Green machines - CECIMO's Blue Competence Machine Tools initiative explained

16 min read

Andrew Allcock reviews CECIMO's just launched Blue Competence Machine Tools environmental initiative, putting it in context, highlighting the detail, while singling out some companies' efforts (extended version)

During February, in Brussels, Belgium, CECIMO – the representative body for 50 of Europe's national machine tool associations – announced its Blue Competence Machine Tools environmental initiative (BluECOmpetence). It is the first pan-European adoption of German mechanical engineering association VDMA's initiative – VDMA originated the Blue Competence scheme and brand and still runs the national programme, but the machine tools initiative is operated and managed by CECIMO for Europe.

Standing behind this brand is a system that sees companies sign up to an eight-point company-specific action plan, with a certain number of points allocated to each item. Totalling 320 points, companies can only use the Blue Competence brand if they score above 170. In addition to this, for the machine tools initiative there are a further seven technical elements and companies must sign up to at least two of these (more online).

There are also rules governing the use of the Blue Competence brand for promotion, so you won't be seeing machine tools badged with the logo any time soon – although environmental product labelling is a related area of development (more online).

This move by CECIMO is a response to the European Union's Eco Design Directive/Energy-related Products Directive (2009/125/EC). German machine tool association and VDMA member VDW had previously aired its concerns about the likely European Commission approach taken. The recognised alternative to binding legislation is self regulation and CECIMO is opting for this route, based on a product functional module strategy and not a whole product view. Blue Competence Machine Tools is in harmony with the requirements of the Directive (more online) and complements CECIMO's self-regulatory stance. Work on the latter continues, through working groups within CECIMO, while there is also activity ongoing in ISO standards committee TC 39/WG12 (environmental evaluation of machine tools, with a focus on energy consumption), which has members drawn from European and non-European regions.

The European Commission itself has mandated work on machine tool eco design via the Eco Machine Tools project, with CECIMO and the ISO committee feeding into this. The final objective of the EC-driven study, expected to be made public in May, is, according to CECIMO: "To identify and recommend ways to improve the environmental performance of machine tools throughout their life cycle."

And it adds: "Based on the final results of the [ECO Machine Tools] study, the European Commission will evaluate different options, including self-regulation and mandatory requirements, for the implementation of the Ecodesign legislation." And, like CE marking, machine tools from outside the EU will have to comply, but any decision on approach is one to two years away.

Blue Competence Machine Tools, then, can be considered a framework that encapsulates the Directive's thinking, but alongside which more detailed activity is ongoing in support CECIMO's SRI approach.

At the initiative's launch in Brussels, Filip Geerts, director general of CECIMO, said: "Blue Competence Machine Tools is about 'competitiveness', 'environment' and 'quality of life'." The underlying principles of the initiative, says CECIMO: "Suggests that the industry increasingly builds its competitiveness on ecological performance. This does not represent a shift away from traditional elements of competitiveness, such as precision, speed or reliability, but it adds to these strengths a new core element: 'sustainability'."

Image: Blue Competence Machine Tools was launched in February at an event in Brussels – Left to right: Filip Geerts, director general, CECIMO; Juha Makitalo, president, Finn-Power; Dr Frank Brinken, CEO StarragHeckert; Dr Willi Nef, head of sales, Tornos; Martin Kapp, president, CECIMO

Martin Kapp, CECIMO president, added: "The European [machine tool] sector is determined to pool its resources and expertise to become the global technology leader in the area of sustainability, when it comes to machine tools and to reinforce its role in improving the quality of life in Europe." As CEO of gear machinery specialist Kapp GmbH, he highlighted that his company joined the initiative last year, when it was still Germany focused, and that it had implemented energy/resource-saving strategies for its machine tools, such as frequency-converter hydraulic pump drive control, plus reductions in coolant and air use.


Mr Geerts underlined that, according to a study, 96% of the environmental impact of a machine tool is in its use phase and that within that the consumption of electricity is the major factor. And according to the EU Commission, industrial production accounted for 40% of total power consumption in 2007, of which 70% was used by electrical drive systems. Depending on the company involved, machine tools can account for up to 68% of the total energy requirement. So energy reduction was the key theme from three machine tool firms represented on the podium – Dr Frank Brinken, CEO StarragHeckert and chairman of CECIMO's economic committee; Dr Willi Nef, head of sales, Tornos; and Mr Juha Makitalo, president Finn-Power, part of Prima Power.

Dr Brinken said that StarragHeckert, headquartered in Switzerland, but with German factories, was early to join the initiative in Germany. It has developed its 'energy-efficient machining centres' (EEMC) and, translating this into what it means in the round for a customer, he exampled a 60% reduction in the energy required to machine an aluminium aerospace structural part.

Looking at machine-specific function figures, there is a 50% reduction in machine energy consumption for cooling purposes; a 25% reduction in power consumption at standby; a reduction of 30% in total connection power; a 20% reduction in energy consumed by pumps; and 15% less energy through energy recovery and reduced idle power consumption.

Next up, Tornos' Dr Nef highlighted the reduction of moving mass, in one case by up to 40%, as one of the company's achievements, with finite element method computing applied to all machine structures today – lower mass equals less energy required to move. The Switzerland-headquartered company joined Blue Competence last September and, in contrast to StarragHeckert's large-scale machining centres, is a manufacturer of sliding-head and multi-spindle lathes.

He also highlighted that, through regenerative braking, up to 70% of energy can be reinjected into the drives. Additionally, he pointed up smart axis control. "It is necessary only to move axes as fast as is required to not penalise cycle time. Of course, the machine is capable of moving very quickly, but this is not efficient; this does not help you to save energy. So we have software to help the operator save energy, without him being aware of it, on a day-to-day basis. And during a one-hour test, using this smart software, energy consumption was reduced by 7%." In fact, just these two items together can save 39.5% of energy, when compared to a machine without these technologies, it was stressed.

Finn-Power's Juha Makitalo offered a sheet metalworking maker's outlook. Headquartered in Finland, Finn-Power looked to alternatives to hydraulic power use for its punch presses and introduced its more energy-efficient servo-driven machine 14 years ago. Since then, the technology has been used in press brakes, automated bending machines and shears. In the case of its Shear Genius product, energy consumption is slashed by 85% – €20,000 over 4,000 hours. But sustainability goes wider and he offered up material saving, space saving, reduced noise, less maintenance, no oil/filters to change/dispose of, and less idle time, as other factors.

But are customers concerned about sustainability?

Dr Nef said that he is not seeing customers asking about energy efficiency, but hoped that, through the Blue Competence Machine Tools initiative, they would become more aware of the sustainability issue, while it should become part of the day-to-day language of the sales force, he acknowledged.

Mr Makitalo similarly welcomed the co-ordinated approach of the entire industry, adding that, while sustainability is not a key criterion for machine tool/supplier selection, it is a helpful competitive edge where other things are equal. Finn-Power has been operating is own Green Means – more productivity, more sustainable – message for some time, in fact.

Speaking for the UK, however, Heller Machine Tools' managing director and CECIMO vice president Geoff Lloyd said that he does see customers here in the UK concerned about energy efficiency: "Our customers look at piece part price, and energy costs are a major part of that. We are getting a lot of demand from our customers for energy-efficient machine tools."

Dr Brinken added: "In multi-machine installations, there will be a lot of heat generated and that has to be removed from the plant. The automotive industry is looking at energy-autonomous plants –they don't want to cool in summer or heat in winter." He suggests that it is the larger companies that will drive sustainable production thinking (more online), with this then filtering down to smaller ones. In Germany, of course, many of the machine tool industry's customers will be VDMA members, so may already be thinking Blue Competence.

StarragHeckert's Dr Brinken also highlighted how his company is approaching the sustainability issue for a project in India. "We are currently setting up a manufacturing facility in India and we want to know from all suppliers how much heat each machine generates; what its energy efficiency is. Because, depending on how much heat is output, we will need a bigger or smaller air conditioning unit. We are really looking at that, because we need air conditioning to achieve precision. And in India, energy prices are equivalent to some of the highest prices in Europe. But, regardless, energy prices are only going one way."


However, when looking at energy efficiency, you have to look at the whole context of the application, he added.

"If you can save 2 tonnes on an Airbus A350 landing gear by machining titanium to closer tolerances, then you can put a lot of energy into it, because it will pay for itself over the lifetime of the aircraft."

And Mr Kapp amplified this: "It is very important to look at the complete manufacturing process of the part and not focus on the machine tool that is somewhere in between. You have to look at the whole chain from raw material to the finished product and find the intelligent, competitive solution."

As for any factory-wide measurements or examples of what is possible in the round, there were no available examples offered in response to Machinery's enquiry.

Mr Kapp said this, however: "Machine tool makers are themselves large users of machine tools. It is our intention to also be a show place for our customers; to show how you can save energy, save raw material, and so on. We will do this in our own plants and have already taken measurements to give some comparisons, and will do more in the future. We might also approach some of our customers, big automotive companies, to see if they will give us figures."

Box items

[] Blue competence - the system

[] Product labelling

[] Eco Design Directive/Energy-related Products Directive (2009/125/EC) wording

[] Machine tool designer database

[] Who's going green?

[] Volkswagen's energy efficiency drive

Box item 1

Blue competence - the system

Company level pre-conditions

1) The partner has set specific targets for its products and employees correlating to sustainable action – 10 points

2) The design engineering guidelines include sustainable criteria that extend across the entire lifecycle of the product – 20 points

3) The product documentation includes instructions on how to operate the product in a resource friendly manner – 20 points

4) There is an established concept in place regarding the professional and proper disposal of the product at the end of the lifecycle – 20 points

5) The partner offers expert advice to his customers on energy efficiency/resource conservation in the daily operation of the product – 50 points

6) The partner agrees to quantify the effectiveness of his products regarding sustainability by conducting at least one relevant case study. The results of case studies may be used by participants in consecutive Blue Competence publicity campaigns – 100 points

7) The partner maintains a management system in which sustainable targets are equally set and monitored as are targets to monitor product quality. The commitment to continuous improvement (CIP) is a part of this management system and covers sustainability targets – 70 points

8) Accountability for the topic of "sustainability" is directly assigned to a member of the board of management – 30 points

Proof of fulfilling the requirement can be requested by CECIMO at any time from the partner by means of on-site inspection, subject to prior notification.

Companies must sign up to at least two of the following technical pre-conditions:

1) Reduction in moving masses;

2) Use of energy-efficient components or sub-systems;

3) Support for the operator in optimising energy consumption;

4) Provision for recovering/re-using energy and/or waste heat;

5) Avoidance/shortening of start-up and warm-up phases, or energy-saving standby concepts, based on appropriate design measures or control system features;

6) Monitoring to detect leaks and losses of gas and fluids and consumables;

7) The product meets other criteria with an impact on sustainability (an open entry where companies can enter specific action).

Once again, documentation for the above must be maintained and made available as required.

Brand use rules

The brand Blue Competence 'Alliance Member' may only be used for promotional purposes as follows: as part of media communications related to industry; as part of the web presence of the partner; as part of a trade show, which the partner is responsible for; as a labelling for thematic events (eg, conferences) concerning sustainability.

As regards the eight-point company-specific and seven-point technical plans, the chosen items against which companies have decided to be measured cannot be used for purposes of promotion, neither can they be "disclosed in any communication".

Box item 2

Product labelling

Product labelling denoting energy efficiency such as that applied to consumer products will not be one of the measures adopted, in the case of machine tools. That is because they are industrial not consumer products, with machine tools subject to differences in implementation of even the same model, based on customer discussions, which leads to a variety that is not present in a particular washing machine model, for example.

Labelling there will be, however, and CECIMO is working towards an ISO standard on that. Such environmental labelling does already exist, but not in accordance with any ISO standard, points out CECIMO. So, for example, Spain's Nicolas Correa made a big play of the fact that it was "the first company at international level to obtain environmental product declaration for its range of milling machines". Indeed, the first company in the machine tool industry that has developed Environmental Product Declaration (EPDs) for its machines.

These EPDs are in accordance with the international EPD System and, in fact, Nicolas Correa's work has been instrumental in the development of the Calculation Rules (PCR Product Category Rules) CPC 44214: Machine-tools for drilling, boring or milling metal, according to the international EPD system. So other manufacturers of such machines could follow this approach now.

"Among the motivating factors that led us to develop this ambitious project is the position before the Directive EuP (energy related products), the focus on eco-design and environmental communication and verifiable comparable products," explains José Ignacio Nicolás Correa, president and chief executive officer of Nicolás Correa.

Members of the International EPD system include companies such as Siemens, ABB, Bombardier and Vattenfall. Nicolas Correa worked through member Technological Centre of Miranda de Ebro (CTME).

A general standard on environmental labelling exists, ISO 14021, and is viewed favourably by the European Commission -

Box item 3

Eco Design Directive/Energy-related Products Directive (2009/125/EC) wording

Ecodesign parameters for products

In so far as they relate to product design, significant environmental aspects must be identified with reference to the following phases of the life cycle of the product:

(a) raw material selection and use;

(b) manufacturing;

(c) packaging, transport, and distribution;

(d) installation and maintenance;

(e) use; and

(f) end-of-life, meaning the state of a product having reached the end of its first use until its final disposal.

Box item 4

Machine tool designer database

Machine tool designers already have free access to a database resulting from the European project Prolima the Best Environmental Practice Manual consisting of more than 100 eco-standards. Its purpose is to provide a series of ideas or practical guidelines targeting machine tool designers to help them devise more ecological machines, right from the design stage. The standards address issues such as energy consumption, safety, vibrations, etc. Visit

Box item 5

Who's going green?

Several companies are producing more environmentally sound machine tools/technology. Machinery presents brief details on a few of them.

Brother (Whitehouse Machine Tools) – last year, Brother machine tools was making energy reduction claims for its S2DN high torque machining centre range. The BT30 machine has been developed to provide BT40 performance more efficiently. When compared with a BT40 machine on a carbon steel workpiece, the Brother HT achieved the following results: used 59% less power; consumed 80% less air; was 45% faster. The company has adopted its 'Brother Green Label' system in compliance with ISO 14021. ISO 14021 is viewed positively by the European Commission - See here

Chiron (Engineering Technology Group) - offers a particular view of energy efficiency, highlighting that with its twin spindle DZ08 FX that there's a 40% energy saving to be had with the twin-spindle concept.

Citizen Machinery UK - Citizen's latest sliding-head technology M32-VIII features regenerative technology that reduces overall power consumption by almost 6%. Believed to be a world first, In a sole joint venture in Japan between Citizen and electronics giant Mitsubishi on the Cincom control and spindle motors, both main and sub-spindles regenerate power, much like the technology being developed in the automotive industry.

Citizen's Cincom control also incorporates a graphical ECO-Monitor that reads and displays information, including power consumption, while in standby mode, an immediate saving of 90% of the machine's consumption can be made when it is switched on but not in production.

DMG – the company was highlighting 'green thinking' over two years ago with a number of machine innovations – See article here

Hainbuch highlights how its carbon fibre rotating workholding devices support reduced power requirements due to their lower mass.

Heidenhain – CNC specialist Heidenhain published a thorough study analysing the consumption of power in a machine tool and its related elements. Interestingly, it concluded that a CNC control with feed-axis and spindle motors frequently comprise only 25 to 30 % of the total required power. See here

Heller – At last year's EMO show, Heller highlighted, in combination with its H 6000 HMC, that it had substituted a fixed displacement coolant system with a frequency controlled, high-volume flow coolant pump made by Knoll Maschinenbau.

Index (Geo Kingsbury Machine Tools) – The Index R300 turning centre boasts a number of energy-saving features: weight-optimised components; energy recovery via regenerative drives; shutdown of units that consume large amounts of energy after a user-defined time (standby mode); minimised friction based on optimally paired materials and low-friction bearings (hydrostatic circular guide); intelligent cooling principles, for targeted cooling of the machine, economical use of waste heat via a 'cold water interface' for service water heating or as process heat for other manufacturing steps; and the IndexECO fluid pump controller for cooling lubricant systems, which considerably reduces energy consumption.

Kitagawa – ECO Cylinder offers machine tool firms building lathes with a spindle speed of up to 5,600 rpm an energy-saving solution. The system's hydraulically actuated, rotary chuck cylinder typically consumes 1.5 kWh over a daily shift, compared with 36 kWh for a conventional cylinder. The reduction is nearly 96% and equates to a saving of more than 19 kg of carbon dioxide.

The open-centre cylinder achieves i, 24-fold efficiency advantage by allowing the electrically driven pump to cut the hydraulic oil supply once the chuck is clamped. Holding pressure is maintained using an internal locking mechanism which is only released during the chuck unclamp process. This is in contrast to conventional cylinders, which deliver the hydraulic supply constantly to maintain holding force.

Another advantage of Kitagawa's new design is that thermal distortion of the lathe spindle is minimised, as less heat is generated in the rotating elements of the cylinder. A further consequence is that oil temperature is reduced. In a normal workshop environment, a maximum temperature of less than 47ºC is reached by ECO Cylinder, compared with a norm of 80ºC.

Moreover, the rise to maximum temperature takes typically twice as long, around four hours, giving more thermal stability during warm-up so that component accuracy and repeatability can be maintained.

The ECO Cylinder is designed to match the 8-inch BB series chuck and includes 278 mm outside diameter, 160 mm length, 66 mm diameter through-hole.

MAG – the company revealed its SPECHT 600 E horizontal machining centre at the EMO exhibition last year, held in Hanover last September. Totally hydraulic-free, this has an electrically driven tool magazine, electric tool clamping and an electric pallet changer. Across a number of areas, MAG says the machine will save €95,000 over 10 years.

Roemheld – workholding firm Roemheld has unveiled its range of electric wedge clamps, swing clamps, zero point mounting systems, machine vices, block cylinders and work support.

Rohm – workholding specialist Rohm has numerous electric innovations that avoid the use of hydraulic power. These fall within its 'e-QUIPMENT by RÖHM' range. These include: electric steady rest able to support parts from 15 to 170 mm diameter; the servo-drive operated EVS e-cylinder without through hole for lathes or grinding machines and parts up to 35 m outside diameter; and an electric tool clamping and release unit for machining centres.

Siemens - Using the key combination 'Ctrl' and 'E' at the CNC operator panel, machine operators can directly access the energy management functions of their machine, for instance to activate the stand-by energy saving operating mode or determine the energy balance.

Using the 'Ctrl-E Analysis' function, Sinumerik controls can determine not only the energy consumption of a drive system, but also that of the entire machine. This enables machine users to analyse the amount of energy that goes into machining every individual workpiece, using this information as the basis for machining strategy improvements.

The 'Ctrl-E Profiles' function also provides a configuration platform for managing the machine's energy saving modes, helping to selectively shut down specific power loads during downtimes. In a typical machine tool, auxiliary assemblies such as hydraulic supply systems or cooling and lubrication units account for over half the total energy consumption, for example.

The company's Sinamics-S120 drive systems supports dynamic energy management and make use of a power recovery system that initially stores generated braking energy and, optionally, feeds it back into the grid rather than allowing the brake resistance to turn it into heat.

Yamazaki Mazak - At last year's EMO, in September, Yamazaki Mazak highlighted a range of energy efficiency technologies that can cut machine tool power consumption by more than 20%.

The technologies are fitted as standard or are available as an option on most machines in the Mazak range. These include: high efficiency LED work lights; automatic switch-off or dimming of lighting in accordance with a pre-determined set of criteria; personnel sensors that switch off work lights and the CNC display automatically, after a pre-determined period; automatic power-off controls for a machine's swarf conveyor; and Mazak pioneered the use of high efficiency hydraulic power units to drive machine ancillary items, with this used in combination with an accumulator that ensures the pump does not have to run continuously.

Box item 6

Volkswagen's energy efficiency drive

With its 'Think Blue. Factory' campaign, Volkswagen is optimising its manufacturing operations worldwide, in terms of resource-economy and energy-efficiency. At its Baunatal factory, North Hess, Germany, the carmaker is installing a transparent energy management system, scheduled for completion by 2013. According to Dirk Sauermann, who heads the energy team, it will provide a "transparent depiction of energy consumption" at machinery and component manufacturers.

Volkswagen is working with the Institute for Machine Tools and Production Technology (IWF) at Brunswick University of Applied Science. Says scientist André Zein: "The plant possesses around 5,000 machine tools, with plenty of relevant data available. This means that for the first time we can use trend analyses to derive statements on how the energy consumption of machine tools has developed over time. Our analyses show that the energy requirements of different machinery concepts for the same machining job can differ by a factor of five. This forms the motivation for our research into efficient solutions."

Explains Professor Herrmann: "We addressed the key question: what exactly is an energy-efficient machine tool? This enabled a benchmark to be determined: what does the minimum achievable energy consumption look like?"

At Baunatal it has been possible to determine how the electrical load has developed historically since the first machine tools were purchased in 1930.

The experts from Brunswick have developed 51 approaches for saving energy at the Baunatal plant, 19 of which have already been successfully verified in the plant itself, and another 32 are still in trialling status, awaiting further exploration.

And it is not only the obvious and familiar measures, such as more energy-efficient motors, that are being used, but also some approaches that are fundamentally new. "Together, we have found out how much energy can be saved if less material has to be removed, because the component concerned is preformed significantly closer to the final contour," explains Professor Herrmann.

"When the user is not running his machines at full load, there are several levers available for saving energy", he adds. "One option in concatenated production operations is to plan the process chain so skilfully that no waiting times occur." Here, he explains, a lot of energy can be saved, since up to 70% of the total energy consumption is accounted for by the basic requirement.

"So one measure consists of shutting down the machine, as far as possible, when no production runs are ongoing," offers Mr Zein. "This means the mission statement for the sector is to design a machine tool with a minimised base load that is ready for operation and reaches its operating temperature within a very short time-frame."

As for the results overall, Mr Sauermann says this: "The analyses obtained during the course of the project and our daily empirical feedback show that existing lines can be optimised for enhanced energy-efficiency only with substantial expenditure of time and money. What we're targeting here is co-operation with the machinery and component manufacturers. Besides optimising the machines' energy consumption, since 2011 we have also been focusing on systematically factoring energy-efficiency into new machinery procurement."

For smaller firms looking study their energy use, Professor Herrmann offers this: "We have developed a standard procedure geared to the capabilities of small and mid-tier companies, for acquiring the requisite data when they possess only machines with relatively old control systems, for example. My advice is: they should use simple, sturdy measuring instruments with a simple, standardised evaluation programme." He is also hoping for more transparency from the machinery manufacturers. "I really like the idea of an energy passport, stating how much energy a machine will consume in a particular application, and how it performs there," he comments.

First published in Machinery, April 2012