Surfaces are everywhere – in cars, planes, kitchen appliances and furniture. Virtually every object has been finished to improve its quality, lifespan, maintenance costs or corrosion resistance.
Surface technology also plays an important environmental role by enabling low-cost, easily produced materials – such as steel, plastics and wood – to be used for mass production, and by extending the life of the products and components, thus conserving resources. Being a large consumer of water, energy and chemicals, including toxic substances such as chromium, the surface technology sector is a key industry for making production cleaner and more resource efficient.
A study into potential resource savings in manufacturing value chains, performed by Greenovate! Europe EEIG and the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), has shown that optimisation of the whole value chain, instead of isolated single company or process optimisation, can generate the largest environmental and economic savings, of up to 70%.
The potential of the value chain approach has been recognised by partners in the EU-funded MEMAN project. The initiative aims to maximise resource savings along the complete manufacturing value chain, from casting and machining to surface finishing.
The Industrial Innovation Cluster, led by eiffo, is at the forefront of surface technology and finishing. As part of the project’s activities, it will re-design and re-engineer the manufacturing process of stainless steel hydraulic piston rods, widely used in machinery such as lifting devices.
The hydraulic piston rods are produced from steel that is treated with hard chromium plating to obtain better corrosion protection and hardness. Cluster companies working on the MEMAN project will implement systematic improvements aimed at increasing resource efficiency in the manufacturing of chromium plated products by reducing chromium use and losses, increasing chromium recycling and introducing safer handling procedures.
These innovations will be of great importance to the sector, which is strongly affected by higher resource costs, with energy accounting for 12%, and materials and chemical supplies 25 – 35 %, of total operating costs.
Consortium partners are optimistic that with the innovations developed as a part of the MEMAN project, businesses can become more environmentally friendly, competitive and profitable.
More information can be found on the project’s website: www.meman.eu.