In hindsight, it always looks quite simple, especially from the outside: An inconspicuous white container stands in front of the Roto Frank company in Kalsdorf near Graz, which manufactures a variety of goods including cabinet handles and fittings. However, the container conceals a complex advanced innovation, consisting of a fully automated process plant for electroplating baths based on membrane distillation, a process technology not normally used in electroplating. The plant is the initial result of a cooperation project between the research company and ACR member, AEE INTEC and the Rotreat company based in Graz, a specialist in wastewater treatment, drinking water recycling and desalination. The technology in the white container will make electroplating more environmentally friendly and energy efficient and use fewer resources. The two partners have invested three years in developing this innovation. In just six more months, it will be possible to integrate the plant into the production of Roto Frank.
Membrane distillation is a separation technology, deployed where liquid substances have to be separated; for example, for the extraction of drinking water from salt water. Or as in the electroplating industry, where chemical baths are used for decorative or corrosion protective coating of fittings or car parts, and have to be reprocessed again and again. Galvanic baths are continually diluted in the production cycle. The process of restoring concentrates is very complex and the chemicals used are regularly replaced. Wastewater is generated that is heavily contaminated. And the whole process requires a great amount of energy. Instead of removing the chemicals, the water is now removed and the desired process quality is maintained.