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New oven to slash energy costs at Launceston springworks

CleanBiz grant recipient Leighton Springworks Suspension and Engineering is assembling a new electric oven which it anticipates will reduce its annual energy bill by around 75 per cent.

The Launceston company put its ,000 CleanBiz grant towards replacing a similar electric prototype that was used to conduct tests to demonstrate the benefits of using electricity rather than gas as a furnace fuel.

These benefits include saving on energy use, improved quality control, elimination of atmospheric emissions and blast noise, improved manual handling, safety and job scheduling.

Leighton’s managing director Robert Leighton showed CleanBiz Industry Liaison Officer Damien Blackwell and Section Head Sustainability Programs Section Carinda Rue the largely-completed oven shell and cover during a visit to Leighton’s workshop this month.

The new electric oven, which heats steel spring leaves as part of the hardening process, is being constructed largely in-house. A number of the oven’s components, such as the coiled wire elements, are also manufactured at the Leighton workshop.

"We’re extremely pleased with our progress," Robert said.

"We’ve now made the oven elements and the next step is to line the shell with insulation and ceramic tiles then fit the elements complete with the electrical switches and control system."

Robert demonstrated how steel leaves would be introduced to the oven and described the heating conditions necessary to prepare the steel for hardening, then tempering.

"After a set period at temperatures as high as 1000°C, the steel leaves are ready for quenching in oil," he said.

"After quenching, the hardened leaves are tempered. Tempering gives the steel its toughness, resilience and ‘springiness’ we need in our springs."

The tempering process may also be carried out in the new oven.

As well as these benefits, the better way in which the cover or lid operates means damage to the electric elements will be minimised and they will last longer.

Shorting of the elements, which are relatively expensive, is a real problem with the direct radiation electric prototype oven.

Robert said that the oven should be connected and operating by the end of July. The initial operating period will be used to trial and verify a number of heating scenarios and energy consumption, as well as to train or upskill operators.

Robert was also pleased to report that there had been interest from at least one other spring steel manufacturer in purchasing another of Leighton’s new electric ovens.

"Any orders that we can secure for our oven increases the likelihood that Leighton’s can provide more local employment," he said.

The second round of the CleanBiz grant scheme is now open. A funding pool of ,000 is now available to Tasmanian organisations to implement projects that help address over-consumption of resources such as energy, water and materials.

Applications for the second round of CleanBiz grants must be submitted by Friday 20 July 2007. For more information and to apply for a grant, visit www.environment.tas.gov.au/cleanbiz or www.development.tas.gov.au.