Protomatic has had a material recycling program for years. From time to time, it’s good to re-evaluate a recycling program to ensure you're doing everything possible to minimize one’s environmental impact. This month we are highlighting some of the things that Protomatic is doing to keep our environment clean.
At Protomatic a majority of the material waste is some type of metal, principally aluminum and stainless steels. These materials are easy to recycle and make economic sense. We also recycle other materials such as steel. Steel has typically had a negative financial return due to the small volume and typically costs more to load/transport/unload than is worth doing. Nevertheless, Protomatic recycles due to the fact that "Free Machining Steels" have historically had about 1% lead (Pb). Consequently, in a land fill, the chip form readily rusts and can therefore easily contaminate ground water. Most of these "free machining" steels have been removed or replaced with other alloys.
Another way that Protomatic can reduce environmental impact is the reduction of oil usage. Our primary oil usage is in the form of Flood Coolant. Currently, most of the industry uses Flood Coolant, which utilizes Synthetic Oils in a water solution. This is a very effective method of cooling the tool and providing lubrication. The down side is that these coolants are expensive and can grow oil eating anti-aerobic bacteria and fungus in the solution creating dermatitis problems. Protomatic combats this by controlling the water by removing bacteria and minerals and creating an aerobic condition so bacteria cannot grow. This creates a longer useable life for the coolant saving replacement and disposal costs.
Dry and CO2 Machining
An alternate method that is utilized at Protomatic is Dry or CO2 Machining. These methods are used on select applications. Such applications are high voltage plastic insulators, implanted plastic parts and microwave filters. These parts cannot have oil impregnated in the material or micro metal fines that are typically present in the re-circulated flood coolants. There are many other applications such as composite materials and materials that have open cell or closed cell structures that are perfect for this method. The plus here is that these methods are very clean and have no harmful byproducts.
Waste Oil and VOCs
Reduction of waste oil currently is not completely eliminated. However, some newer technology machines have eliminated tram oil and replaced it with semi-sealed grease. Small quantities of VOCs are still used in final cleaning and finish areas, but they are minimized utilizing IPA (Isopropyl Alcohol), instead of Naptha and Acetone. We have found that some cleaning agents such as high pressure CO2 or Plasma cleaner are highly effective for some applications and much more environmentally friendly.
Heavy machining processes needs air filtration. Paper filters are expensive and clog quickly and are not practical for this application. The machining process produces large amounts of fine oily steam mist when running greater than ten horsepower. This oily mist needs to be filtered. Protomatic has centripetal filters and electrostatic filters to improve the air quality. Both methods have no waste paper filters, again minimizing the environmental impact.