PVD As An Environmentally Friendly Alternative Process
PVD (physical vapor deposition) is a technology that is not only functional and economical, it is also environmentally friendly. The PVD process employed by Kloeckner Metals upon the installation of their new equipment, has virtually no environmentally dangerous byproducts, making it a great way for any company to reduce their environmental footprint.
“That was a major motivation for us for in considering PVD as a value-add opportunity, in addition to its functional attributes,” says John Dobek, V.P. Commercial Stainless Steel and Aluminum of Kloeckner Metals. “Many companies are concerned about their footprint and being a responsible corporate citizen. It matches with our goals and it coincides with the goals of many end users to design and build products with that in mind.”
When you look at many other metal coating options, some of them involve caustic cleaning chemicals, pigments, and other additives that can be potentially harmful to the environment. Even though controls and procedures are put in place with these other processes, there is always some risk of exposure. Using dyes, acids for cleaning, flushing with water, and air discharge, these processes may be complying with legal pollution standards; but they are still putting something harmful into the environment that has a detrimental impact.
“We feel with PVD given the nature of the product that involves benign metals, inert gas, a vacuum, controlled temperature and time, there are no pigments or residues to deal with. There is some dust, resulting from chamber cleaning, but that poses no disposal problem,” John states. “We don’t use any acids or create harmful by-products in the prep, cleaning or coloring process. We use a mild detergent and a recycling system for water that is environmentally safe.”
Furthermore, the legal standards for handling these environmental concerns can often change from administration to administration. A process that is compliant today in one location might not be compliant tomorrow in another. Environmentally friendly PVD avoids this potential problem altogether -especially as we look to scale up in other facilities across the country.
“Any time you install equipment, there is licensing, permitting, or something involving compliance that comes into play,” John says. “Each municipality, each state, has its own set of standards. In our due diligence, we found that the ability to pass any local, state or federal scrutiny was something we really didn’t have to worry about.”
This played a big part into Kloeckner’s decision to invest in PVD technology and equipment. The cost of compliance is an important consideration when looking at the profitability of any potential venture. This is a major consideration when compared to other color coating systems.
“We just didn’t want to invest in costly compliance containment systems, anti-pollution devices or other systems that really complicate the process and cost,” John says.
Employee safety is another reason that Kloeckner decided to invest in PVD. Any time caustic chemicals are involved, there is going to be a risk to the employees working with them.
“One of our first responsibilities is to our employees,” John says. “A safe working environment has to always be the priority and you don’t want to take on any practices or operations that could put folks at risk.”
Kloeckner’s commitment to responsible environmental stewardship can also be seen in the anti-fingerprinting process they will utilize. In Asia and elsewhere, for example, many anti-fingerprint applications involve a spray process via a coating line or employee application. Kloeckner felt this approach could result in tangible airborne pollution concerns – putting air quality and our people at risk. Thus Kloeckner will employ an in-chamber process – conceptually similar to PVD.
“It is certainly a reflection on the responsible approach by American industry and Kloeckner specifically,” John says. “From an employee and environmental standpoint, we didn’t want to invest in something that had a short horizon or could be potentially detrimental. This investment really fits well into our corporate culture and principles.”
Steven Nghe is currently the Head of Marketing & Communications at Kloeckner Metals. Nghe is a marketing professional with more than 14 years of experience in various environments and industries. His goal is to tell you about the sexy side of steel. Nghe holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Management with a concentration in Marketing from North Carolina State University. Prior to Kloeckner, Nghe worked for Delta Dental, Wells Real Estate Funds, Georgia Institute of Technology and Doosan.