in Vol. 24 - September Issue - Year 2023
Mass Finishing and Sustainability
Picture 1: A 3D printed raw test part

Picture 1: A 3D printed raw test part

Picture 2: Titan aerospace test specimen for PPL finishing

Picture 2: Titan aerospace test specimen for PPL finishing

Picture 3: Metal pieces to be recycled and to be tumbled against each other

Picture 3: Metal pieces to be recycled and to be tumbled against each other

Picture 4: World first technology recovers gold - finishing equipment is part of it, source: Royal Mint at Getty Images

Picture 4: World first technology recovers gold - finishing equipment is part of it, source: Royal Mint at Getty Images

Picture 5: Spaleck Oberflächentechnik Product Range, 4 pillars, one target

Picture 5: Spaleck Oberflächentechnik Product Range, 4 pillars, one target

Two sides of the same coin

Sustainability, sustainability, sustainability. Seldom a word or a phrase has been quoted so often and, so widespread and at the same time so unclear for its exact meaning. Of course, everybody would be able to give some sort of definition, but obviously, this word has developed to some sort of a chewing gum term character.

The many sides of sustainability

Maybe this is even necessary because everyone is using this term in all areas of society, from environmental, political, social, and of course, in business and economic areas. In the widest sense, it is a concept to fulfill needs without destroying the economic foundation to fulfil these same needs in future times. In forestry, for example, this means that you should not cut more wood than grows back in order to preserve or sustain this forest. In the 20th century, humankind noticed that one time all raw materials and energy reserves will eventually run out and the concern about that fact led to the concept and the philosophy of sustainability.

The daily news are full of subjects like climate change, land degradation, loss of biodiversity, loss of ecosystem services and water and air pollution. The Antrophocene, the age of mankind, has already drawn its irrevocable signs into the surface of planet Earth, and it is clear that sustainability only will get effective some day if every person and every organization from the smallest to the largest entity is able to take part and change itself to a mindset of sustainability.

But a mindset alone will not change anything, a concept and a break down in concrete actionable targets are necessary in order to achieve sustainability. Since the adoption of the UN 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, many national codices like the German Sustainability Codex have been created. Theses codices could be used as an instrument in order to measure sustainability and to report progress in different fields in order to pursue a measurable path for sustainable development. You can only manage what you can measure, a sentence which may only be partially true in this context.

The finishing side

But there is also a more fundamental meaning of the word sustainability, a meaning that has a more original root in the word itself. To sustain in the meaning of keeping something alive, to preserve something, to maintain something. That is a deep economic principle. To make products more resilient and robust, to make them live longer and be more reliable. An old virtue from the last century when people knew the sign “made in [somewhere]” was a quality sign, a promise and not a warning. Today, you often have the feeling that products break down immediately after their warranty period. Sometimes, electronic products even seem to have an intended short lifetime with a kind of target fracture time.

Shouldn’t products be more “made for forever” like those our grandfathers used? Nothing in our daily life is more superficial as a breakdown of a system or a product. It puts us into stress and sometimes in helpless danger.

Surface finishing is a technology that delivers more sustainability to products by itself. Products with smoother surfaces will not only look better, but also work better. By interacting better with each other and having less rough and abrasive surfaces with a higher accuracy of fit they will live longer. The longevity, for example, of a coin stamp in the minting industry is much longer when treated by a specialized surface finishing process.

It's quite clear and obvious that smoother surfaces lead to less wear and tear, not only in special branches like weaving machine accessories, gear wheels, sprockets, chain plates and pins, and pump wheels, but also and especially in modern branches who start working more and more with 3D printed parts.

An Israeli aerospace company, for example, has investigated the longevity of additive manufactured test pieces made of titan for their aerospace program. The study concludes that the parts with a special AM surface finishing treatment in a PPL from Spaleck Oberflächentechnik live 2, 5 – 3  times longer than the parts without this treatment. That’s an impressive and sustainable result.

More aspects of sustainable surface finishing modification processes 

In recent years, surface finishing is also often used to refit old work pieces and parts, which could be rebuild as renewed parts in order to return them into the economic cycle. But not only complex parts like turbochargers and starters are getting a new lifecycle via finishing processes.

Recycling of raw materials, special metals and rare earth elements becomes more and more important. Whether it’s coin scrap, waste from incineration, surface washing of dirty parts for recycling or more sophisticated processes like metal recovery from boards, surface finishing and modified similar treatments with core finishing equipment modules like centrifugal and vibratory machines are able to push recycling technologies.

But there is another aspect. In 2022, The Royal Mint in the UK announced a world-first new plant to extract gold from e-waste, which will launch in the autumn. They are setting new standards in sustainable precious metals and using pioneering technology, including new forms of classic core finishing equipment, to extract gold from old mobile phones and laptops. The recovered gold will be used within its jewellery collection, 886 by The Royal Mint.

Surface finishing equipment itself becomes more and more sustainable, as water, compound and energy consumption itself is drastically reduced in newly developed Spaleck Oberflächentechnik AM finishing machines like the PPT and PPL, and older classical machine types are steadily improved in order to save resources.

Last but not least, the organization of a classic surface finishing manufacturer like Spaleck Oberflächentechnik is changing into a more sustainable direction in two ways. Internally, a couple of green projects started in 2022 in order to save energy for production and administration (e.g. new company-wide LED lighting, company-wide energy-saving sockets, company-wide internal energy audits by a special taskforce, planning of photovoltaic energy production). Small steps, but steps into the right direction.

Externally, Spaleck Oberflächentechnik is offering more products outside the classical finishing range to help customers become more sustainable with different products by themselves. Practically, the Spaleck Oberflächentechnik’s product strategy of the last years is increasingly supporting the longevity of customer products by 4 fundamental segments of surface finishing, waste water recycling, inspection technology and industry and membrane cleaning products.

The main thrust of every single business segment is - as you like - “let products last longer”. The main mission of the Spaleck Oberflächentechnik team is to give the world more reliable products. Finally, the meaning of the term sustainability in our Spaleck Oberflächentechnik world is clear: making products more sustainable in very different dimensions. Is there any better purpose as that? We think no.

For Information:

Spaleck Oberf lächentechnik GmbH 

& Co. KG

Schlavenhorst 117

46395 Bocholt, Germany

Tel. +49.2871.9500.14

E-mail: m.geuting@spaleck.biz