Some 50m t/y of plastics and 1m t/y of rubber are processed in Europe. Around half of this is processed in extruders and around 25% by injection moulding. The remainder is divided between blow moulding, thermoforming and other processes. Some of the machinery currently in use in Europe is as much as 20 years old. High-speed machines tend to have a shorter working life, while complex installations are used for appreciably longer than 20 years.
Energy consumption is estimated on the basis of the European machine population in 2010 and the average specific energy consumption per unit of processed material, giving an annual machine-related energy consumption of 22.8 terawatt hours (TWh). Total energy consumption by the converters where these machines are used is around three times as high at 66.5 TWh. Apart from machines, this figure includes the firms’ entire production, management and infrastructure energy costs. Around one third of machine-related energy consumption is a constant which is required simply for the process of melting plastics and cannot be reduced.
Using these data, the study shows that it will be possible to cut machine-related energy consumption by 20% by 2020, with the majority of the savings coming from making greater use of energy-efficient technology combined with new drive designs, further increases in the productivity of plant and manufacturing processes, and from integrating multistage processes into new operations. At the same time, obsolete technology will be steadily replaced by new plant. Modern injection moulding machines already use 37% less energy on average, with twice the output rate, compared to similar plant made in 1990.
When applied to all machine technologies, the potential reduction in machine-related energy consumption achievable with these measures is 4.5 TWh in 2020 compared to 2010, the study concludes.