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Injection molder’s green upgrades benefit customers and itself

From LED lighting in its office space to variable speed motors on the central chiller and all-electric injection molding machines, PRISM Plastics made energy efficiency a focal point of its new Chesterfield, MI operation, to the benefit of its bottom line, and ultimately, its customers as well.

"For us, using more energy efficient equipment and designing 'greener' facilities is a smart business move," Rod Bricker, PRISM Plastics VP and co-owner told PlasticsToday. "At the end of the day, our customers' focus is on two factors: price and quality. Many of these features and structural changes help us on both fronts to generate the best possible molded parts for our customers."

The custom injection molder invested $2.5 million in 25,000-sq-ft facility, which houses seven presses ranging in clamp tonnage from 85 to 390 tons. Bricker said that all of PRISM's facilities, including Chesterfield, MI; Port Huron, MI; and Harlingen, TX, use Toshiba all-electric injection molding machines, outfitted with Yushin 5-axis robots and SRS low-RPM screenless grinders.

Among the green investments in the Michigan facility:

  • Advantage Engineering Titan central chiller system with variable speed motors that ramp up and down as required rather than running constantly (approximately 15% savings per year).
  • Electronic ballast and auto-dimming lights throughout the plant (estimated savings of more than $10,000/yr).
  • Switch from 400 watt to HID 250 watt lights, which more than doubled light on the floor (from mid 40s to 100 foot candles). Bricker notes: "These solid state lights also don't have the energy loss from a long start-up/cool down period."
  • A variable speed air compressor runs at the speed required for the CFM of the plant (at least 20% more efficient than a standard compressor).
  • All electric molding machines (30% more efficient than hydraulic).
  • LED lighting in the office area.

Bricker said that PRISM received energy incentives from DTE Energy worth $3600 to install the more efficient lighting. Overall, PRISM expects to see a payback of its recent "green" investments over a 4- to 5-year timeframe, according to Bricker.

"Generally, taking advantage of green technology didn't take any more time than installing standard equipment. There were some additional costs, but we expect these to pay for themselves in energy savings," Bricker said.

Bricker added that PRISM is constantly evaluating new technology as it becomes available, including more efficient equipment. The company has also considered upgrading to the same or similar systems in all its facilities as part of its normal equipment maintenance procedures.

"If we can reduce our energy use, have more efficiencies in production and utilize equipment that lasts longer, why wouldn't we invest in it?" Bricker asked. "PRISM has always believed that our success comes from our perfected processes and making complete use of the best equipment available. Greening our facilities and our equipment has been a natural part of that continuous improvement."

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