Opportunities for growth

13 April 2018

Energy savings are a significant trend not only for the tunnel washer line but throughout the laundry. Developments in design focus on efficiency both in operation and resource use, reports Tony Vince

Since their introduction in the late 1960s, tunnel washers have become progressively more reliable. Today, the design of tunnel washers – also known as continuous batch washers – is being advanced both by equipment manufacturers and by resource systems specialists, adapting products to make more efficient use of resources.

This need to make more efficient use of energy and water has influenced the tunnel washer market for several years, but can be expected to gain even more momentum over the next few years.

One thing is clear: flexibility, efficiency and sustainability are key to success in the tunnel washer sector. It is certain that they will feature at Expo Detergo in Milan this year.

As LCN editor Kathy Bowry found at Clean 2017, Milnor used the Las Vegas event as the platform to feature its latest 8-module 76039 PBW tunnel system (with an MP1650 single-stage press and 6458TG pass-through dryer). In addition to the PulseFlow technology tunnel, Milnor launched its PurePulse technology water recovery treatment system to help commercial and on-premise laundries achieve water and energy cost reductions.

The Milnor CBW washer, introduced in 1979, took tunnel washing a step forward with the True Top Transfer technology model. A True Top Transfer machine lifts and drains the goods before transferring them over solid partitions (no seal below the water level) into the next processing stage..

In 2010, Milnor enhanced the true top transfer tunnel concept with PulseFlow Technology by incorporating standing bath washing with high velocity rinsing for more effective washing and rinsing.

The 18-membrane PurePulse water recovery treatment system combines high flux efficiency and superior filtration performance to help commercial and on-premise laundries achieve significant water and energy cost reductions.

Keith Ware, vice president of sales for Lavatec Laundry Technology says laundries have interest in both energy consumption and capacity improvement. “It truly depends on local market parameters. Operators in markets where water and sewer costs are extremely high tend to focus on energy if the return on investment is adequate,” he says. “In the future if energy prices spike, the focus will return; but as energy costs have remained low, the focus appears more concentrated on labour savings, throughput and capacity increases. While many companies speak of being green, it is often the green that goes into a wallet that takes precedent.”

He says that healthcare continues to be strong in the USA and Lavatec is seeing smaller, multi-unit laundry operators in Europe converting 3-4 plants that were using washer-extractors and are now converting to larger, more efficient tunnel operations. “Tunnel washers can help by reducing labour, water, energy consumption, and improve a plant’s throughput with a similar footprint.”

Tunnel systems have the ability to process more products with greater efficiency, says Ware. “Additionally, they handle a mix of colours without dye bleeding, which opens more doors to tunnel operators who were once limited to processing with washer-extractors. Tunnels are now able to process in shorter systems with less modules by draining and filling the wash liquor in the same modules of the tunnel. As systems get more sophisticated, their ability to adapt will continue to allow this market to grow.”

Lavatec tunnel systems have the ability to adapt water flows to process heavier soiled or coloured linens without the loss of water often seen in older systems, says Ware. “We have used multiple water holding tanks that can store water from a load of red linen, and then reuse this water when the next load of red linens is processed in the tunnel. In the past, this water was often sent to the drain, reducing the water and energy savings often sought in tunnel systems.”

According to Andreas Langer at Kannegiesser in Germany, markets are changing and consequently textile service providers have to meet new challenges. A laundry is confronted with challenges resulting from social developments of globalisation, customer individualisation, demographic changes and shortage of natural resources.

Global business trends show that hygiene and diversity in particular will become the main tasks for textile service providers in future. “Hygiene is the core business of a textile service company,” says Langer. “The removal of dirt stains is regarded to be the primary task of the washing process. But when we talk about professional laundering, it is also about the kind of dirt that is invisible to the human eye.”

Diversity is the second challenge. “New textiles and the individual of articles and colours will have an impact on the whole process and will require machines to cope with these elements.

The Kannegiesser PowerTrans Vario serves exactly the demands of the daily laundry business now and in future, he says. “With the PowerTrans Vario, the modern laundry is more than prepared for the upcoming demands in the years to come.”

The PowerTrans Vario is setting new hygienic standards in all kind of applications – hotel sector, healthcare and workwear. The PowerTrans is designed for extreme soiling on the one hand and challenging hygienic applications on the other. This implies the avoidance, by design, of ‘unused space’ in the inner and outer drums, tanks and piping, where soiling and microorganisms can permanently settle. All process components and parts that touch the product are made of stainless steel.

The PowerTrans Vario is a ‘Separate Batch Washer’, which means every batch is treated separately. The inner drum design with ActiveDrop wash action leads to best wash performance with lowest consumption and textile care. Integrated water and energy recovery systems are available.

The principle of the straight drum wall design enables high loading ratios and overload safety without any restrictions on the wash and finish quality. The QuickExchange compartment is designed for quick filling and draining, quick heating and liquor exchange between the inner and the outer drum.

Kannegiesser’s integrative control system offers a high effective laundry system, with highly flexible and sophisticated network connections between all new Kannegiesser machines. Future modifications are easily installed and all will provide significant cost savings after commissioning.

Marta Prat at Girbau says there are many sectors, where tunnel technology was not previously used, that are now considering the tunnel system.  “Our tunnel washer, due to its double drum in all compartments, is very flexible, and can be modified at anytime during its lifetime for adapting it to these new technologies and new processes.

The emerging markets have been very strong. Tourism is finding new destinations, and this makes all the sectors grow. The sector for healthcare linen and linen for nursing homes have been increasing. 

The water and energy consumption is always in the focus of Girbau’s developments. “We are working on heat exchangers, recovery tanks, recycling water, and also we install special kits to update old laundries, so they can also improve its water and energy consumption reduction. In someway, we keep in touch with our customers to keep them continuously updated.

Girbau has created a new service area that is focused on customers. The laundry specialist teams which are composed by laundry designers, sales technical engineers and project managers are being very close to the customer from the presales with the laundry design, following the project through to the commissioning and the start-up.

Lapauw International revealed at Clean 2017 that a new division of the group will be responsible for design and production of tunnel washers as well as presses, dryers, conveyors and all other supporting equipment. Lapauw plans to present its full product range, including the new tunnel washer at Expo Detergo in Milan in 2018.

The new Lapauw product range will include tunnel washers with capacities of 35, 50, 70 and 100kg, a 50-bar press, and both steam- and gas-heated dryers. All machines will have the CE-mark and will adhere to other international standards in the markets in which the company operates, including North America. Lapauw International announced last October that the company has completed the acquisition of Transferon. Over the past 45 years, Transferon has sold more than 400 tunnel washing systems. The Transferon team members and products will be integrated into the recently-created division of the Lapauw group.

Vega Systems Wash Technology Germany says that its SmartLine Tunnel has already established itself in many markets and applications around the world. The team in Germany is constantly reviewing the design and with special modifications, the SmartLine system has been designed to go into some specialist applications.

With the Broadbent Group behind it, Vega Systems UK has the support of a large team of skilled service personnel around the UK, says Steve Childs. Allied to this is the backing of a large inventory, the QA systems and in-house engineering capability of the Broadbent Group; all aimed at improving and supporting our Vega Systems products.

Vega has developed special water storage tanks with intelligent level controls and with special profiles and materials, which mean there is no standing water left after draining. This is necessary for the most demanding healthcare or clean-room type environments. Vega can also supply self-sterilising tanks with steam and hot-water sprinklers.

These specialised hygienic machines have found applications in private care-home laundries where traceability and proof of process paramount.

Vega recently introduced a range of high-performance centrifugal extractors to complement the SmartLine Tunnel, says Childs. “The addition of these centrifugal extractors to our line-up allows Vega to work in several new sectors. The food industry, technology sectors and other specialists garment rental sectors need their garments to handled carefully throughout the entire wash process. A centrifuge can remove moisture from delicate garments without excessive creasing or damage to RFID and special coatings. The centrifuge often handles mixed work such as patients clothing and mixed care-home classifications better than other extraction methods.”

Vega UK has a long and successful history of using continuous tunnel washers for garment production. It is very possible to achieve excellent results, comparable with any other method or washing but with all the energy and labour saving benefits of a tunnel. “The tunnel has to be capable of very accurate control of the water levels, particularly in the first compartment; and accurate control of temperatures throughout the process. All of the features of the SmartLine CBW, the intelligent tanks, analogue level transducers, IDM metering and other features mean it has the tools in place to process garments to a high standard.”

Another key requirement for high end garment production is prevention of water borne lint re-depositing in the late stages of a wash. The Lint Transfer system decants the very top surface of the liquor and removes the vast majority of the suspended hair, solids and lint before the rinse section. This maintains the high quality finish required for clean-room apparel.

Jensen-Group is seeing more and more laundries processing all different kinds of linen very successfully in tunnel washers. “Large operations with multiple tunnel systems normally dedicate one lane to certain categories but smaller laundries often process all kinds of linen on one machine, including uniforms and F&B-linen, says Jensen’s Gerda Jank.

Jensen has invested major resources in the past years to adapt the product portfolio of tunnel washers to different market requirements.

The combination of processing the greatest variety of linen types while keeping consumption at extremely low levels is now tuned to perfection with QuickSoak, EcoSafeguard and EcoTune to reach higher levels of operational efficiency. QuickSoak gives an extra shower for the linen in the first compartment for maximum soaking and drenching, achieving best wash performance and highest productivity. EcoSafeguard is the automatic monitoring and logging of pH and conductivity value as well as water hardness and ensures a higher quality assurance in the laundry. EcoTune optimises synchronisation of the drive motor and the frequency converter, thus ensuring much quieter operation.

“Smart features like QuickSoak and EcoTune allow customers to achieve higher productivity thanks to a better wash quality with less rewash and a lower consumption of water and energy,” says Jank. “It is not a question of one or the other it is a question of combining both.”

The company offers tunnel washers under two brands: the well-established Jensen brand and the new Alpha by Jensen brand. Alpha represents a high quality, high ‘value for money’ solution for customers all over the world, who need lean machines that can simply get the job done.

To comply with all export demands Jensen obtained its CE certificate in China from the TÜV, which is probably the most famous and rigorous German quality certifying organisation. “The reactions have been overwhelmingly positive, and we are seeing this translated into more and more orders from all over the globe.”



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