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Baden-Württemberg's environment minister visits KBA-MetalPrint

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Press release from the issuing company

KBA-MetalPrint GmbH is known around the world as the global leader for metal decorating presses. But it was the company's additional front-line competence in air purification and energy recovery systems which attracted prominent visitors to its headquarters in Stuttgart at the end of February: The central topic of the meeting with Baden-Württemberg's environment minister Franz Untersteller, other Green Party politicians and representatives of interested enterprises was energy efficiency. This is after all a subject which often fails to attract the attention it deserves in the current energy transition debate.

The visit by Franz Untersteller, state minister for the environment, climate and energy in Baden-Württemberg, and Kerstin Andreae, deputy chairperson of the parliamentary group  of the Alliance 90/The Greens party in the German federal parliament, along with local politicians, entrepreneurs and technical experts, was organised by the German Association for Small and Medium Businesses (BVMW), of which KBA-MetalPrint managing director is also a member. The reason behind the initiative: As one of the region's so-called “Hidden Champions”, KBA-MetalPrint has exploited its comprehensive know-how from metal decorating to develop also highly efficient exhaust air purification and energy recovery systems.

KBA CleanAir: Full oxidisation of air pollutants

Coating, drying and purification of the ensuing exhaust air have been integral aspects of the metal decorating process for decades. It is thus not surprising that exhaust air purification systems have belonged to the product portfolio of KBA-MetalPrint since the 1960s. The technologies developed in Stuttgart are able to boast impressive parameters: The regenerative thermal oxidiser process (RTO), for example, achieves practically 100% pollutant oxidisation and odour elimination – and that with unrivalled energy efficiency. Under optimised production conditions, the system is essentially autothermal and can even generate additional energy for external use.

Solvent recovery with clean air guarantee

Since the 1990s, the Stuttgart-based subsidiary of Koenig & Bauer AG (KBA) has also planned and erected exhaust air purification systems for various other branches with VOC emissions, such as the automobile industry, or else simply to reduce odour nuisances as in the case of rendering plants. In addition to the RTO process, systems for thermal recuperative and catalytic air purification are also offered under the KBA CleanAir label. Managing director Ralf Gumbel and the responsible head of department Dietmar Decker are rather disappointed, however, that the interest in efficient air pollution control is still somewhat lacking outside Western Europe and North America. It happens now and again that Far Eastern manufacturers copy the metal decorating technologies of the world leader, but the associated exhaust air purification frequently falls by the wayside for cost reasons. Gumbel and Decker have an equally clear message for the domestic economy: “The solvents we are talking about possess a similar calorific value to fuel oil. If exhaust air is only purified to meet statutory regulations, that is the wrong philosophy.” With the KBA-MetalPrint systems, up to 82 per cent of the solvent energy can be recovered for productive use. For Decker, therefore, exhaust air purification should actually be viewed as a “heating plant with clean air guarantee”.

Heat storage made by KBA-MetalPrint

As a further offshoot of such know-how in energy efficiency, a KBA-MetalPrint team headed by Matthias Hänel developed a heat energy storage technology for integration into the Jülich Solar Power Tower. The KBA-MetalPrint solution has in the meantime passed the R&D stage and could already be deployed in practice to store solar energy for use during periods without sunshine. But in the same way that the planned Desertec project in North Africa has faltered, there also seems to be too little political backing for new concepts in the field of energy use. Dietmar Decker: “Incentives for investments in heat recovery would help enormously, as would corresponding rewards for energy saving.”   Diverging wishes Environment minister Franz Untersteller (“Baden-Württemberg stands among the leaders when it comes to environmental technologies”) also criticised the fact that discussions of future energy concepts are conducted primarily from the perspective of electricity prices. The subject of energy efficiency, he said, “is one of the most underestimated aspects of the whole energy debate.” He nevertheless asked for understanding that, as a politician, he is often confronted with diverging wishes from industry: The manufacturers of environmental technologies naturally hope for incentives and promotion, but there are at the same time other branches of industry which are then opposed to further regulation. It is undoubtedly imperative to establish energy efficiency as a business model, but Untersteller is sceptical that this can succeed solely by way of public incentives. One approach from his own work is a programme of low-interest loans for small and medium-sized business who are prepared to replace old electric motors and pumps with more efficient technologies. Untersteller: “The programme has been an absolute hit.”

Souvenir tin

After a tour of the factory, the guests received a metal tin as a parting gift. Not just any tin, however, but an original Brandt rusk tin, which the business news magazine Wirtschaftswoche recently tested as “the best protection against eavesdropping”. Mobile phone in the tin, lid closed, and your privacy is guaranteed. The only disadvantage to be overcome: Telephone calls are rather awkward!


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