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Metal Finishing a Greener Alternative

With governments the world over looking at cleaner energy options it may also be time to look at the manufacturing processing habits behind the construction of these projects. Currently the Victorian government is involved in the development of wind turbines

 

victorias-wind-farms a great and commendable opportunity for the state to lead Australia with clean renewable energy. This is good news for the towns of Geelong and the likes that will benefit by offering new jobs and ongoing technical and maintenance programs long into the future.

 

However in the quest for being more environmental surely that philosophy should not just apply to the finished result. The companies and component parts suppliers to these projects should play their part in this process also. Many will use old metal finishing process hot blacking, plating etc. either in-house or outsourced which have massive impacts on the environment from air pollution, water contamination, waste product disposal and worker health. References of these can be readily found on the internet for example:

 

Electroplating:  “Nickel exposure to humans may damage or effect kidney, liver. Chromium exposure may lead to respiratory tract diseases. A lot of water waste and sludge is also released from the electroplating industries will also increase environment pollution. For all these above reasons, electroplating is hazardous to the environment.”

 

Hot Black Oxide:Spent solutions and sludges from black oxide are highly caustic and contain nitrite. These are both hazardous; Nitrites liberate a toxic gas when attempted to be neutralized. Most of the evolved gas will be harmless nitrogen and carbon dioxide but the procedure still must be carried out in an extremely well ventilated area. Workers must not breathe fumes.”

 

Hot black oxide is very dangerous. The problem is that the process operates at about 150°C so there are evaporation losses, and water must be constantly added. The problem occurs when the water flashes to steam at 100°C. So, if a good amount of make-up water finds itself surrounded by this 150 °C solution, it can flash to steam, propelling this hot concentrated caustic onto an operator. Some people have been killed and many severely burned from these eruptions.”

 

The above few examples offer us a glimpse of some of the issues created by these outdated procedures most of which have not changed in the last 100 years. We can understand the attraction for companies to use these processes they’re cheap and when done properly offer a very good finish, however as we all know cheap isn’t always best and the true cost is the environmental one, not only for the poor workers operating these processes but the whole environment.

 

We can only hope the companies offered the manufacturing rights will take responsibility and ensure that not only its own manufacturing but that of its supply chain network attempt to implement friendlier and safer metal finishing processes. For these issues to be ignored simply because they are not in your factory or in many cases country would be irresponsible and should be deemed totally unacceptable.

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