An opportunity for a circular economy in the cutting tools industry

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19 October, 2020

Thürmer Tools, a company with more than 100 years of history, has developed a circular solution for the cutting tools industry, thanks to an idea that enables them to manufacture their products in a cheaper and more sustainable manner.

Adopting a circular solution was quite the challenge for this small company, which specialises in the production of high-quality thread cutting tools. The company has more than 18,000 different products in stock, including a wide array of special tools, as well as odd-sized pieces that are difficult to find on the market.

The search for a sustainable solution for manufacturing cutting tools

Thürmer looked into the ways in which they could save materials in the production of their tools. The company has been working with 3D printing for several years now and this technology has enabled them to cut down on materials by printing almost the final version of the required items. However, despite reducing the amount of materials used, nonetheless, this is not a circular solution as it still requires the use of the correct powder.

Up till now the company has always used new materials for its manufacturing, however, they realised that a circular economy solution could be introduced by converting the old and used tools into 3D printing powder.

To do this they could collect their customers’ used tools that they would subsequently break down into 3D printing powder, which could then be used to produce the new tools. This solution would lead to a significant reduction in the materials required for manufacturing new tools.

A considerable amount of raw materials are wasted in the current manufacturing processes and the delivery time of the raw materials is an important factor for the company. Cutting tools tend to be replaced when 1% of the total volume has worn away. This means that only 1% of extra material, plus a safety margin, would need to be added. This would therefore result in a much more environmentally friendly production process, enormous savings in terms of materials, and a reduced dependency on suppliers.

Another advantage is that their products will cost less to produce, which will therefore make the company more competitive. By using less materials they will be able to reduce production costs and this will be reflected in the price of the end products.

By producing the materials locally from old tools, the company will be able to move towards a circular economy model. However, if they want to ensure the success of this initiative, the implication of their customers will be fundamental, given that the tools industry has hardly changed in recent years and it is a sector that is not accustomed to innovation.

How is C-VoUCHER helping the company to develop this circular solution?

Adam Kazmierzak, the company’s technology manager, affirms that given that they are such a small company, they had never actually contemplated the idea of incorporating a resident designer in the first stages of the project. The C-VoUCHER Circular Economy programme has given them the opportunity to test out atomization technology, which can be used to convert old tools into printing powder and they have also had the chance to build their knowledge so they can keep moving in the right direction.

In Adam’s words: «Discover what resources can be reused and do it. It’s an excellent way of cutting costs and making your products more competitive!».