Helping the Planet with Food Preservation and Carbon Emission Reduction

Posted by Bill Pollock on Nov 3, 2020 8:00:00 AM

At Optimation we design and fabricate manufacturing equipment. We have about a hundred creative and inquisitive engineers and another hundred hard-working and talented tradesmen. Collaborating as a team, they can design and build almost anything. Our passion at Optimation is to grow the manufacturing base in the United States. We have a very diverse client base and the ideas and concepts they want to bring to realization are just as diverse. Imagine being part of a team who provided design support for the world’s largest 3D printer, fabricated vaccine delivery machines, built a test system for a new transatlantic cable, or helped with the creation of systems to reduce or eliminate food waste. Coming to work every morning at Optimation is exciting and each day holds new challenges not yet confronted. Projects are large and small and include pharmaceutical, food and chemical process as well as high speed assembly machines for automotive, military and commercial applications. During the past month Optimation has received several hundred contracts from over 50 different clients. The variety is vast. Recently Optimation was selected by the Rochester Technology Manufacturing Association as a finalist for the Manufacturing Innovation Award, Large Company Division. It is hard to pick preferred clients or most unique projects, but I’ve picked a few of our favorites to tell you about in this blog. I’ll add more blogs in the weeks to come to share other favorites. Optimation engineers create the designs. Skilled journeymen craft workers bring these designs to life in Optimation’s 100,000 square foot fabrication facility.

3D Printing is one of the cornerstone technologies that has emerged as part of Industry 4.0 and modern chris-barbalis-xxuvhvGORmI-unsplashmanufacturing. Typically, when we think of 3D printing, we think of prototypes, industrial parts, or maybe even body parts or organs. But we seldom think of huge 3D printed objects. GE Renewables Additive Manufacturing is developing skyscraper-sized wind turbines using massive 3D-printed concrete bases, printed right at each wind farm site. Optimation is working with GE to engineer the equipment and support the printer, the process, and the materials that will eventually be deployed around the world. The technology will print bases up to 20 meters high with 120-130-meter-tall steel tower sections to be installed on top bringing total height to 140 meters (over 450 feet). To date smaller scale platforms have been printed and tested. Full scale units are planned for the near future. Taller turbines can capitalize on stronger winds at higher altitudes, and the structures support larger blades that generate more power. But building bigger turbines makes transporting the pieces needed to put it together a logistical nightmare. GE and Optimation plan to 3D print the base of a turbine wherever they want to place it, and at a significantly lower total cost. This produces positive environmental, financial, technical, and logistical results for GE and its customers. It is an exciting initiative and we are proud to partner with GE in this technology development.

As one GE executive stated, “Optimation is seen as a strategic partner for GE Renewable Energy’s Additive Concrete Technology Development Program, working to develop industrialized equipment and process solutions for on-site construction of large-scale concrete structures to support wind turbine generators. Optimation consistently demonstrates a high level of technical acumen for solving complex equipment and process challenges, along with the flexibility to adapt quickly to the evolving needs of our technology development initiative.”

Food Waste caused by spoilage prior to consumption is rampant in all parts of the world. In the United kelly-sikkema-ZLc9yTIFzNk-unsplashStates 30 per cent of all food, worth 0ver 48 billion dollars, is thrown away each year. Apeel Sciences of Goleta, CA. took on the challenge of doing something about that. After years of research they developed a plant-derived technology that maintains produce quality and extends shelf life by two to three times. This dramatically reduces food waste for farmers, retailers, and consumers. Apeel's technology is applied to fresh fruits and vegetables as a water-based coating. The company had a lab-sized test system and needed commercial or industrial scale manufacturing lines that could be placed in fruit or vegetable warehouses gently coating many tons of produce weekly. Avocados, limes, and other produce pose challenges in equipment design. These products require damage-free handling and uniform coating. To be cost effective the machines must have precision automated control with little operator oversight. Optimation’s world-class process engineering and fabrication capabilities led to innovation and rapid implementation to get the initial high-volume systems into the market.  Apeel went on to garner countless awards, recognitions, and tens of millions of dollars of financial backing. Apeel's game-changing technology supported by Optimation enabled Apeel to deliver longer-lasting produce in the company's initial commercial execution.   Dr. Louis Perez, Ph.D. VP of Technology and CTO, Apeel Sciences had some kind words for the technical partnership between Apeel and Optimation.

“We were looking for an EPC firm to help us design and build our first commercial application systems. We ran a process with several EPC firms throughout the US and ultimately chose Optimation due their strengths in design, workmanship, software, and project management. It is difficult to find EPC firms that have all of those capabilities in-house, let alone expertise. Optimation was able to deliver several prototype units and deal with the inevitable change requests professionally and timely. The systems that Optimation worked on consistently get complimented and recognized by our partners, internal and external, for their efficiency and reliability. “

Air Travel places a huge burden on the world’s carbon footprint. In order to help solve this problem many airlines are moving toward biofuels, or blends of biofuels. Biofuel suppliers are starting to make fuel from cheap, abundant organic waste including farm waste. And many countries are contributing research dollars to help with this quest. The summer Olympics was supposed to be held in Japan in 2020. The theme shutterstock_549007048established for the Olympics was to be sustainability. Housing, medals, uniforms and other material were being made from recycled materials. A decision was made by the planners that during the Olympics there should be a stadium fly over where the jets were flying on jet fuel made from farm waste. Optimation was contacted by an American Biofuels Company who had the contract to supply the manufacturing equipment to generate that jet fuel. The Optimation team rose to the challenge to meet the needs of the technology and the schedule. They fabricated about a dozen pressure vessels and built a system of reactors and stills that converted ethanol generated from farm waste into jet fuel. The system was designed and built by Optimation to meet all Japanese mechanical codes and electrical codes and shipped to Japan. An Optimation engineer and technician went to Japan to commission, start up and test the completed system. The results were successful and impressive. This was another contribution toward reducing the carbon footprint without banning air travel. The client was delighted and said so.

“Our project has been fast-tracked and its successful, timely startup was critical for our company’s success. We reached out to Optimation last spring to start our project, and its remarkable that they were able to allow us to be in startup phase right now. We are in place to begin production of the synthetic fuel that will power jets that fly over the stadium at the Olympics opening ceremonies in Japan this summer!”

Optimation has hundreds of clients and has developed manufacturing equipment for thousands of different applications. Some of these projects are done for large established companies, many other projects are completed for small startup companies. In some cases, the inventor has nothing more than a patent and a dream when they come to Optimation. Our passion at Optimation is to grow the manufacturing base in the United States. Yankee ingenuity and American creativity provide the innovation that can make this happen.

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The goal of this blog is to be helpful to readers by providing useful information about applications in industrial engineering, design and skilled trades, as well as industry knowledge. We're passionate about manufacturing in the United States. We have a little fun with it too.  

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