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Gears and bearings are typically made with sintering.

The use of heat for industrial processes requires large amounts of energy and accounts for a large proportion of energy consumption in Germany. For process heat alone, 66% of the industrial energy consumption is used; calculated on the total final energy consumption in Germany, this is still more than 22%. With the technology available today, comprehensive savings could be achieved through energy efficiency measures.

In industry, sintering is one of the processes that requires a great deal of energy and heat. Here, fine-grained ceramic or metallic materials are put under pressure to give them a new shape with altered properties (stability, porosity). After being treated in furnaces, the chemical properties are further altered until the desired strength has been achieved. Typical products from the automotive industry include bearings, engines, transmissions and various filters. This is why this process is also frequently used by manufacturers and suppliers. Due to the complexity of the process, even today the plants are often over-engineered with the result that considerable efficiency losses occur during operation.

A consortium of industrial plant and mechanical engineering companies has now set itself the goal of further increasing the efficiency of these sintering furnaces. With their plants and technologies, the parties involved are part of the value-added chain themselves. Within the scope of the EnEffiSint project, the efficiency of the sintering process is to be increased by up to 30%.

The research work has been divided into several subprojects. First, the thermal and gas dynamic processes in the furnaces are simulated in order to identify the efficiency potential (e.g. by varying the intakes). Low-tech solutions such as closing flaps reduce heat losses even further. Since no measurement and control technology has been used in the sintering furnaces until now, the relevant systems are not very flexible. This is to change through the use of the new electrical systems being developed, which will enable real-time control. The innovative technology will be incorporated into a new generation of systems developed by one of the project partners. The overall process will be continually simulated in order to exploit further potential for process optimisation.

EnEffiSint is running from 2018 until 2021 and is being funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.