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Recycling of used tungsten carbide cutting tools pays off
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% of the carbide is still intact and capable of being recycled. Of this carbide, tungsten comprises 75% 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% a year. This holds immense power over the market because approximately 85% of global tungsten output in 2010 came from China.
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% less energy than production from virgin materials. It also reduces CO2 emissions by roughly 40%. 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.
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