What do planetary gear units have in common with the sugar production?

  • Green sugar cane on a field

The sugar producer successfully modernized their mill drive

Sugar. Everybody loves sugar. Form an early age on, we experience a sweet taste as pleasant. Not without reason has nature added a slight sweetness to mothers milk. But many humans tend to consume too much sugar over their life. Be it to comfort the soul or as flavor enhancer – sugar is included in many foodstuffs, even in those where you would not expect it, such as in currywurst or coleslaw. The sugar industry is booming globally.

The project at a glance

Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers

Steam turbine drives in the Rio Grande plant
Exchanging the inefficient steam turbine drives of the mill
Exchanging the inefficient steam turbine drives of the mill

End customer: Rio Grande Valley, Sugar Growers, Inc.

Town/city: Santa Rosa, Texas (USA)

Industry: Sugar industry

Application: Modernization of a sugar cane mill

Three-stage planetary gear unit and speed reducers
Three-stage planetary gear unit and speed reducers solved the problem
Three-stage planetary gear unit and speed reducers solved the problem

A complete overhaul of the out-dated drives would have been very expensive and without any particular advantages in regard of performance and plant productivity. Consequently, the inefficient steam turbine drives of the mill were exchanged.

Industrial gear units were the solution

The new industrial gear unit in the assembly hall
The new industrial gear unit is prepared for transportation
The new industrial gear unit is prepared for transportation

We make our industrial gear units of the XP series more precise – a heavy-duty, 3-stage planetary gear unit that has been specifically optimized for the operation in a sugar cane mill. The XP series has everything required for grinding sugar cane, for example high torque, strong impact absorption, and low speed. This makes them perfectly suitable for sugar cane crushers and diffusers. The XP gear units have proven how reliable they are in several hundred installations worldwide.

Combined with our 2-stage speed reducer, the planetary gear units of the XP series by SEW‑EURODRIVE show a practical path to modernization of out-dated drives in sugar cane mills.

Modernization instead of exchanging

3D depiction of a red planetary gear unit in the system
3D depiction of the planetary gear unit in the system
3D depiction of the planetary gear unit in the system

As the project progressed, engineers and service technicians from SEW‑EURODRIVE were always there to help our customer with disassembly, site preparation, installing the new drive system, and alignment phase.

Prior to startup, SEW performed vibration, foundation deflection, and alignment analysis. All tests were successfully completed in accordance with the excellent reputation of SEW-EURODRIVE. The test results were that good that we even decided to take the project a step further.

Exchanging is cheaper than repairs

Chimneys of steam turbines with steam in front of blue sky
Chimneys of steam turbines at Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers

For the sugar industry, powerful drive technology is the key to a smooth processing of sugar cane. Sugar cane is mainly cultivated in the Caribbean and in the USA. Heat and dirt are the major challenges in these areas. The requirements imposed on gear units are high. In addition, sugar is an aliment and must be processed with the required hygienic care. The failure of a drive is very expensive for operators and should be prevented by all means. Retrofit and Condition Monitoring are valuable possibilities for minimizing the risk of failures..

The drive technology used by the sugar producer Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers was quite old. Therefore it didn't operate reliably any longer. This is why the out-dated gear units have been replaced with modern and efficient planetary gear units and speed reducers by SEW‑EURODRIVE. Not only has the factory been modernized, but also the costs for operation and maintenance have been reduced.

When the Rio Grande plant was modernized, plant manager Mark Nittler first had to exchange the inefficient steam turbine drives of the mill. A complete overhaul of the out-dated drives would have been very expensive and without any particular advantages in regard of performance and plant productivity.

SEW-EURODRIVE was able to offer the necessary know-how to Nittler so that he could successfully modernize the plant – covering all steps, from the system construction to installation and final analysis.

Solutions to please our customers

Mark Nittler, the plant manager at Rio Grande
Gear unit replacement video

"I’ve been really impressed with the expertise. Whenever we need something spec’d out we give you guys a call, they come up with a very good solution. We put it in and it’s been very reliable. And that really impressed me. They would send people in from all over the world to come check this. Anyway, they have no issues.," recounts the satisfied plant manager.

As the project progressed, engineers and service technicians from SEW‑EURODRIVE were always there to help our customer with disassembly, site preparation, installing the new drive system, and alignment phase.

"The replacement costs were roughly th same as the costs for the overhaul for one of our other drives – with the installation costs of exchange drives already included. But so far we’ve only been in there 2 months, but I guess time will tell," Nittler adds.

Mark Nittler

SEW was here and gave us quite a bit of assistance with the install, engineering-wise. They came in and inspected what we did and verified that it would – in their opinion – would hold up.

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