CHICOPEE, MASS. — A closed-loop repurification system is saving Poly-Plating Inc. more than $107,000 annually, according to case study conducted by a state agency.
The innovative plating shop makes its money by using a chemical deposition of nickel phosphorus impregnated with polymers to coat metals, such as injection molds.
However, the company also has spun off another company, Zero Discharge Technologies Inc., also in Chicopee, to manufacture and sell the repurification and acid reclamation equipment that it uses so efficiently in its plant.
``The membrane systems can do a lot of different things,'' said Alan Buckley, team leader for the Western Region of the Massachusetts Office of Technical Assistance. ``It is probably most useful for companies that use acids.''
The closed-loop system uses electro- and diffusion dialysis to purify acids and nickel solutions, so that materials can be reused and the water recycled.
Buckley was quick to credit company President Edwin P. Ondrick, noting, ``He used his own money and developed this technology.''
Poly-Plating was cited early this year by the governor's of-fice for its efforts to reduce pollution. It beat out 500 other companies to win the Governor's Award for Toxic Waste Reduction in 1997.
The state OTA office noted that the equipment reduced the company's acid purchases to 1 percent of 1989 levels. Disposal costs are down by 98 percent. Water use has been reduced to 880 gallons a day, down from 78,000 gallons per day.
Ondrick was proud that the company no longer needs discharge permits as a significant toxic waste producer. The membrane technology allows the company to reuse most of its toxic components.
Poly-Plating was formed 23 years ago as a typical plating company, Ondrick said, but an error produced a liquid bath process that produces a chemical deposition of nickel phosphorus impregnated with polymers on the surface of metals. The coating process provides a low coefficient of friction, quicker mold release and a high resistance to corrosion.
Ondrick tells the story of his salesman stopping in unannounced at a Connecticut company and observing a molding problem in which coffee pots were releasing slowly from the core. He said that Poly-Plating had the perfect coating to prevent the sticking.
``We did it that day [applying the coating],'' Ondrick said. ``And it ended up dropping their cycle time to 45 seconds from 60 seconds.''
``That's what got us started, and the rest was word of mouth. We probably do the work of 500 different mold builders and mold shops,'' he said.
Donald Rochelo, president of Apex Engineering Inc. in Pittsfield, Mass., said the product does work.
``They got us out of the woods many times,'' he said, ``The first time is memorable, because we had restrictions on what we could do to the existing part.''
In that case, a part was distorting because it was sticking to the mold. Once the exposed area was coated, the problem was solved.
``There wasn't any other choice without the redesign of the mold. It saved the customer and the original tool design,'' he said.
Ondrick said the process accounts for 90 percent of his company's business. He declined to provide sales figures, but noted they are between $1 million and $10 million, and steadily growing about 5 percent a year.