and, with interest in the energy-saving technology burgeoning, the company is now actively seeking to establish further dealerships both here and in Europe. “The potential for take up of Ecogate technology in the current economic climate is significant,” says Jake Oldfield, “and the levels of enthusiasm we saw at Ligna – from both manufacturers and possible sales partners – was very encouraging.”

As with so many good ideas the concept is basically very simple, and the theory behind Ecogate’s on-demand energy-saving technology is based on age-old laws of physics, but the system’s efficiency relies more on today’s computer processing power to achieve the energy savings. Realising the reduction in fan speeds is where Ecogate’s patented technology comes to the fore – reacting automatically, in real-time, to changes in demand for extraction.

Effectively, a small reduction in extraction fan speed results in a disproportionately large reduction in the amount of electricity consumed by the fan’s motor. In fact, as a rule-of-thumb guide, reducing fan speeds by just 20% will reduce electricity consumption by 50%… which means energy bills are typically halved.

When all machine stopping and starting is monitored throughout an average working day in a joinery shop or furniture manufacturing facility, the extraction system is typically only required to operate for around 80% of the time; and it’s the 20% of ‘downtime’ that an Ecogate system capitalises on – any time a machine comes online, the dust extraction adjusts automatically to accommodate the new extraction volume requirement. Similarly, when a machine ceases operations, the fan speed is reduced and energy consumption decreases.

Traditional extraction systems operate continuously throughout the working day, with the fan motor running constantly, at full power. With Ecogate installed, fan speed is continuously varied to exactly match extraction demand and optimise energy usage.

At Ligna, this principle was demonstrated very effectively with an interactive working display which also featured Ecogate’s latest development – the new “greenBOX Nxt” controller. Visitors to the stand were invited to mimic the action of a machine starting up by pressing a large ‘gameshow-like’ button. This change in demand for ‘extraction’ was acknowledged by the greenBOX Nxt, which in turn operated one of the display’s automatic dampers, which lit up like a Christmas tree to show it was opening! Simultaneously, an extractor fan started-up, and the ‘system’ status could then be monitored on the Nxt’s colour touchscreen. Pressing a second button opened another damper and the fan speed increased accordingly. Pressing one of the buttons again then closed a damper, the fan slowed down, and the actual power saving being made was displayed on the screen.

Ecogate’s new greenBOX Nxt controller is highly intelligent. As well as controlling the extraction system, real-time performance data shows how much electricity the fan motor is consuming, it checks filter pressure, air volume and air velocity at dampers, branches, as well as across the entire system, and also monitors machine utilisation across the factory. The greenBOX Nxt is able to stop and start the extraction system automatically at both ends of the working day; system performance is checked at start-up and confirmed by text or email, and at the end of the day, greenBOX Nxt will message again to confirm successful system shutdown.

Ecogate’s technical director, Will Kenyon, commented: “Since Ecogate was first introduced to the UK back in 2010, the concept and the potential for energy savings have been appreciated across the industry, and many manufacturers have implemented the technology into their factories over those years. For some, however, it was possibly just one more capital investment that had to go on the back burner but now, with the economics of the system making more sense than ever before, this is an investment that could ensure a future for some businesses.”


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