Utility Costs Worth Considering


Many parameters must be considered when one calculates the cost price for a meter of micro-drip irrigation tube. As an equipment provider, Maillefer looks at how economically its lines operate in a production environment.

We've measured electrical, water and air consumption while producing both thin and heavy wall irrigation laterals in our R&D Center. Utility costs represent a modest 5% in comparison to raw material costs. Electrical consumption accounts for at least 2/3 of those utility costs. This is largely due to the main extruder itself. Efficient extruder designs and modern AC drive technology are available to minimize the energy costs. However, we wanted to also study the costs coming from cooling water and compressed air systems.

Quantifying through R&D trials

A first analysis was done by extruding a DN16 thin-wall tube with a thickness of 0.15 mm. The graph above shows utility costs in comparison to material costs and include breakdowns by utility types. In this case, water and air take up more than 1/3 of the 4.3% in utility costs. For the purpose of simplification, we calculated material costs without the emitters since their contribution depends significantly on their spacing and the resulting numbers per meter.

We used a similar approach in a second analysis for a heavy wall tube. While more cooling water per meter of pipe was needed, the thicker wall required about the same amount of cooling water per weight of material, but noticeably less compressed air.

Advances in technology

Trials lead to new developments and improvements, such as:

  • Tailored extruders and crosshead designs that provide solutions for optimal material usage and uniform melt distribution.
  • Improved start and stop sequences that reduce scrap rates, thanks to less idling and shorter change-over times.
  • Unique extruder barrel feeding sections and screw designs specially developed for making irrigation pipes, which eliminates unnecessary heating or cooling to maintain optimum melt temperatures.
  • Water and air applied throughout the line with care to limit waste.

We continue putting our equipment to the test. In a highly cost-conscious business environment, Maillefer recognizes its role in providing you equipment that operates economically.

Ernst Geider
Technical Sales Director, Micro-Drip Irrigation Solutions

Yves Zweifel
R&D Manager and Process Leader, Irrigation

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