Sustainable ultrasonically enhanced chemical processes

The major objective of the project is the first application of ultrasonically enhanced surface modification processes for removing surface layers, etching, and texturing a variety of substrates (metallic, polymer, ceramic) with greatly decreased chemical consumption that will enable a step-change in competitiveness within the surface finishing and printed circuit board manufacturing sectors, whilst significantly decreasing environmental impact.

The project aims to implement first industrial plants within partner SME’s facilities in the metal finishing and printed circuit board-manufacturing sectors. Key factors in the potential uptake of the developed technology are considered to be the increasing costs of raw materials, energy, treatment of waste and ultimately the disposal of waste from site, which are all projected to continue to rise inexorably due to a combination of legislative demand in the instance of waste and escalating world demand, primarily from Eastern manufacturing areas. As a result, there is both a competitive need and an opportunity for significant cost benefits in the reduction of direct manufacturing overheads.

Expected and/or achieved results
The major outputs from the work are: industrial scale units matched to targeted sector manufacturing plants; arising  IPR; detailed trial data; techno-economic modelling and a life cycle assessment to determine environmental impact.  The main result indicators will be:

– Reduced use of toxic/ hazardous chemicals
– Waste minimisation/ diversion from landfill
– Reduced energy consumption
– Reduced water consumption

The perceived market within Europe is the estimated 6000 surface engineering and PWB manufacturing companies which employ upwards of 80,000 people and have sales in excess of £8 billion. In respect of potential  uptake of the developed technology it is considered that some 2,000 companies within Europe could adopt such within a ten to fifteen year timeframe. The market is driven by both cost and legislation and as both the cost of raw materials and the cost of disposal increases so will the number of companies adopting the technology.
Uptake of the technology will have environmental, economic and societal sustainability benefits by virtue of reduction in hazardous chemicals usage and associated cost savings, cost benefits from reduced energy, waste treatment and waste generation/ disposal as a manufacturing overhead reduction and greater competitiveness for the targeted manufacturing sectors within Europe.

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