The sustainable use of natural resources is currently one of the greatest challenges facing society. According to a circular economy, raw materials should be kept in the economic cycle as long as possible, waste should be avoided. The central concern of C.O.T. is to close regional material cycles in the metalworking industry by means of re-manufacturing and re-purposing of worn metal products.
Material cycle of the metal industry
The concept of the circular economy (CE) is generally regarded as a key strategy for effectively reducing the consumption of raw materials and resources. One well-known option is recycling. This is preceded by concepts such as re-use, repair, re-manufacturing and re-purposing, through which materials can be used longer in the economic cycle. In C.O.T., the cooperating research institutions and companies from the region around the cities Solingen, Remscheid and Wuppertal want to use re-manufacturing and re-purposing as an example to close a material cycle in the local metalworking industry.
The aim is to reduce the consumption of resources and energy and to demonstrate economic advantages for the companies. The challenges here are manifold: A process must be developed that is based on the use of purely returned, high-quality materials either in the primary manufacturing process or integrated into other manufacturing processes across companies. In addition, materials should be selected that meet the requirements of various hand tools and cutlery. Furthermore, the process should be designed in such a way that high saving potentials for energy and resources can be realized and an economically viable business model can be developed.
High-alloy tool steels
The recycling rates for steel are generally high, ranging from 60 to 90 percent, depending on the steel group. Recycling mainly comprises remelting i.e. the metallurgical recycling of steel scrap, which is associated with high energy requirements and losses of metallic alloying elements through oxidation and slag formation.
The project is intended to prevent remelting through the re-manufacturing and re-purposing of hand tools and cutlery. In this way, especially the alloying elements in high-alloy steel such as chromium, manganese, nickel and vanadium can be preserved. Due to their high proportion of alloying elements, high-alloy steel grades can approach the ecological impact of aluminium in terms of raw material production.
C.O.T. brings together an inter- and transdisciplinary team of six project partners. Companies from the region of Solingen, Remscheid and Wuppertal, which is known for its cutlery and tool industry, collaborate closely with two research institutes. At the centre of the study are the products of the companies TKM GmbH, KIRSCHEN Werkzeuge and Freund & CIE, and with the support of Plan Consult GmbH. The aim is to demonstrate how the material can be returned and subsequently reused via re-manufacturing and re-purposing. Furthermore, based on material analyses, demonstrators will be produced by the respective companies through re-manufacturing and re-purposing.
Materials researchers from the University of Wuppertal are responsible for the metallurgical analyses of the tools and cutlery during the project. In addition, new materials are to be selected and tested that are less resource-intensive and meet the requirements of a wide range of tools and cutlery. As part of the project, the Wuppertal Institute is responsible for the development and application of a methodology for ecological and economic assessment, in which especially the aspects of re-manufacturing and re-purposing are integrated. Concrete saving potentials for resources and emissions are calculated and economic potentials are presented.
Project sheet - in German (August 2019)
The project sheet provides a clear overview of the research project.