There are many types of metal and scrap parts that go unattended in various industries. One of the main things industries should have as a priority is the recycling of these materials. Metals are valuable materials and according to some authorities such as the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), the popularity of recycling steel especially has grown over the years. These include anything from brass to silver, copper, and aluminum.
These types of raw materials are some of the bests to recycle and can be repeatedly used for various reasons. Scrap metal also has a high street value in some countries. There is also the environmental incentive to collecting these and recycling them. This link can give you more insight into this.
Another highly valued benefit besides the financial and the environmental is that it reduces production costs for many companies especially the aviation industries, retail, engineering, and manufacturing sectors. Recycling enables us to use up less energy in production and manufacturing, whilst avoiding harm to our natural resources.
Metal and Scrap Recycling Within the Aviation Industry
Did you know that according to the BMRA (British Metals Recycling Association) every ton of recycled steel saves 70% of energy and 40% of water as well as reducing up to 70% of carbon emissions a year? https://www.recyclemetals.org/about-metal-recycling/cool-facts.html
Within the aviation industry, this is a known process because the majority of the materials used are made of some kind of steel or metal. There are various types of metal and scrap NSN products used in this industries catalogs including some of the below:
- Bars and Rods
- Structural Shapes
- Plates, Sheets, Base Metals, and foils
- Furnishings and Memorial Equipment
- Nonferrous Scrap
- Iron and Steel Scrap
- Historical Items or Collectors’ Items
- Signs, Identification Plates, Advertising Displays
- Miscellaneous items
- Additive Metal Materials
And tons more.
The Overall Metal Recycling Process
Each one of these categories above comes with its micro products. When recycling these products, there are a few different steps that take place, as discussed below.
1. Collecting the Raw Products
This is a crucial step in the whole process and involves collecting the products, scraps, and metals and those of a high value. These would then be sold to a scrapyard rather than dumped onto a landfill. This would include both small and large products up to the size of vehicles and other such structures like large steel objects and structures.
2. Sorting the Products
This step involves the separation of the mixed items from scrap and metal and a mixture of both. Items such as sensors or magnets are typically used to separate them. Other aspects considered are the weight and color for instance aluminum would be considered a lightweight metal both in color and density.
Other prominent colors include copper and brass which are gold and yellow and the dirty metals are put aside from the clean ones.
3. The Processing Stage
Once the second step is completed, additional processing is needed which involves shredding the metals and scraps. This will help aid in the melting process, especially those products that are large and heavy. The benefit is using less energy to melt them. The result is metal sheets and steel blocks.
4. The Melting Process
Typically, a large furnace is used to melt the materials and different furnaces melt different types. Even though more energy is used at this stage, the overall use is far less than when producing metals using raw materials. This process can be time-consuming and can take anywhere between a couple of minutes and a few hours depending on the size, volume, and degree of heat required.
5. Purifying the Items
The purification process ensures the outcome is free of contaminants and of a high quality. A method of Electrolysis is commonly used for this process.
6. Cooling and Solidifying Process
Once the purifying is completed, the products are cooled and solidified, which forms them into specific shapes for example rods or bars that can be easily reused at a later stage to create other items such as trays, overhead bins and in some instances passenger seats inside of an aircraft.
Once all of the above is completed, they are transported to different factories that use them to manufacture brand new aviation equipment that is used on a daily basis until it reaches its expiry date and is then recycled again, and all the above processes are implemented.
Technologies Used in Metal Recycling
The use of modern technology can easily identify one scrap metal from the next. These are used to separate ferrous (which contain iron), from non-ferrous metals (do not contain iron). Examples of ferrous metals include carbon steel, alloys and cast irons and non-ferrous include copper, aluminum, lead, zinc, and tin.
Because the separation of these metal and scrap parts NSN materials is one of the most important steps in the process it is imperative to use the best technologies. In scrapyards, large cranes with electromagnets are used to do this which can pick up ferrous scrap pieces. This leaves other items such as plastics and paper behind.
A process called ‘eddy current separation is further used to separate any residues and recover precious metals such as gold, platinum from other valuable metals like silver, and lead.
Such processes make use of highly sophisticated technologies that have sensors and include three sub-processes of pyrometallurgy, biotechnology, and hydrometallurgy where metals are identified using x-ray capabilities. The more industry standard technologies used in this field, the better the chances of streamlining it and making sure it stays proficient when taken back to the factories to create other products which can be used for consumer goods.
Keeping things aligned can prove to be highly challenging but the aviation industry has learned from the past and has invested tremendous amounts of funding towards this cause, especially due to the fact that it is putting our environment at risk and minimizing the negative effects of dumping scrap in landfills, is priceless for future generations.