GALVANIZATION: A BEAUTY TREATMENT THAT REDUCED WATER CONSUMPTION BY 90%

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GALVANIZATION: A BEAUTY TREATMENT THAT REDUCED WATER CONSUMPTION BY 90%

Galvanization is a technique used in many industrial sectors with high technological content to coat metal surfaces and objects with thin layers of precious metals deposited by electrolytic means. The result is protective but also aesthetic. 

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It is a fundamental technique in electronics, for example, for the copper connections in integrated circuits. In the auto and aerospace industries it is used as protective coatings for cars and airplanes. For eyewear, it is one of the key steps in the production of frames and metal components. It is genuine beauty treatment, adding protection and making the surfaces more consistent, shiny and bright, whilst fending off wear, corrosion, the effects of the weather.

For galvanization to work properly, the frames have to be carefully cleaned and polished. They are then placed on special structures and dipped in tanks containing solutions of water and precious metals with a continuous current running through them so the metal ions can attach themselves stably to the frames.

In Luxottica, the process is entirely automatic and includes three phases: washing, nickel plating and finishing to coat the frames in precious metals such as gold, palladium or ruthenium.

In the past, galvanization was resource heavy, consuming large amounts of water and energy to heat the tanks, ventilate the rooms and discharge the metal waste. Given its sensitivity to the environment, Luxottica decided to revolutionize the process in its Italian and foreign facilities, by introducing innovative technology that drastically reduces the ecological footprint of each phase.

The new technology was first used in Tristar in China in 2014 with excellent results, starting from the consumption of water: the previous plant consumed an Olympic swimming-pool’s worth of water every day, now it is a bathtub! Due to the positive effects on the environment, the technology was then adopted directly in Agordo, the historic and largest facility in the Group.

The “new” eco-sustainable galvanization technique, researched and adapted by Luxottica for the specifics of eyewear production, is an integrated water treatment and recycling system used to turn all three phases - washing, nickel-plating and finishing – into a continuous linear flow. This system fitted with a purification plant that allows the water to be reused in the process and in the heating of the tanks by cogeneration.

The entire process requires a tank temperature of 65 degrees centigrade. Previously, heating coils were used. These have been replaced with heat exchangers, which are coils containing hot water from the cogeneration plant used to heat the facility in winter and in the summer producing excess heat. Further savings came from optimizing the suction plant and the use of special automatic tank covers reducing evaporation and consequently the loss of heat.

The advantages of the new eco-sustainable technique used by Luxottica are extraordinary all along the line. Water consumption is down about 90% in just one year, and atmospheric emissions by approximately 60% in the same period. Gradually the technology will be introduced in all Group facilities.

Published on Mar 21 2017