Remanufacturing is not a new concept and has its origins in the 1940s. With the current global concerns about the consumption rate of the earth’s resources, remanufacturing offers an attractive solution and satisfies environmental, economic, social, and legislative requirements. While over the years, a number of definitions have been proposed, more recently a UK parliamentary group has defined remanufacturing as “a series of manufacturing steps acting on an end-of-life part or product in order to return it to like-new or better performance with warranty to match”.
As opposed to both refurbishing, which is largely aesthetic, and reconditioning, which aims to restore a project to working
order, remanufacturing delivers a product that can be considered “as new”. In some cases, by understanding how the original product ‘failed’ it is possible for the remanufactured product to be improved and actually be better than new.
Furthermore, with rapid technological changes, remanufacturing provides an opportunity for a product to be upgraded to ensure its continued relevance and compatibility.
Remanufacturing offers numerous attractions to companies in that material and energy costs are significantly reduced in
order to realise a product which can be sold at the same price as a new component albeit with a greater profit margin. One example would be Renault which remanufactures gearboxes using 80% less energy while creating 75% less waste than those made with new components.
While a wide variety of industries ranging from office equipment to carpets have now embraced remanufacturing as a viable business, it was heavy engineering which can be considered the pioneer - particularly through the aerospace and automotive sectors. For automotive, companies such as Bosch, Caterpillar and Volvo are amongst the better known with parts ranging from alternators and pumps to engine blocks and even whole engines being remanufactured. Remanufacturing of ‘high street’ products includes car tyres, handphones and printer cartridges. For the latter, in Europe alone, there are over 2,000 companies engaged in remanufacturing inkjet cartridges. Before the advent of digital cameras and smart phones, disposable cameras were widely used as a cheap alternative to owning a camera or those who were forgetful when packing for vacations.
In the 25 years since its launch, Kodak has remanufactured over 1.5 billion of these single use cameras!
The global industry for remanufacturing is growing at an annual double digit rate. In 2011, the US produced USD 43 billion in remanufactured goods supporting 180,000 full-time jobs. The current five year plan for China has identified remanufacturing as a growth area and is being encouraged by the introduction
of legislation and standardisation.
In Singapore, the aerospace maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) sector makes up a significant component of the local remanufacturing landscape. Other industries which have sizeable and growing local remanufacturing operations include oil and gas, industrial equipment and automotive.
There is little doubt that remanufacturing is here to stay and has a bright future and, as consumers, we can expect to be exposed to more and more remanufactured products over the next few years.
Manufacturing and Remanufacturing involves common processes which create and define the technical themes and capabilities of the centre. With its strategic position serving the industries,the Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre aims to achieve industrial solutions in its 5 complimentary themes:
The Advanced Remanufacturing theme develops advanced technology for the rejuvenation of high value components with complex geometry, using state-of-the-art technology for cleaning, removing defects and adding material to reconstruct features.
Integrated adaptive technology minimises human intervention and at the same time, reduces errors that can potentially lead to rework or scrapping of expensive parts, thereby enhancing productivity.
Data-Driven Surface Enhancement
Data-Driven Surface Enhancement is a key process stage in improving the functionality, performance, and longevity of a component. Activities encompass a wide range of treatment technologies to both remove contamination and enhance surface quality through the elimination of surface defects using mass finishing or robotised processes. Further activities focus on fatigue enhancement, where processes are being developed to induce, measure and accurately predict sub-surface compressive stresses.
Advanced Robotic Application
The robotisation of manufacturing processes offer a number of advantages over the conventional approaches including flexibility in handling complex features, ability to work in harsh environment, as well as added intelligence in adaptive feedback control. The ARTC has developed a number of robotic applications for members including inspection, dry ice cleaning and surface finishing.
Intelligent Product Verification
Intelligent Product Verification encompasses the whole life cycle of a component and/or system. It includes the measurement techniques for geometric, dimensional, and topographic information, as well as non-destructive evaluation methods for defects data.
As an important supplement, measurement analysis using data prioritisation and fusion approaches, coupled with automated part sentencing, will aid the user in making decisions and minimize subjective errors. Product verification also covers component life prediction to provide the manufacturer with the expected product life cycle and economic justification for remanufacturing of a component.
Additive Manufacturing Industrialization
The Industrial Additive Manufacturing theme develops advanced technology for the manufacturing of high value components.
The focus is to identify current limitations on part geometry and performance using traditional manufacturing methods, and explore opportunities for product improvement and functionality using additive technology. The theme aims to deliver complete solution from pre- to post- additive manufacturing processes, in order to enable test bedding of the manufactured components and translation into production ready solutions.