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Recycling used cutting tools pays off

Environmental-responsibility and productivity can go hand-in-hand

By Katherine Hodges

Recycling, going-green or environmentally-friendly are today’s buzzwords when it comes to new technologies or developments in the manufacturing world.

With increasing pressures and competition from low-cost-countries, Australian manufacturers may find the task to become an environmentally-conscious shop daunting. However, there are many different approaches to improve operations which not only reduce the carbon footprint, but can generate extra cash and reduce production costs.

For example, when an operator replaces a carbide insert, about 95 per cent of the carbide is still intact and capable of being recycled.

Of this carbide, tungsten comprises 75 per cent of the content.

Tungsten is a finite resource with the interesting ability to be recycled infinitely, reducing our reliance upon mining of this rare earth element.

The tight supply of tungsten has been keeping upward pressure on the price of the metal. Recent rule changes in China’s new Five Year Plan might alleviate some of the supply issues this year as the quota for tungsten production has been raised to 87,000 tonnes from 80,000 tonnes last year.

However, in the long run, the rule changes cap new production growth at an average 8 per cent a year.

This holds immense power over the market because about 85 per cent of global tungsten output in 2010 came from China.

According to the Tungsten Investing News, the price of tungsten APT (ammonium paratungstate) as of January this year had risen 81 per cent since year over year, from US$185 per MTU to its then current price of $335 per MTU.

The effect of rising tungsten prices is causing concern generally across the tooling sector, and recycling is attracting considerably more attention from carbide tip producers to damp down high carbide prices, ensure security of supply and reduce consumption of non-renewable raw materials.

Sandvik Coromant is one of the most proactive cutting tool manufacturers in this area.
Internal calculations, based on international standards, have shown that production of tools from recycled material consumes up to 75 per cent less energy than production from virgin materials. It also reduces CO2 emissions by roughly 40 per cent.

No comprehensive studies have been undertaken to determine how cutting tool recycling impacts chemical consumption and water pollution, but it is widely accepted that these areas benefit as well.

There is no difference in quality between cutting tools made from recycled or virgin materials.

Most Sandvik Coromant customers are not concerned whether the tools they buy are made from recycled or virgin materials, though some consider tools made from recycled materials superior because of their positive impact on the environment.

A very small percentage perceives these tools as inferior, due to misperceptions about recycled goods.

Today there is no excuse for not recycling your carbide as almost every major cutting tool supplier has a program in place.

With many of these suppliers actually buying back the used carbide, it is both a wise financial and environmental choice.

One example of a cutting tool recycling program is Sandvik Coromant’s Coromant Recycling Concept (CRC), launched in 1996.

As part of the Sandvik Group, the CRC has access to three regional recycling facilities. The Chiplun, India, facility, built in 2007, specialises in zinc-process recycling. Wolfram Bergau, a Sandvik-owned company in Austria, operates a chemical-process recycling plant. In the US, Sandvik Coromant contracts to provide chemical-process recycling at a Pennsylvania plant.

The program is a win for all concerned. Sandvik Coromant’s CRC offers a comprehensive, easy-to-use and free-of-charge service to its customers that also includes solid carbide tools. Using CRC, all used hard metal materials of any brand are collected in boxes placed by the machine tool.

Sandvik Coromant Australia offers free collection boxes for its customers, while it is recommended that there should be two in place at each lathe, milling machine, drill or machining centre – one for inserts and one for solid carbide tools.

Once full, the contents are transferred to a transport box provided by Sandvik Coromant, which is then picked up by your nearest Sandvik Coromant representative and returned to the Coromant manufacturing plant for recycling.

Sandvik Coromant Australia Pty Ltd
Ph: 03 9238 7174
katherine.Hodges@sandvik.com