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Leveraging Manufacturing, Part III

We will finish up our example of leveraging (see part I and part II) with this article. Although there was a long dead space in postings, recall that the example was from a recent paper from our research group and focused on  the gear train as used in transportation. The premise was that the surface finish of gears contribute substantially to the efficiency of power transmission. Better surface finish yields better efficiency.

It was described that the gear manufacturing process chain is relatively complex with several options available to the manufacturer at each fabrication stage. In this example it is assumed here that the main process chain would be unchanged and that only gear finishing would need to be altered to produce gears with higher surface finish. For reference, the full citation to the paper on which this series is based is “Evaluating the relationship between use phase environmental impacts and manufacturing process precision,” CIRP Annals, 60, 1, 2011, pp. 49-52. I’ll send you a copy if you want one.

The “leveraging” comes in with the expected fuel savings due to the better efficiency of the gear operation due to the better surface finish. We need to determine if the increased consumption of energy in finishing is paid back in the improvement in the operation of the gear train and accompanying reduction in fuel use. And a result of reduced consumption of fuel in the auto use phase we see reduced global warming potential (both from the reduced fuel used and the avoided impact of producing the fuel.)

Using the basic approach outlined in the last post, it was first necessary to determine the ‘cost’ of manufacturing improvements relative to surface creation. We do this by looking at the specific energy consumption requirements of the grinding process used in this part of the manufacturing process chain. From published data, for example from Professor Tim Gutowski at MIT, we know that the specific energy (meaning the amount of energy to remove a volume of material) for a grinding process assumed to be reflective of standard automotive gear finishing applications is about 200,000 Joules/cm3 for a process with a removal rate of about .01 cm3/sec. So, in English, if you want to remove a cm3 of material at this rate it will “cost” you 200KJ.

Using this approximation and the relationship between surface roughness and removal rate from earlier researchers we are able to estimate the increased specific energy required to decrease the surface roughness of the final gear drive reduction relative to the representative gear finishing process. This  estimate provides an upper bound to the manufacturing energy usage – meaning it should not exceed that since it is a convective estimate. Primary energy (energy needed for either the manufacturing process or moving the automobile) demand for the process and GWP emissions were then determined assuming a Michigan electricity mix (7015.2Btu/kWh and 0.7131kg CO2-eq/kWh, respectively. We assumed we were manufacturing the auto in Michigan.

The figure below shows the increase in PE demand and GWP emissions from electricity usage
in the manufacturing phase due to decreased surface roughness. This means, as we put more

energy into the grinding process to improve the surface roughness (recall, smaller is better in surface roughness) there will be a corresponding increase in global warming potential (GWP). Lower primary energy consumption is better for a given set of process conditions. In the figure we see two curves, one for the least sensitive relationship between process removal rate (x = 0.60) and the other for the most sensitive (x = 0.15). This shows the change (improvement) in surface roughness one can achieve by “spending” process energy – reducing surface roughness from the nominal by 50%, for example, will cost us 1.25MMBTU. (Read the graph as the x-axis at 100% is the typical surface roughness and moving towards 0 indicates reduced roughness or better surface.

Now to the automobile’s primary energy consumption based on gear train efficiency. The fuel consumption of a vehicle is dependent on the power that the powertrain must deliver to meet the commanded acceleration while powering any accessories (e.g. air conditioning) and overcoming losses in the drivetrain and engine. Because this analysis considered only changes to the drivetrain efficiency, the power required for any accessories and frictional losses in the engine were neglected since neither would be affected.

The U.S. EPA Federal Test Procedure 75 (or FTP-75) emissions driving cycle was used to represent a standard driving scenario for this analysis. The decrease in fuel requirements was calculated for each surface roughness, Rq, of the gear pair in the final drive reduction. The resulting decrease in energy that must be provided by the fuel was then determined by integrating the decrease in fuel power. All deceleration events were removed from this calculation since a deceleration event does not require power from the engine. Modern engines are operated to fully combust fuel, and so the PE demand and GWP emissions were determined assuming that the fuel source was regular, unleaded gasoline (1184.8Btu/MJ used fuel and 0.0948kg CO2-eq/MJ used fuel, respectively.

The figure below details the relationship between the surface finish (stated in Rq, microns) of the gears in the final automotive drive reduction and the reduction in automotive primary energy demand (gas!) and the comparable reduction in global warming potential.

This figure shows that decreasing surface roughness (Rq) lowers PE demand relative to a standard finished final drive reduction from 2-5MMBtu depending on the operating temperature, To. The earlier figure showed that a 20-60% reduction in roughness increases PE demand in the manufacturing phase by less than 0.5MMBtu. Comparing these analyses indicates that improving the manufacturing precision of the final drive reduction can provide a substantial reduction in the life cycle impacts of an automobile. Since the final drive reduction is one of several gear pairs in a vehicle, the impact of manufacturing precision on the entire vehicle drivetrain could be much greater.

This analysis showed that a relationship exists between the manufactured precision of a product and its environmental impacts over its entire life cycle. In the case of automotive drivetrain components, this relationship was found to be positive. However, it may not be true for every product and is largely dependent on the intended function of the product. Ultimately, if a manufacturer is concerned with environmental impact when considering a process or system design, then he should improve the manufacturing precision if the resources required for the improvement are less than the potential benefit of the improvement in the use phase of the manufactured product.

This is summarized in the figure below. The figure plots surface roughness (to the right is rougher) and the comparable primary energy demand difference between the use (auto operation) and manufacture (creating the surface by grinding).

You can see that, for the standard gear finishing operation at the right we set the difference (cost minus savings) at 0. Then, according to our analysis improved surface roughness, even though it costs something in the manufacturing phase, yields a good return (savings greater than cost – so negative delta) over a wide range of surface roughness (and corresponding process conditions). If we push it too far and try to get too fine a surface finish (going far to the left in the plot), the manufacturing energy needed outweighs the benefits in improved performance – it costs too much to do. The trick is, first, finding the relationship the allows us to define this curve and, second, determining when the lower limit is reached and it is no longer “environmentally profitable” to improve the process further.

Clearly there are things, some more important than others, that we are leaving out of this analysis. But, it is a pretty good, and accurate, example of leveraging. For example, we should measure other aspects of gear finishing processes so we can include other environmental impacts such as water, industrial fluid, and raw material usage. We might also consider other manufacturing and product effects such as increased or altered process consumables for the manufacturing process, will this more aggressive finishing process result in decreased process yield (that is, more rejects) and what impact does this change have on the service life of product. These could be additional benefits as well as offer some disadvantages.

I encourage you to read the paper if you want the full details. There is tremendous potential in this approach.

David Dornfeld is the Will C. Hall Family Chair in Engineering in Mechanical Engineering at University of California Berkeley. He leads the Laboratory for Manufacturing and Sustainability (LMAS), and he writes the Green Manufacturing blog.

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