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NYS Governor's Awards for Pollution Prevention - NCR3

Rochester Institute of Technology - National Center for Remanufacturing and Resource Recovery, Rochester, NY

Background

The National Center for Remanufacturing and Resource Recovery (NCR3) at the Rochester Institute of Technology employs 37 full-time engineers, staff, students and faculty associates. NCR3 is the nation's leading center for applied research and development in remanufacturing technology and has helped many companies identify and implement alternative cleaning technologies that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. NCR3 developed a project to identify and facilitate implementation of these technologies in New York State's automotive parts remanufacturing industry.

Methodologies and Procedures

Surface cleaning is often a time-consuming and expensive operation for remanufacturing companies who restore worn and discarded durable products to a like-new condition meeting original equipment manufacturers (OEM) specifications. This is particularly true of the automotive parts remanufacturing industry, which often relies on older cleaning technologies that create significant amounts of hazardous waste and are energy-intensive, labor-intensive and expensive. Many of these companies do not have the knowledge or resources to identify and implement more efficient cleaning technologies, resulting in lost jobs and revenues for an important New York State industry.

The project was conducted in two phases. In the first phase, 24 automotive parts rebuilders in New York State were recruited to serve as partner companies. These companies provided automotive parts to NCR3 for cleaning and information about their current cleaning practices. A review of cleaning systems was conducted to identify those technologies that would be most effective for this industry. Cleaning equipment was purchased and installed at NCR3 and a test program was developed for cleaning automotive parts using this equipment. Automotive parts provided by the partner companies were cleaned under a variety of conditions in accordance with the test program and returned to the partner companies for their evaluation. Information about the parts and cleaning processes was collected and stored in a database for subsequent retrieval and analysis. From this information, best cleaning practices for specific parts and contaminants were identified and cleaning costs for each practice were estimated.

In the second phase, the results of the project were disseminated to the partner companies for their use. This was accomplished through cleaning workshops held at NCR3, presentations at conferences, direct assistance to the partner companies themselves and by the creation and distribution of fact sheets. In addition, two partner companies served as demonstration sites, where demonstrations of particularly effective cleaning technologies were conducted at actual production sites for an audience of interested rebuilders. These partner companies were able to purchase the equipment being demonstrated at a significant discount and the public demonstrations encouraged other automotive parts rebuilders to implement these alternative technologies. Finally, the results of the project were summarized in a user-friendly report distributed to automotive parts remanufacturers throughout New York State.

Benefits

The benefits from installing alternative cleaning technologies at just 2 of the 24 partner companies participating in this project are summarized below:

  • The payback period for replacing a mid-pressure spray washer with a high-pressure spray washer is less than eight months and generates annual savings of $105,000 on an installed cost of $67,000. In addition, electrical consumption is reduced by 1,200 kilowatt-hours per year.
  • By installing an ultrasonic cleaning system, a rebuilder completely eliminated the need for a manual cleaning operation and no longer needed to dispose of a solvent waste stream. Energy consumption was reduced while increasing product quality and $10,000 of annual savings were realized on a capital investment of $21,300.
  • The installation of a washwater filtration system resulted in longer bath lives, reduced operating costs for soap, water and waste disposal, reduced labor costs and generated $5,300 of annual savings on an installed cost of $7,200. In addition, natural gas consumption was reduced by 79,000 cubic feet per year and annual consumption of electricity was reduced by 12,600 kilowatt-hours.

If these systems were installed in all 945 automotive remanufacturing facilities in New York State, the potential benefits would be a reduction in natural gas consumption of more than 27.6 million cubic feet per year, a reduction in power consumption of more than 4.39 million kilowatt hours (KWH) per year, the elimination of a hazardous waste stream of more than 125,000 gallons per year, and a reduction in non-hazardous waste of more than 560,000 gallons per year.

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