Sandvik Coromant has always been at the forefront of the manufacturing industry with its tools and metal-cutting expertise. Now the vision is to become a forerunner in sustainability as well.
At its production plant in Gimo, Sweden, Sandvik Coromant has been taking steps to make the facility ever more “green”. The latest action, converting to district heating, has resulted in an annual reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions by 1,850 tonnes.
The Gimo plant is the largest unit for tool production in the world. At the 110,000-square-metre facility, some 1,500 employees work around the clock to produce inserts and tool holders. The production requires a lot of energy and produces a lot of heat.
Already at the plant Sandvik Coromant has an extensive recycling programme whereby most of the material for the solid carbide tools it produces comes from recycled carbides. Making new tools from recycled solid carbide requires 70 percent less energy than making them from virgin raw materials. It also means that 40 percent less carbon dioxide is emitted.
The latest measure taken to fulfil the company’s green vision is the factory’s conversion to a combination of district heating and heat pumps, which means that it will be totally independent of oil and will be almost carbon-dioxide-neutral in terms of production. A culvert between two separate production areas is being built during 2018 through which surplus heat will be transmitted; this will vastly increase the plant’s total energy efficiency in a way not possible before.
Joakim Fagerudd, site manager at Sandvik Coromant in Gimo, explains that the district heat is produced from biofuel, which creates great environmental benefits. “At Gimo, among other actions, since 2012 we have reduced the use of heating oil by 70 percent,” he says. “The conversion to district heating will further reduce that number to close to zero. Annually we have estimated that the new district heating solution will reduce our greenhouse-gas emissions by 1,850 tonnes.”
Some 5,000 people visit the facility in Gimo annually, Fagerudd says, and many visitors, especially the young people, ask questions about energy production and use. “It feels really good that we are working on drastically reducing emissions from our heating,” he says.
In addition to the plant’s extensive recycling programme, where most of the material for the solid carbide tools produced comes from recycled carbides, it was also early to adopt methods of recovering surplus heat from the production processes. In 2016, a new unit for climate control was installed, which is recycling 90 percent of the heat produced in the sintering process.
Fagerudd says that visitors often ask about the dark tinge of the water in the toilets. Is there rust in the pipes? No, he says, all toilets at the facility are flushed with water from a nearby pond, and pond water has a darker tone. After use, the water goes through a normal water treatment process. This effort reduces the need for clean drinking water by 10 to 15 percent annually. It’s a small step, but every step towards sustainability counts.