To expedite technological development, it is necessary to achieve a confluence of environmental goals (energy efficiency, sustainability) with quality, productivity, and cost containment. Examples of the promise and challenges in this arena were found at two recent conferences that may be outside the usual realm of Controlled Environments readers. The E2S2 Conference1 is sponsored by the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), a consortium of U.S. government and industry concerned with national security issues. SUR/FIN2 is sponsored by the National Association for Surface Finishing (NASF). Surface finishing traditionally emphasized metal plating but has expanded to include engineered coating techniques for both metallic and non-metallic surfaces.
At the E2S2 keynote panel session, one speaker summarized impressive activities by the military in achieving sustainability, waste reduction, and energy-efficient facilities. Another proposed a plausible portrait of the office of the future, complete with plug-in electric cars, times to power down the computer, and controlled accessibility for maintenance.
When asked for approaches to achieve greater energy security and sustainability in manufacturing processes, the panelists took a collective intake of breath. The blunt answers might be summarized as follows: That’s tough. People don’t want anyone to interfere with manufacturing processes. It impacts production costs; it impacts quality and performance.
This hesitancy is analogous to the response of clients when they are gently encouraged to avoid roadblocks in proposed manufacturing processes by coordinating or at least meeting with in-house or governmental safety and environmental professionals.
It is one thing to control energy usage and to be sustainable in an office, quite another to do the same with a fabrication process. Productivity is not achieved through memos, analysis, meetings, and focus groups alone.
Ideas have to be translated into fabricated objects, and running a manufacturing plant involves far more complexity and diversity than running an office. There were promising ideas and trends at the SUR/FIN program. The inclusion of engineered coatings enhances the range of substrates, and in some cases provides a more favorable environmental profile. Many of the six speakers at an international panel discussion highlighted not only economic growth, but also advances in sustainability, indicating a growing recognition of the advantages of incorporating sustainability features into manufacturing process design.
There was interest in in-process monitoring and control. Attendees were receptive to suggestions for simple approaches to process control, surface monitoring, and even to working with the analytical laboratory.3 A software modeling tool can be used to maximize efficiency and avoid excessive use of costly coating materials such as platinum.4-5 Manufacturing and analysis are converging, as indicated in a study of a practical high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) method for on-site monitoring process baths.6 For an analytical chemist, the initial reaction at the juxtaposition of HPLC and plating is mild amusement; however, the concept makes sense. The approaches cut waste, promote quality, and promote efficiency. They ought to be part of the sustainability equation.
A convergence of quality and economics will expedite manufacturing productivity. Energy efficiency and sustainability will probably be better achieved where fabricators can consider the concept in the context of productivity. After all, ecology and economics share the same root, and the concepts have many similarities.
Solutions may be found in adopting an encompassing concept of “controlled environments,” including control of the process. Such solutions have to be developed carefully. In fusion food, not all flavors and textures meld harmoniously.
The speakers at E2S2 are justified in hesitating to address manufacturing sustainability. An approach that is considered sustainable by those concerned with environmental protection may be contraindicated for a given fabrication process. However, there are instances where process design and sustainability can and should coincide. For process baths, a capital investment in better-insulated process equipment can yield better process control, energy savings, and decreased operating costs. The quality of process fluids is, in some (but not all) instances, better achieved by in-process fluid management, recycling, and monitoring. Critical cleaning is cleaning critically, not indiscriminately. It means finding the “tipping point” parts of the assembly process to remove process soils before they become intractable. For example, one presenter at the E2S2 conference7 commented that the time of storage of soiled samples reduced efficacy of cleaning.
Preventing product recontamination through judicious use of controlled environments also makes regulatory sense. Enhanced surface monitoring and analysis can increase quality and lower production costs. It will be increasingly productive and profitable to consider sustainability, productivity, quality, and costs in a cohesive manner. This is more than a checkbox certifying sustainability. It requires thinking, measuring, reasoning, and justifying. Rewards include higher quality, consistent processes, higher profits, and sustainable production. Ideally, efforts may also translate into more reasonable, effective environmental regulations.
1. E2S2, Environment, Energy Security, and Sustainability Symposium and Exhibition, May 21 – 24, 2012, New Orleans.
2. SUR/FIN 2012, Manufacturing & Technology Tradeshow & Conference, June 11-13, 2012, Las Vegas, Nev.
3. Kanegsberg B, Kanegsberg E. “How Clean is it? Rapid, Low-Cost Tests You Can Do,” SUR/FIN 2012 Session 6, June 12, 2012.
4. Rose A. “Corrosion Resistant Design,” SUR/FIN 2012 Session 6, June 12, 2012.
5. Gallerani P., “Calculate don’t Guesstimate,” SUR/FIN 2012 Session 6, June 12, 2012.
6. Plante M. “Quantitation and Characterization of Copper Plating Bath Additives by Liquid Chromatography with Charged Aerosol and Electrochemical Detectors,” SUR/FIN 2012 Session 11, June 12, 2012.
7. Mitchell M, Lowrey N. “Laboratory Evaluation of Drop-in Solvent Alternatives to n-Propyl Bromide for Vapor Degreasing,” E2S2 Joint Service Solvent Substitution Working Group Session, May 21, 2012.
Barbara Kanegsberg and Ed Kanegsberg (the Cleaning Lady and the Rocket Scientist), are independent consultants in critical and precision cleaning, surface preparation, and contamination control. They are the editors of The Handbook for Critical Cleaning, Second Ed., CRC Press. Contact: email@example.com.
This article was published in the September 2012 issue of Controlled Environments magazine, pp. 26-27.