Perfecting the laundry

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Will the state-of-the art laundry innovation centre in Berlin help the BSH Group to maintain its eco leadership in the laundry market? Anna Ryland reports.

Manufacturing between six and seven million washing machines and dryers annually, the BSH Group has reasons to take laundry very seriously indeed. In addition to its timeless principles of quality, reliability and service, the company’s competitive stance is focused on conserving resources and improving energy efficiency of its products. Th best proof of it is BSH Laundry Innovation Centre opened in Berlin in September 2011.

The Centre, which is a 50 million euro project, employs 725 staff, half of whom are engineers and researchers. In addition to developing new technology, the centre combines such competences as quality management, production planning and purchasing.

The building with 32,000 square metres of floor space has been constructed according to strict ecological principles to minimize its environmental impact. It incorporates thermically activated components, cooling its interior in summer and heating in winter. It uses only ecologically generated energy and reprocesses the water used in testing the appliances.

The Centre develops new laundry appliances – a process that lasts up to 28 months – and tests appliances manufactured in the company’s factories worldwide. Two types of tests are conducted there: endurance tests and noise emission tests. On six floors of the centre 1,000 washing machines and dryers are tested every day – with each appliance undergoing between eight to 12 months of testing which equates to approximately 2,000 test cycles, during which 100 programme combinations are used on a variety of fabrics.

The breadth of testing is partially due to the fact that in addition to the European markets, the Far East countries, and particularly India and China, where different types of food and spices are used, are of growing importance for the company. The decision whether a particular model can be accepted for mass production depends on the results of these tests.

Sound tests of appliances are carried out in the state-of-the-art acoustic chamber. With its walls clad with isolation materials and a resonance-protected floor, it weights nearly 20 tonnes.  One of the tests conducted there is the acoustic camera test that results in infra-red photographs that display sources and levels of noise produced by a working appliance. Spin vibrations are also monitored and measured there.

Acoustic tests became particularly important since the introduction of the EU Labeling Directive in 2011 that requires manufacturers to display the level of washing and spinning noise on the energy labels.

The BSH Laundry Innovation Centre works very closely with research centres and higher education institutes in Berlin where a number of laundry functions and processes are being investigated and new solutions developed. The company considers this cooperation to be vital for maintaining its product leadership in the future. Its most recent laundry innovations included a brushless motor used in Siemens iQ laundry appliances, a heat pump tumble dryer with self-cleaning condenser, washers and dryers with steam technology and an automatic detergent dispensing system (iDos).

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