What’s Happening with Gold?

If you’ve been monitoring the current drop in gold prices, chances are that you have been wondering what is happening with gold. That is a very good question to ask, especially if you own quantities of gold that you would like to recycle or sell at the most opportune time.

Yet as a very wise investor once told me . . .

When everyone is asking the same question, smart investors think of other questions that could be even smarter to ask.

What's going on with gold right now? And is that the only question you should be asking? Maybe now is the time to talk to Specialty Metals about recycling silver, platinum, palladium and rhodium?

What's going on with gold right now? And is that the only question you should be asking? Maybe now is the time to talk to Specialty Metals about recycling silver, platinum, palladium and rhodium?

The message behind that advice is that contrarian thinking is often the best in unsettling times. So instead of following the crowd and fixating on gold, perhaps questions like these will lead you to more profits today.

Smart Questions to Ask

  • Am I overlooking other precious metals that I could recycle profitably today? If you own quantities of catalytic converters, thermocouples, or other items that contain precious metals, could it be wiser to direct your attention to them now? What is happening with gold could be a secondary concern.
  • Could I profit by selling or recycling my gold now, despite the current price levels? If you acquired gold at a price that was lower than its current level, you can still profit by liquidating it now. You make money by selling at a profit, correct? So the current prices may not be a valid consideration.
  • Instead of trying to buy gold now at attractive prices, should I invest in, or recycle, other precious metals instead? Gold is not the only game in town. Other metals, including platinum, are also selling at very attractive prices. Perhaps they offer you a better investing option today.
  • Where can I acquire gold and other precious metals today at below-market prices? We have, for example, recently recycled quantities of used sputtering targets and catalytic converters that our clients acquired for “pennies on the dollar.” Those clients enjoyed a very good return on every dollar they invested, without obsessing about the current trading prices of gold or other precious metals.
  • Why are aggressive recycling companies courting me? In the current climate, a number of firms are attempting to acquire gold now at its lowest price, so they can hold onto them until prices rise. If you are getting solicitations that urge you to liquidate your gold holdings now, it could be wisest to wait for prices to rise so you can realize profits at the right time. Why give away the possibility of claiming future profits for yourself?

Answers to Your Questions about Gold

If gold is on your mind and you have questions about it or other precious metals, this is an opportune time to contact Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners at 800-426-2344.

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Palladium Recycling: Don’t Overlook the Great Value of this Little-Understood Rare Metal
All about Rhodium, the Other Precious Metal
Easy-to-Miss Places where Platinum-Plated Metals Can Be Found




How Are Metals Plated onto Plastics, Ceramics, and Composites?

We’ve written about tank plating on this blog before – the process of plating a metal onto metal items that have been placed into plating tanks. For that process to work, the items to be plated must be electrically charged – in other words, they must be made of metal.

So that leads to an interesting question:

How can metals be plated onto surfaces of non-metallic materials like plastics, ceramics, or composites?

You have doubtless seen non-metallic items that have been plated with metal – they are nearly everywhere. There are metal-plated disposable plastic drink cups, plastic radio knobs, toys with bright shiny metallic coatings, and many other items.

Let’s look at some of the ways that precious and other metals can be coated onto non-metallic surfaces.

Sputtering and Other Vacuum Processes

Scrap sputtering targets, like the one shown above, can contain gold, silver, platinum, palladium and rhodium, and can be refined and recycled by Specialty Metals.

Scrap sputtering targets, like the one shown above, can contain gold, silver, platinum, palladium and rhodium, and can be refined and recycled by Specialty Metals.

Sputtering is the process of choice today for depositing thin films of silver and other metals onto plastics, ceramics, and other non-metallic materials.  Sputtering is done in the vacuum chamber of a special machine, in which atoms are ejected from a metallic disc called a “target” onto the surface of the material to be coated. Sputtering is now widely used to deposit thin films of silver onto photovoltaic solar panels. (The good news is that used sputtering targets that have outlived their useful lives on production lines contain trace amounts of the silver or other precious metals that they contained. They can be profitably recycled by a qualified precious metals refinery.) Interesting: A variety of other vacuum-coating processes have long been used to coat plastic surfaces with aluminum and other metals; in those processes, atoms of the coating metal are dispersed into a vacuum chamber, where they adhere to the surfaces to be plated.

Electroless Plating

The word “electroless” looks like a misspelling, but it is actually a word that was invented to describe a chemical process that deposits a metal onto plastic. In it, the plastic items to be coated are “etched” by being immersed in a special chemical solution that prepares their surfaces for plating. The items are then immersed in a chemical bath that contains the metal that will be used to plate them. Interesting: Electroless plating looks a lot like tank plating, only no electricity is used.

Electroplating

Yes, ceramics and plastics can be electroplated with gold or silver.  It can be done after those materials undergo the process of electroless plating (see just above). Once they have a thin metallic coating, they can be tank plated, just as metal objects are. Interesting: The items that have been plated using this process are often quite durable. One example? Chrome-plated plastic door handles that are used on automobiles.

Spraying

Two different spraying processes – arc and flame spraying – can be used to apply metallic plating to nonconductive surfaces. In most cases, a powdered form of the metal is heated and then sprayed, using special equipment. Interesting: Spraying technologies can be used to apply a metal coating to just one part of a ceramic or plastic item; just as a painting technician can mask off parts of an item so they receive no paint, parts of the item to be spray-plated can be masked and receive no coating.

Precious Metals Can Be Recovered from Plastic Items

In virtually all cases, metals that have been applied to inexpensive plastic items are not precious metals. (Think of the shiny chrome-like finish that is applied to the bumpers and other bright pieces that you will find in a kit for a model car.) If, however, you own a quantity of ceramics or higher-end materials that have a coating of what seems to be silver or gold – and you do not know exactly what they are – they could be a source of valuable precious metals that can be extracted by a qualified precious metals refinery. Why not call us at 800-426-2344 to learn more?

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The Next Time You Recycle Gold-Plated Items, Thank Luigi Brugnatelli

The art of modern electroplating was discovered in 1805 by an Italian chemist named Luigi Brugnatelli. In essence, he was tinkering with early battery technologies that had been discovered by his friend and compatriot Alessandro Volta. (Volta’s name, as you probably guessed, is the basis of the English word “volt.”) Brugnatelli noticed that quantities of gold could be deposited on silver items when they were immersed in a battery-like bath of electrolytic fluid. And he was off and running.

A portrait of Luigi Valentino Brugnatelli (1761-1818), the father of gold electroplating, from "Cenni su la vita di L. V. Brugnatelli" Biblioteca di farmacia (1836 gen, Serie 2, Volume 5)

A portrait of Luigi Valentino Brugnatelli (1761-1818), the father of gold electroplating, from "Cenni su la vita di L. V. Brugnatelli" Biblioteca di farmacia (1836 gen, Serie 2, Volume 5)

If you do a search for Brugnatelli’s name online, you will find a lot of biographical information, including an excellent history of his life on the website of Artisan Plating, a company that specializes in high-quality plating. (Artisan Plating is like a mirror image of Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners. It specializes in applying lavish layers of gold and other precious metals to other metal surfaces, while we are a precious metals refinery that extracts them.)

Here are some highlights from the life of Brugnatelli, which we have adapted from the information on the Artisan Plating website and other online sources. We’re telling you his story because it could help you understand more about the value that could be found in the gold scrap and gold-plated items that you might own.

In 1805 . . .

Brugnatelli was the first person to use the process of electroplating. He applied a layer of gold to silver plates. For some reason, Napoleon’s French Academy of Sciences didn’t like the discovery or report on it in its publications. The Academy, which was the leading scientific organization in Europe, also stopped other scientific journals from reporting that Brugnatelli had discovered electroplating.

Until about 1845 . . .

Because Brugnatelli’s big news had been hidden, two cruder ways to plate gold onto other metals remained in widespread use. One – the more common and the more poisonous – was a process that used gold leaf and mercury to deposit layers of gold onto heated surfaces. Another was called water gilding, in which the object to be gold plated was immersed in a solution of gold chloride and water, with no electricity used. That technology could deposit only a thin layer of decorative gold.

In about 1839 . . .

Henry and George Elkington, two English scientists, independently discovered gold electroplating and started to use it commercially. At about the same time, Russians starting using it too. According to the Artisan Plating website, the process was first used in Russia to apply gold plating to metals that would be used in cathedral domes. The size of those electroplating tanks must have been pretty big!

After 1850 . . .

Tank electroplating became the method of choice for applying layers of gold onto silver and other surfaces, replacing the use of processes that exposed people to noxious mercury gas.

Brugnatelli finally had his day, even though he was not around to see his electroplating discovery gain almost universal application.

If Brugnatelli Were Alive Today . . .

He would sputter to see the way that gold sputtering targets are now used to apply thin, yet durable, layers of gold onto other metals. The thick layers of gold that he liked to apply to other metals are now nearly a thing of the past, at least in the way eyeglass frames and other items are coated with gold.

If you have gold items – especially gold-filled older items such as eyeglass frames and jewelry that is more than about 40 years old, they could contain valuable quantities of gold that are worth recycling. So do your used gold sputtering targets. To learn more, call us at 800-426-2344.

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Don’t Overlook the Value of the Silver-Bearing Items You Own

Gold is currently trading for over $1,300 per troy ounce, platinum for over $1,500, and rhodium for over $1,100.

Silver, in contrast, is trading at about $21.

In light of those statistics, it’s tempting to think that you’re likely to get a lot more money by recycling gold, platinum and rhodium than you will ever get from recycling silver. But that kind of thinking is a mistake, because silver is contained in a surprising number of items that you could have on hand.

All you need is a top silver refinery to extract a lot of value from items like these . . .

Wise Recyclers Don’t Overlook Silver

If you have quantities of those items, please remember that they could be worth much more money than you expect – even though they are made of silver, not gold, platinum, rhodium, or another more glamorous precious metal.

Please give us a call at 800-426-2344 to learn more.

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Why Precious Gold Can Still Be Recovered from Used Gold Sputtering Targets

If you have a number of used gold sputtering targets left over from plating operations you should toss them, right? “Used” means that they no longer contain gold, correct? So what is the point of sending them to a qualified precious metals refiner for recycling?

Don’t Be Too Quick to Toss Your Used Gold Sputtering Targets

As the diagram below illustrates, there is more to a gold sputtering target than just the target material – in the case of a gold sputtering target, that is gold. Even when most of the target material has been removed after the target has been used repeatedly, you still have quantities of other metals in the two surfaces below . . .

Diagram of gold sputtering targets, showing where other precious metals like silver or palladium may also be present and can be recycled profitably by Specialty Metals.
  • The bonding material (shown on the diagram as “solder”) – Depending on how your sputtering targets were manufactured, a number of valuable metals could still be found in this layer – even after your targets have outlived their production life. This thin layer most commonly contains silver – as a silver solder, as a component in silver-bearing epoxy, or in some other form. Granted, silver is not the most precious of precious metals, but if you have a lot of used sputtering targets, you could be sitting on a large quantity of the metal that could be well worth reclaiming.
  • The backing plate – They most often contain aluminum, copper, stainless steel, or even molybdenum. But in some cases, they can contain precious metals too, like palladium or cadmium. It is also possible that during the sputtering process, the exposed areas of backing plates might have become plated with small amounts of gold – and you certainly don’t want to toss that away.

How Can You Know the Value?

One thing for certain is that you cannot estimate the value of your used sputtering targets just by looking. They have to be tested with modern equipment by qualified technicians in a specialized lab. So if you have a batch of used gold sputtering targets and would like to know what they are worth, your next step is to call Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners at 800-426-2344.

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As Gold Supplies Dwindle, Demand for Recyclable Gold Will Remain High

“The World Is Running Out of Gold,” a post that Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan wrote for Gizmodo, reports that most of the extractable gold that occurs in nature has already been mined.

Here’s what Campbell-Dollaghan reports . . .

Photo of a miner with a gold nugget used for everything from jewelry to dental scrap to circuit boards, which can all be recycled by Specialty Metals.
  • Mining companies are already digging deeper and deeper to find gold. Many of the places in the world where it lies close to the surface are found in arctic areas where mining is prohibitively difficult and costly.
  • Gold is getting scarcer. In one instance, a mining company had to blast away 100 metric tons of rock to extract one ounce of gold.
  • New finds are rarer. Back in 1995, 22 gold deposits were found that contained at least two million ounces of gold. There were only six such discoveries in 2010, and none in 2012.
  • The gold that’s in your cellphone might be the same gold that was in an ancient Roman or Greek coin. It might have gotten smelted into a bar a few hundred years ago, then used in jewelry, and finally used to make your iPhone or Android. Most of the gold that has ever been mined has been used over and over again.

Yet People Continue to Toss Gold Away

As we reporting in a recent post, as many as 89% of old smartphones are simply tossed by their owners, who don’t want to take the trouble to recycle them. Similarly, people toss old desktop computers, televisions, radios and other devices with printed circuit boards that contain small quantities of recyclable gold.

It doesn’t make much sense, does it? As gold supplies dwindle, people just toss it away.

If you have a quantity of old items that contain gold – from phones to jewelry to used gold sputtering targets – remember that they could be worth more than you think, even if they only contain small amounts of gold. Call us at 800-426-2344. With worldwide supplies of gold dwindling, the demand for this most fabled of precious metals is not about to go away soon.

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Replacing Your Old Solar Panels? Don’t Throw Away Valuable Silver Too

Photovoltaic solar panels that generate electricity might seem like a new technology. But the fact is, they have been in widespread use for more than a decade now. Whether you’re a business that installed solar panels to lower your energy costs, a company that manufactures solar panels, or even a homeowner that jumped on the solar bandwagon early, If you’re replacing your old solar system with a new one, don’t toss your old panels away or – worse – let your installer take your old panels away.

They could contain valuable quantities of silver that you can recycle. Here’s what you need to know.

Photo of workers replacing old solar panels, which contain more silver, with newer ones. Don’t miss the opportunity to recycle them profitably with Specialty Metals.

Thin-Film Panels

Many newer inexpensive panels are “thin-film” models that contain very thin layers of cadmium telluride, not silver. Interestingly, they are not very efficient at converting sunlight into electricity, but their lower cost appeals to many buyers. The cadmium telluride that they contain has usually been applied by using sputtering targets, which we have discussed often on this blog in the past.

Thick-Film Panels

More expensive new panels, and almost all older ones, use “thick-film” technology. In other words, they contain relatively thicker layers of silver. These panels are more efficient at converting sunlight into electricity, but their cost is higher.

How Much Silver Could Your Thick-Film Solar Panels Contain?

It depends, but a used thick-film solar panel could contain as many as 13 troy ounces of silver. With current silver prices hovering at about $20 per troy ounce, the silver in each of your panels could be worth as much as $160. The trick is to speak with Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners, America’s leading silver refinery, to learn more. If you give us a call at 800-426-2344, we’ll be pleased to explain how you can convert those flat solar panels into cold, hard cash.

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New Applications for Precious Metals Keep Demand and Prices High

Precious metals have been around for a long time. Long before the Common Era (in other words, year zero on our calendar), ancient people were adorning themselves with silver and using gold to fill teeth. Even the more “modern” precious metals – metals like platinum and rhodium – are pretty old. They have been around for 150 years or more.

Photo of solar panel production, which uses sputtering targets that could contain valuable gold, platinum, silver, palladium and rhodium.

Photo of solar panel production, which uses sputtering targets that could contain valuable gold, platinum, silver, palladium and rhodium.

Given the age of precious metals, you’d think that they would be on their way out – that modern materials would have taken their place. You’d imagine that some kind of space-age ceramic would have taken the place of gold in circuit boards, or that a long-chain polymer or some other gee-whiz chemical would have replaced platinum in catalytic converters or in medical-testing devices. But that hasn’t happened. In fact, the precious metals that we refine here at Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners are finding new uses all the time, and demand remains strong.

Gold Cosmetics

There are reports that ancient people – the rich ones at any rate – applied gold to their skins, both as makeup and as a remedy for various skin problems. That trend has resurfaced in recent years, with a number of companies introducing skin creams and treatments that contain gold. You can read about it in The New York Times.

Physicians insert a platinum EP catheter into a blood vessel that leads to the patient’s heart. Used EP catheters can be profitably recycled by Specialty Metals.

Physicians insert a platinum EP catheter into a blood vessel that leads to the patient’s heart. Used EP catheters can be profitably recycled by Specialty Metals.

Platinum Materials Used in Medical Testing

Patients today are undergoing more electrophysiology (EP) studies than at any time in the past. It is not uncommon for hospitals to perform hundreds or thousands of these procedures every year. The boom has triggered a surge in the manufacturing (and recycling) of platinum EP catheters, catheter tips and other supplies. Even veterinarians are conducting tests with these catheters today.

Platinum Thermocouples

The use of platinum and other noble metal-containing thermocouples is increasing on production lines and in laboratories. Wherever temperature must be measured or monitored, a precious metal is probably involved.

Gold in Cellphones and Other Electronic Devices

As you might have noticed, just about everybody is carrying a smartphone these days. Plus, all those people replace their phones every few years. All those phones contain gold on their circuit boards, so gold is always in demand. Then there are all the other electronic devices that are now part of our lives – laptops, tablets, televisions with remotes, GPS devices, and more.

Silver in Sputtering Targets and other Industrial Applications

You would think that the demand for silver would be dropping. It’s a precious metal that tarnishes easily, after all. But that’s not the case, because silver has a lot of new uses. In some sputtering targets, it is used to create a bond between the substrate and the metal above it – the one that will be used to coat other surfaces. Silver is also important in a many alloys. So the demand for silver remains strong.

Junked cars contain more precious metals than just platinum in catalytic converters, including gold in circuit boards that Specialty Metals can recycle.

Junked cars contain more precious metals than just platinum in catalytic converters, including gold in circuit boards that Specialty Metals can recycle.

Platinum in Catalytic Converters

Catalytic converters have created a staggering demand for platinum – a demand that has arisen in only the last 40 years, since the use of catalytic converters became widespread. If you think this demand will go away because of electric cars and other innovations, you could be right. But that is not going to happen for another 40 or 50 years.

High Demand for Precious Metals Keeps Prices High

Those are just a few of the reasons why the precious metals you can recycle are so much in demand, and why prices are so strong. To recycle what you have and received today’s top prices, give Specialty Metals Smelters & Refiners a call at 800-426-2344

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Prospector Finds Huge Ancient Sputtering Target Buried in the Mohave Desert

Wheeler McClintock, a solitary 78-year-old prospector, noticed something funny while he was riding his Burro Molly across the Mohave Desert in central California last October.

This prospector in this photo may not have struck it rich, but you can turn your used platinum sputtering targets into gold at Specialty Metals.

This prospector in this photo may not have struck it rich, but you can turn your used platinum sputtering targets into gold at Specialty Metals.

“It was just weird,” McClintock told us in a recent call. “I looked down at Molly and thought I saw that all the brass rivets on her collar were shining brighter than usual. I jumped off to get a closer look and was pretty doggone sure that they were coated with platinum. Didn’t they used to be brass? Then I pulled out my tin cup and canteen to wet my parched whistle and golly day, they were coated with platinum too. Same with my glasses, my pickaxe and spade, my beer can opener, my earring and even the fillings in my teeth. I thought I was going crazy or about meet my maker in the great beyond.”

McClintock rushed to the county Assay Office to stake his claim. “They wouldn’t let me, even if I used one of the `Other’ forms that they use for UFO stuff,” McClintock recalls. “They wanted more info.”

Under the cover of a dark moonless night, McClintock rode Molly out into the desert again, armed with a $79 metal detector and a long metal spike. Returning to the site of his first plating, he stuck the spike into the ground, hit a metal object buried about a foot underground, then continued out in wider and wider circles while probing and testing at every stage. “I was trying to get the measurements of this thing, whatever it is,” he explained.

Finally, he had his answer. He had found a huge disk, about 100 yards in diameter, buried underground. “The Assay Office let me stake my claim, based on that information,” McClintock explains. “But since I had no idea what I had really found or what to do with it, I called the best precious metals refiners in the US, Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners at 800-426-2344, to ask what I had on my hands. This real nice feller was happy to help me.”

“We’re not yet absolutely sure yet what Mr. McClintock has discovered,” states one of the precious metals recycling experts from Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners. “Whatever it is, it is functioning as a huge platinum sputtering target, probably because of radioactive uranium deposits underneath. That’s why any metal objects that pass over it get quickly plated with platinum.”

Where did this thing come from? It could have been created millions of years ago by a meteorite hitting the earth. Or maybe even it was left behind, or created, by a UFO when it landed. We’ll get to the bottom of it. How much is Mr. McClintock’s find worth? Nothing, sad to say, because there is really no Mr. McClintock and this story is all made up.

But weird things happen on April Fool’s Day, right? Best wishes for recycling success from all of us at Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners.

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What You Need to Know about Recycling Used Magnetron Sputtering Targets

We’ve written about sputtering targets many times before on this blog, including this great explanation of how sputtering targets work. They can contain valuable quantities of precious metals, even after they have outlived their useful life in your coating operations.

Shown: scrap sputtering targets, which can contain gold, silver, platinum, palladium and rhodium, and can be refined and recycled by Specialty Metals.

But what about magnetron sputtering targets? Do they, like gold-bearing sputtering targets, contain valuable quantities of recyclable precious metals? Let’s take a closer look.

What is Magnetron Sputtering?

The first impulse magnetron sputtering (HPIMS) machines were introduced to the market in 2006. They are high-powered sputtering machines that are now widely used in many coating applications for one simple reason: They can apply very dense layers of thin films onto a variety of surfaces, most often ceramics, glass and plastic.

  • Magnetron technology is most often used to apply coatings to:
  • Automotive headlight housings and other reflective surfaces
  • Architectural glass
  • DVDs and CDs
  • Photovoltaic cells
  • Solar panels
  • Superconductors
  • Flat panel displays
  • Lighting surfaces
  • Medical testing devices

Magnetron sputtering machines are also sometimes used to “etch” or pre-treat surfaces that will then be coated using regular sputtering technology.

Here’s a very informative video about magnetron sputtering that was produced by Norfolk State University. If you watch until the end, you’ll see that the HPIMS equipment has been used to coat a glass slide with a thin conductive film.

What Metals Do Used Magnetron Targets Contain?

Used magnetron sputtering targets that were used to apply reflective coatings on glass most often contain quantities of silver and metal oxides, including zinc oxide, tin oxide, or titanium oxide. Yet it is worth remembering that used sputtering targets contain more than just the metals that they were used to deposit – they can contain other metals too, such as thin layers of silver or other metals that were used to bond the targets onto their substrates. If you have used sputtering magnetron targets and would like to know whether they can be profitably recycled, call the best precious metals refiners, Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners, at 800-426-2344. We’ll be happy to help you recoup maximum dollars from the precious metals they may contain.

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Sputtering Targets: Four Great Educational Informative Videos You Can Watch on YouTube

Sputtering Targets: Four Great Educational Informative Videos You Can Watch on YouTube

If you would like to learn more about sputtering targets, you might want to spend some time searching for the term “Sputtering” on YouTube. You can get a great education quickly, thanks to dozens of excellent videos that you will find.

Here are four that we found to be very useful and informative:

Gold Sputtering Targets

This nine-minute video shows the use of a sputtering target to plate gold onto several materials, using a small desktop-sized sputtering machine.

Intro to Sputtering Process to Create Clear, Conductive Coatings

A very good 11-minute video that illustrates how sputtering targets can be used to apply coatings to glass.

Home Built Desktop DC Magnetron Sputtering Machine

This 10-minute video doesn’t have a narration, but the video still teaches a lot about how sputtering targets are used to apply metallic coatings.

Magnetron Sputtering Cathodes from Angstrom Sciences

Sputtering occurs when an ionized gas molecule is used to displace atoms of a specific material. This four-minute video describes how Angstrom Sciences, a leading manufacturer of magnetron sputtering technology, manufactures magnetron sputtering targets. Highly educational.

Plating Primer: How Do Sputtering Targets Work?

We’ve written on this blog previously about how valuable your used sputtering targets can be. Today, we’d like to give you an overview of how the sputtering process works to apply platings to a variety of surfaces. The more you know, the better the chances are that you won’t overlook valuable quantities of precious metals that you could have on hand in your used sputtering targets.

What Is Sputtering?

Shown: One type of used sputtering target, which can contain gold, silver, platinum, palladium and rhodium, and can be refined and recycled by Specialty Metals.

Shown: One type of used sputtering target, which can contain gold, silver, platinum, palladium and rhodium, and can be refined and recycled by Specialty Metals.

It’s an electronic process that deposits thin films of metals or other materials onto a variety of surfaces. Most often, sputtering is used to apply thin platings onto silicon wafers, solar panels and display screens.

How Does Sputtering Work?

Sputtering is done in a vacuum chamber into which an inert gas is introduced – in most cases, argon. Two items are placed into that chamber: the item to be plated, and the “target” that contains the material that will be applied. A negative electrical charge is applied to the target, causing some of the electrons that it contains to travel to the material to be coated. Presto! You’ve got a thin film of plating right where you want it. But note that the use of the term “target” can be confusing, since it is the source of the plating material that is used, not its final destination.

What Metals or Other Substances Can Be Delivered from Sputtering Targets?

Sputtering targets are now being used in a many industries for the first time. As a result, targets are being used to apply cadmium, chromium, gold, indium, iridium, palladium, platinum, rhodium, silver, tungsten, zirconium, and even more materials that can be used as coatings or platings.

Is That All There Is to It?

No, that is just a very basic summary. In fact, a number of different sputtering technologies are used today, including magnetron sputtering, ion-assisted sputtering, and reactive sputtering. If you are not sure which kind of sputtering is taking place on your production line, speak with your production engineers, with the manufacturer of your sputtering production equipment, or with the supplier of your sputtering targets.

How Much Are Used Sputtering Targets Worth?

That can vary, depending on the value of the metal that you are using as platings, the presence of secondary metals in the sputtering targets that you use, the strength and efficiency of your sputtering applications, and more. The one way to be sure is to send your used sputtering targets to a qualified precious metals recycler for testing. To learn more, call Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners at 800-426-2344.

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Why It Pays to Find a Refiner for Silver, the “Forgotten” Precious Metal

Shown: silver for fabrication of jewelry, silverware, electronics, X-rays, sputtering targets and other scrap Specialty Metals recycles and refines.

Shown: silver for fabrication of jewelry, silverware, electronics, X-rays, sputtering targets and other scrap Specialty Metals recycles and refines.

When you think about recycling precious metals, you probably think first of gold, palladium, platinum, rhodium and other “high end” precious metals. You’re smart to think that way. After all, some of them can be worth $1,000 per ounce or even more.

You’re probably not thinking about silver. It’s often the “forgotten” precious metal - the one that you think about last. Silver doesn’t sound sexy. Its price is currently hovering at about $20 an ounce, so it’s worth much less than many other precious metals. But the fact is, a silver refiner can probably write you much bigger checks for your silver-bearing scrap recyclables than you expect, for a simple reason.

You probably have more silver than you believe – possibly a lot more of it.

In addition to jewelry and silverware, it’s widely used in:

  • Automotive components
  • Quantities of plated buttons, trophies, incentive rewards and other easy-to-overlook items
  • Coated plastics
  • Electronic devices of all kinds
  • Gauges and measuring devices
  • Mirrors and machines that contain them
  • Quantities of silver, gold, aluminum, or other metallic paint
  • Rechargeable and other batteries of many kinds – many contain valuable quantities of silver cadmium
  • Silver salts and other unneeded chemicals
  • Silver-plated metal scrap
  • Used or unneeded sputtering targets
  • Thermocouples
  • Unused photographic, medical and dental films of all kinds – some of which could be lying around because they are no longer needed
  • Unused welding supplies
  • X-ray equipment and supplies

And don’t forget silver alloys...

In addition to silver cadmium (mentioned above), many other alloys contain silver too. Sometimes it’s easy to overlook them, because their names don’t even mention silver. They have names like Argentium, Billon, Electrum, Goloid, and even Shibuichi. Don’t overlook their value.

Not sure what you have or whether it contains silver that you can turn into dollars? Call Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners at 800-426-2344 and our expert representatives can help you discover the real value of your scrap and unused silver-bearing materials.

7 Strategies to Cut the Costs of Sputtering Targets and Precious Metal-bearing Manufacturing Supplies

Illustration of a super hero, symbolizing how an employee or owner can increase their company profits by recycling used sputtering targets with Specialty Metals.

If you own your own company, it goes without saying that you want to cut costs. After all, every dollar that you save is worth as much as every dollar that you earn. They both look the same when they land on the bottom line, correct?

Even if you work for a company instead of owning one, cutting costs should still be one of your top priorities. If you establish a track record of saving your company money, chances are very good that you will be promoted more quickly, move into company leadership sooner, and enjoy other career benefits.

If you agree that you can earn more and move ahead faster if you’re a cost-cutter, how should you get started? We recently found some excellent tips in “Cost saving tips for manufacturers,” a smart post that Neil Summerfield wrote for The Manufacturer, a UK-based publication. You’ll want to read his article for yourself, because it offers some very smart cost-cutting strategies.

Here’s our take on how some of Summerfield’s cost-cutting approaches can be effective for the readers of this blog, who have an opportunity to increase their earnings by recycling the precious metals in the sputtering targets and other materials that are part of their manufacturing processes, along with a strategy Summerfield never even considered…

Strategy 1: Don’t focus on just one area where your company is spending money and try to cut costs there.

Make an inventory of all the areas where you’re spending, prioritize them, and attack them in a logical order. Example: Your company spends different amounts of money on electricity, payroll, office supplies, building heat and maintenance, and manufacturing supplies. To be an effective cost-cutter, you need to weigh those expenditures and identify areas where the most money can be saved.

Strategy 2: Always make your employees and staffers part of the process.

They are uniquely equipped to help you identify areas where you can cut costs – and they are the best people to create and implement cost-cutting measures.

Strategy 3: Shop around and review your supplier relationships regularly.

Summerfield writes that many companies continue to use the same suppliers for five years or more, without bothering to interview others or compare costs. If you’re in a manufacturing industry, the costs of sputtering targets and other materials can change often, especially materials that contain precious metals, and you need to be aware of current costs. Also: Summerfield recommends reading all the fine print on vendor agreements and contracts, because the clauses and commitments you miss could cost you in the long run.

Strategy 4: Invite suppliers to bid competitively for your business.

Summerfield notes that it’s “a buyer’s market” in most manufacturing industries today. You could also be able to cut costs significantly by getting in the habit of negotiating on prices with your suppliers, even after competitive bidding has taken place.

Strategy 5: Keep completely up-to-date with new technology and production options.

Manufacturing systems are improving regularly, often with the goal of making production faster, less labor-intensive, and less expensive. The more current you are with industry trends, the more you can cut costs.

Strategy 6: Don’t cut costs in ways that “cheapen your business” or diminish the quality of what you make.

Summerfield makes this point, and it is a wise one. If you cut costs in ways that make your organization and its products less competitive or less respected, that’s not a route you should take.

Strategy 7: Reclaim and Recycle the value in your used sputtering targets and precious metal-bearing scrap.

For more than 32 years, our customers have come to Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners to reclaim the value in their precious metal scrap. Sputtering targets contain gold and other platinum group metals, and that could be money your company is throwing away if you’re not recycling them, not to mention getting the best prices for your scrap by working with us.

Want to be a company hero? Call Specialty Metals Smelters & Refiners at 800-426-2344 to find out about setting up a regular program to recycle and refine your precious metal scrap, lowering the cost of manufacturing and putting it right back into your bottom line.

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Use an Organized Recycling Program for Sputtering Targets to Boost Your Company Profits by 10% or More

Let’s start today’s post with a question. When your current car has outlived its useful life, how do you plan to dispose of it? Will you reclaim its residual value by trading or selling it? Or will you drive it into the corner of your backyard, park it, and let it rust? Or maybe just drive it off a cliff?

That might sound like a dumb question. Of course, you will reclaim the residual value in your car. Yet the fact remains that many companies make unwise decisions about reclaiming the value in their used sputtering targets. Maybe those companies don’t realize how much money they are letting slip through their fingers. Maybe they are just too disorganized or poorly managed to bother to reclaim the value in their used production materials.

A Smarter Way to Reclaim the Value in Used Sputtering Targets

Image of garbage can filled with gold dollar signs, symbolizing wasted value of precious metals in used sputtering targets that aren’t recycled by Specialty Metals.

An organized recycling program can pay you back by giving you back 10%, 20% or more of every dollar you spend on sputtering targets, which can contain gold and other precious metals. If you’re spending $500, $800 or thousands of dollars on the sputtering targets you use and replacing them frequently, you can do the math. Letting those dollars slip away makes absolutely no sense.

Whether you own a company that uses sputtering targets or work in one, here are some steps to putting those dollars back in your company’s coffers . . .

  • Track the incoming sputtering targets that you buy. Know what they are, where they come from, and what they cost.
  • Inventory sputtering targets carefully to be sure you aren’t losing any to theft, disorganization, or a haphazard materials recycling program. As the old expression goes, “What you don’t know can cost you.”
  • Store your new and used sputtering targets securely. If you’re in the manufacturing business, you already do that with the products you make. If you’re not following similar protocols for sputtering targets and other materials that you use in manufacturing, now is the time to start.
  • Let your employees know that you are watching and keeping track of your inventory. You don’t want to create a climate of mistrust, but you do want them to know that if sputtering targets disappear, you will know.

Note that inventory management systems and software can help you automate the steps described above. Some use bar codes, QR codes, or even transponders to keep tabs on inventory. If you only use a small number of sputtering targets in your manufacturing, you might not need all that technology. The important thing is to evaluate your needs and implement a system that keeps you protected.

Take the Smart Next Step Today – Contact Specialty Metals

As a leader in the secondary refining of precious metals, Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners will help you understand just how much value you can reclaim from every sputtering target you purchase and then recycle – and then help you design a detailed precious metals recycling process.

Why let dollars slip through your fingers? Call Specialty Metal today at 800-426-2344 to learn more.

Related Posts:

Don’t Throw Dollars Away! How to Mine the Hidden Value in Used Sputtering Targets
7 Strategies to Cut the Costs of Sputtering Targets and Precious Metal-bearing Manufacturing Supplies
Plating Primer: How Do Sputtering Targets Work?