ESG, short for environmental, social and governance, is a set of criteria that investors use as a measuring stick before investing their dollars with a publicly traded company. Savvy investors
are often more inclined to back a company that is a good environmental steward and an upstanding neighbor. They are also more apt to invest in a company with principled leadership.
These criteria aren’t limited to investors, however. Potential customers are also interested in how a company runs its business before committing to a purchase – and these days, it doesn’t matter whether that purchase is a new car or a dorm-sized refrigerator. Consumers are doing the homework and spending their hard-earned dollars with companies that share their values.
As environmental issues continue to make headlines, the E in ESG is becoming one of the biggest considerations for investors and potential customers to evaluate. That’s why companies across the globe are adopting strategies to lower their carbon footprint and, in turn, improve their standing in the public eye.
Lontra, an engineering, manufacturing and digital services business in the United Kingdom, is doing just that with its flagship innovation, the Blade Compressor, which is a patented compact, double-acting rotary compressor used in energy-intensive industries. Essentially, the company is giving the compressor a green makeover, and investors and customers are taking notice.
For decades, traditional compressors have been consuming energy around the clock without being given much thought. They work behind the scenes in a myriad of industrial applications that are often taken for granted – from water treatment and cement manufacturing to food and pharmaceutical production. As compressors are used a great deal, they consume a lot of energy.
While Lontra’s new Blade Compressor performs the same work as a traditional compressor (whether treating water or helping to manufacture food), it consumes considerably less energy, which is critical as the world races to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions. To date, the new compressor is already starting to shake up the status quo with recent independent testing against a market-leading competitor, demonstrating electricity savings of up to 34 percent. With environmental consciousness in mind, it was designed to leak less, as well.
At Lontra, environmental and sustainability considerations go far beyond producing energy-saving products as seen with its compressor. The company also applies this ethos throughout its entire business, including the development of a secure communications platform to allow machines to be monitored and tuned remotely to reduce unnecessary travel. Lontra has also adopted tight quality processes that ensure “no fault forward” to catch errors when they happen and not later down the line. For Lontra, it’s all about choosing the most energy-efficient manufacturing processes available.
Using less energy
Like all traditional compressors, Lontra’s version is composed of a variety of components. Its Blade Compressor, however, features something a tad different: an internal disc that is hollow
in the middle that is built up from two separate lightweight steel parts. According to the company website, this design “replaces the old ‘up and down’ piston compressor technology with rotary motion, compressing air – or gas – in front and inducing the air behind in continuous motion,” which results in minimal waste and energy loss.
While investigating manufacturing processes to produce the discs, Lontra discovered that conventional welding would require significant heat input to fully penetrate the 2-mm steel sections to be joined. Not only would this be energy intensive, but it also could lead to distortion, movement and further machining or rework, which would require additional energy use.
To properly manufacture the discs – and in an energy-efficient way – Lontra recently partnered with Carrs Welding Technologies Ltd., a laser welding fabricator also based in the United Kingdom. Prior to working with Carrs, Lontra’s main pain points included the high amount of energy involved as well as the distortion of parts, which led to costly rework and additional machining processes. Because Lontra’s ethos is to reduce energy consumption wherever possible, the Carrs laser welding process was a major selling point as it consumed less than 50 percent the energy of a traditional welding process.
Carrs’ laser welding process is made possible with the help of a Trumpf TruDisk 6002 solid-state 6-kW laser combined with a Kuka KR16 robot. The custom-built robot cell is designed to take on large one-off components – just what the application required.
The welding process relies on a concentrated high-power-density beam to join the two parts required for the disc, which allows for faster welds and consequently lower heat input when compared to conventional welding. A further benefit of the concentrated high-power-density beam and lower heat input is the ability to fully penetrate the 2-mm steel section with minimal distortion, eliminating the need for further energy-intensive machining operations.
As is true with Trumpf’s full portfolio of laser systems, the TruDisk ticks all of Lontra’s eco-friendly boxes by operating economically in all laser states. This is thanks to the increased efficiency afforded by the TruDisk system, including a new pulse function with increased energy efficiency as well as intelligent energy management. An added bonus is that the energy efficiencies delivered by the TruDisk translate into significant savings for the bottom line.
When Carrs’ first opened its doors in the early 1990s, the company was primarily focused on selective electro
plating of injection mold tooling. Today, however, it is also known for its precision laser welding and has more than 350 customers relying on its services.
To maintain its large customer base, Carrs is home to a range of welding lasers, including the Trumpf TruDisk 6002. These welding systems offer customers a host of benefits, including the ability to add filler wire where there are mismatches or machining errors, which ensures 100 percent yield for small production runs. Due in part to the benefits that are afforded by the Trumpf robot welding station, Carrs has established a reputation of creating zero scrap.
Many of Carrs’ customers produce small batches for limited production runs or prototypes. When those customers contract eight assemblies to be welded, for example, they want all eight to be delivered within specs and without defects. Over the years, Carrs has consistently done just that.
With 100 percent yield comes zero scrap and no waste, another eco-friendly perk of the process. This dedication to environmental stewardship and the utmost in manufacturing efficiency is what ultimately led Lontra to choose Carrs and serves a great example of two partners that are fully aligned. Lontra’s Blade Compressor has been proven to save significant amounts of energy, and Carrs’ laser welding process saves energy in producing the compressor.
In the end, all of this adds up to an energy-saving manufacturing process to make energy-saving compressors – better engineering to improve sustainability and save energy, and an excellent example of Lontra’s focus on ESG.
No matter the part or product being produced, it’s important for companies to re-evaluate their manufacturing processes to see where they can save energy, both for the environmental benefits and for their own commercial competitiveness.