Are Sputtering Targets Your Best Buy in Platinum Scrap Today?

Are Sputtering Targets Your Best Buy in Platinum Scrap Today?

Are you interested in making money in platinum scrap? There are plenty of reasons you should be. The biggest could be that the new tariffs on items imported from China seem poised to raise the cost of platinum-containing items.

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Become a Rich Environmentalist by Recycling Precious Metals

Become a Rich Environmentalist by Recycling Precious Metals

When you send us old catalytic converters, sputtering targets, dental scrap or other items to be processed, we recover precious metals from them that were mined from the earth years ago. Those same metals will then be reused in new applications that can include jewelry making, medical technologies, electronics manufacturing, and many more. What could be more efficient?

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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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Why Recycling Plating Tank Scrap Can Pay You More than You Expect
Why Money Can Be Found in Your Used Electroplating Supplies

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.

Related Posts:

Why Money Can Be Found in Your Used Electroplating Supplies
Georgius Agricola (1494-1555), Father of Modern Metallurgy
Why Gold Plating Tank Scrap Could Be Worth More than You Think
Gold Refining: Why It Takes an Expert to Evaluate Your Gold-Plated Items
Ask a Gold Refinery - What’s the Difference between Gold-Plated and Gold-Filled Eyeglass Frames?


Do You Have Undiscovered Precious Metals in Your Organization? 11 Questions to Help You Decide

Are gold, platinum, palladium, silver, and other valuable metals “hiding” in your place of business? Whether you are a factory, a scrap yard, a hospital – or any other kind of organization – here are 11 questions that can help you know.

Image of businessperson searching for undiscovered precious metals that Specialty Metals can help refine profitably.
  1. Do you heat materials up or cool them down?
  2. Do you have older electronic equipment of any kind that you are about to discard?
  3. Do you use equipment that remotely monitors electrical activity?
  4. Do you remove pollutants from the air?
  5. Does your company engage in welding, brazing, or soldering?
  6. Do you apply platings of any kind to surfaces?
  7. Do you currently process photos or x-rays, or have you done so in the past?
  8. Do you have quantities of older metal-plated items of any kind, such as jewelry or silver-plated cutlery?
  9. Do you have a fleet of vehicles that you no longer use?
  10. Do you have quantities of older military surplus electronics, vehicles, armaments, or other gear
  11. Do you have quantities of appliances that you no longer need or are about to replace, such as stoves, air conditioners, water heaters, or furnaces?

Did You Answer Yes to Any of the Questions?

If you did, you should call Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners at 800-426-2344 so we can help you recoup the value of the precious metals that you have on hand.

Question by question, here are some reasons why your Yes answers indicate that you could have precious metals . . .

  1. If you heat or cool materials during manufacturing processes, you have equipment that monitors that activity remotely. Those devices use thermocouples, which contain quantities of precious metals.
  2. Older electronic equipment contains printed circuit boards that contain quantities of gold and other precious metals.
  3. Equipment or devices that monitor electronic activity, such as IP catheters, can contain platinum, palladium, and other precious metals.
  4. If your operations remove pollutants from the air, especially after combustion, you could be using catalytic convers that contain precious metals.
  5. Used or unused quantities of welding, brazing, or soldering supplies contain silver and other precious metals.
  6. Any materials or equipment that are used in plating – from old sputtering targets to the sludge that accumulates at the bottom of plating tanks – contain quantities of gold, silver and other precious metals.
  7. New and used photographic films, papers, developing fluids and other supplies contain silver.
  8. Old jewelry and silver-plated items can contain valuable quantities of gold, silver, platinum, and other precious metals.
  9. Older vehicles contain gold in printed circuit boards, palladium in catalytic converters, and other precious metals that you can recycle.
  10. Military surplus items of many kinds – especially electronic devices – contain printed circuit boards and other components that can contain gold and other precious metals.
  11. Appliances of many kinds contain thermocouple wires that contain platinum and other precious metals.

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7 Strategies to Cut the Costs of Sputtering Targets and Precious Metal-bearing Manufacturing Supplies
How to Pick the Best Precious Metals Recycling Company

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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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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How Solar Panel Manufacturers Let $MILLIONS Slip through Their Fingers
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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
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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?

 

How Solar Panel Manufacturers Let $MILLIONS Slip through Their Fingers

If you’re in the business of manufacturing solar panels, you’re already an expert in applying thin films. You’re as familiar with applying molybdenum, selenium, tellurium, tin, and other materials as most folks are with walking their dogs. You’re already buying sputtering targets for your thin-film applications from manufacturers in America, Asia and possibly elsewhere too.

No question, you’re an expert. But do you know something else about those metals that can put dollars back in your company’s pocket?

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

We’re talking about recycling sputtering targets once they have outlived their effective production life. Not many companies realize that even when sputtering targets have lived out their lives in the manufacturing of solar panels, they can still retain 4%, 10%, or more of the precious metals that they contained when new – and that significant dollars can be reclaimed by recycling them.

If you spend $10,000 each year on sputtering targets, a simple precious metals recycling program could return $1,000 or more to you. If you spend more than that, you can net an even bigger return. It doesn’t make sense to let those dollars slip away.

Specialty Metals Refiners will help you design a detailed recycling process that can help you understand just how much value you can reclaim from every sputtering target you purchase and then recycle.

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