Innovative metal remanufacturing system

Copper use enters a new age

Copper was one of the first metals to be extracted and used by humans, and in China there is evidence of copper being used in ornaments as long as 8000 years ago. It is fitting, therefore, that a new way of repairing copper should also have its origins in China.

Dong He Advanced Material Technology Ltd. was one of five Chinese companies to have been honoured with a WWF Climate Solvers Award earlier this year, for its innovative copper restoration system.

The properties that make copper so useful in industry – it is easily stretched, moulded and shaped – are also the properties that make it susceptible to damage. With 8 million tons of copper in use each year, a system that allows for repair of copper parts without the need for expensive and energy-intense remelting is sorely needed.

The technique developed by Dong He uses electrochemistry to restore broken or damaged copper parts. Partial or whole surface re-manufacturing of parts can be achieved under normal temperatures and pressures, which results in significant energy savings. It is estimated that the electrochemical system uses as little as one tenth of the energy that would be required by a conventional remelting.

The performance of the restored parts is also not compromised: testing has shown that the mechanical properties equal or surpass those comparable materials from conventional production processes.

“Climate change has become an increasingly important global challenge,” says Sze Ping LO, CEO of WWF-China. “We see climate innovation technology like this as one of the key solutions for phasing out fossil fuels and reducing carbon emissions.”

Dong He Advanced Material Technology Ltd. spent five years developing the innovative process, and while it is receiving large scale acceptance in the industry, the company still faces the challenge of financing further development.

A commitment to sustainable development has seen the company change its operating model from the simple "production - sales – revenue" model to "directly create value for customers, greatly reduce production cost, release pressure in business capital, achieve a win-win situation and sustainable development based on reducing carbon emissions and green environmental protection" model.

An added benefit of the new approach is that the company can help its customers to use funds more efficiently. 

Customers’ feedback indicates that compared with traditional process, the cost of procurement has dropped by 8%, capital outlay has dropped by 30%, and industrial plants have become more efficient because they are experiencing less downtime.

“We are excited by innovations like this one,” says Stefan Henningsson, senior advisor for WWF’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative. “The selection of Chinese Climate Solvers this year proves that we can deliver the same or better service with less energy and other resources as input.”