When you first consider the science of thermal processing from an environmental point of view, you may ask the question, ‘How can such an energy intensive process help the environment?’ However, if we consider a world without heat treatments, hot isostatic pressing (HIP) or coatings, the advantages become immediately apparent. Take an average car, for example – whether diesel, petrol, electric or gas, all need parts that are heat treated, HIPed and coated. For the wheels to turn, bearings are needed, yet few people realise that it is thanks to heat treatment that the humble wheel bearing lasts the lifetime of the car and beyond. Certainly, better design and improved lubricants assist with this extended life, but without heat treatment a wheel bearing would be lucky to last a week. The same applies to gearboxes, final drives, engines and, in fact, all the moving parts of the vehicle.
But it does not end there. Modern thermal processing techniques have allowed design engineers and manufacturers to use much lighter materials, such as aluminium, and have significantly prolonged component lifetimes. By treating the aluminium used for castings and suspension components, the weight of the vehicle is reduced, which in turn leads to reduced fuel consumption and improved efficiency. Without thermal processing, the average car would weigh substantially more and require frequent replacement of parts due to wear resulting in more mining, more transport, more machining, more waste – in short, a significant environmental impact.
So, while thermal processing is an energy intensive business, it is a vital part of the manufacturing chain and its use saves the energy it consumes many times over. The alternative would require the use of energy on such a scale that many of the things that we consider an essential part of modern day life would be economically unviable.
Bodycote operates modern, efficient equipment around the clock. The group aggregates demand from a wide range of customers to maximise efficiency and minimise energy costs. By replacing under-utilised in-house thermal processing operations with Bodycote’s state-of-the-art equipment, the overall amount of energy used by industry can be dramatically reduced.
The replacement, where possible, of harmful materials has reduced the need for disposal of waste products. Additionally, the adoption of recuperative heating and closed water cooling systems has reduced energy consumption and emissions. The success of Bodycote’s processes in addressing these issues is the key to its environmental credentials. The group does not simply aim to minimise its own energy consumption, but also to effect substantial reductions in its customers’ energy use. The group has begun to participate in carbon reduction schemes and is making the necessary preparations to enable disclosures on greenhouse gas emissions to be made in advance of the Climate Change Act 2008, and more generally for the company to report on the sustainable and efficient use of energy and other resources.