Case study - New or used? Business expansion introduces many difficult decisions
When you run a family-owned business, success comes with hard work and some difficult decisions. Vince Kuber was recently faced with such a decision after taking over as President and CEO of Prestige-Pak, a Wisconsin-based Flexographic printing company. His parents started the business over thirty years ago and it wasn’t long after Vince took over that the decision to expand needed to be made.
“In the printing industry, you get to a point were expansion is necessary to keep good customers who’s needs have grown beyond your capabilities” said Vince Kuber. Pretige-Pak customers were looking for better quality graphics and 8-color printing which they couldn’t provide with their three existing presses
Strategic plans for expansion needed to be carefully thought out and Vince was prepared to approach growth the same way his father had, with used equipment. Vince’s late father, Jim started the business with used flexo presses that allowed the company to operate with lower overhead expenses. What the company lacked in equipment, they made up for in customer service. They strive for attention to detail, quick product turn-around and quality production through better plate mounting techniques. The “buy used” formula had worked well in the past and so the decision was made to purchase a used 8-color PCMC press and add on to their existing facility for more production space. The move saved the company over 2 million dollars in equipment costs. “We may not have the newest equipment but we produce the highest quality material that we know how” said Vince.
The addition of a new press was necessary to satisfy primary customers and increase the company’s market share but it would require additional equipment that they hadn’t initially planned on purchasing. The two presses that the company had been utilizing allowed them to operate without any air pollution control equipment. Under the Federal Clean Air Regulations, Prestige Pak would be over the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) limit of 100 tons of per year for Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) at a single facility. They considered circumventing the pollution cap by utilizing a satellite plant, separately permitted under the EPA but it would be a logistics nightmare.
To limit the initial capital cost of a VOC abatement system, Prestige-Pak considered purchasing a used catalytic oxidizer until they consulted with the engineers at Anguil Environmental Systems, Inc. With some simple calculations, Anguil was able to show Vince how a new Regenerative Thermal Oxidizer (RTO) would save them enough money in operating costs to offset the increased capital costs over the used catalytic. The savings were $130,000 per year with the Anguil RTO, providing a payback in just one year and eight months. Catalytic oxidizers are more than capable of handling the application but the Anguil RTO would prove to be so energy efficient that Vince could not help but think new.
Prestige-Pak commissioned Anguil to install a 15,000SCFM, dual chamber RTO capable of handling emissions from the four presses with the capacity for two more 8 or 10 color machines. The oxidizer achieves destruction through the process of high temperature thermal oxidation, converting the VOCs to carbon dioxide and water vapor while reusing released thermal energy to reduce Prestige Pak’s operating costs.
Process gases, with VOC contaminants enter the oxidizer through an inlet manifold. Flow control valves direct this gas into energy recovery chambers where the process gas is preheated, then progressively heated in the ceramic beds as they move toward the combustion chamber.
The VOCs are oxidized in the combustion chamber, releasing thermal energy in the structured ceramic media beds that are in the outlet flow direction from the combustion chamber. These outlet beds are heated and the gas is cooled so that the outlet gas temperature is only slightly higher than the process inlet temperature. Fasting acting, vertical poppet valves alternate the airflow direction into the ceramic beds to maximize energy recovery within the oxidizer. The VOC oxidation and high energy recovery within these oxidizers reduces the auxiliary fuel requirement and saves operating cost. For example, at 95% thermal energy recovery, the outlet temperature may be only 70'F (40'C) higher than the inlet process gas temperature with an RTO. The oxidizer can reach self-sustaining operation with no auxiliary fuel usage at low concentrations.
Allen Bradley, Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) control the automatic operation of the oxidizer from startup to shutdown, so minimal operator interface is required. These controls also provide for remote telemetry to enable the system’s operation to be viewed and altered via a modem connection to reduce maintenance costs.
With plenty of press experience, Anguil was able to act almost like a consultant by helping with the new press layout and enclosure that would meet the federal requirements as a Permanent Total Enclosure (PTE) for 100% capture of fugitive vapors. Anguil suggested recirculation of the old presses and was able to help Prestige Pak cut the exhaust volume by more than half, reducing it by 5,500CFM. This not only saves electricity but also decreases the natural gas required to heat the dryers and operate the RTO.
The wise decision to trust Anguil’s engineering capabilities with his application would not truly be recognized by Vince until the equipment start-up and destruction efficiency testing. Not only was the Anguil system destroying 99.3% of all VOCs, it was operating without any natural gas as long as Prestige Pak was running one press or more.