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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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 Money Can Be Found in Your Used Electroplating Supplies

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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Use an Organized Recycling Program for Sputtering Targets to Boost Your Company Profits by 10% or More
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How Solar Panel Manufacturers Let $MILLIONS Slip through Their Fingers
Don’t Throw Dollars Away! How to Mine the Hidden Value in Used Sputtering Targets

3 Simple Steps: How to Find the Best Gold Refiner

Like many companies, you probably have some older gold-bearing scrap and used equipment and components on hand that could put money in your pocket if you sent them to the right gold refiner. They could be old circuit boards, cellphones, medical equipment, eyeglass frames, automobile airbags, digital cameras, sputtering targets, or gold-containing resins and salts that you don’t use in your manufacturing processes anymore. All those things – and more – could contain valuable quantities of gold.

Image of circuit boards and computer scrap, which contain Gold, Platinum, Palladium, and Silver that Specialty Metals refines and recycles.

What’s stopping you from recycling those unneeded things? It’s probably uncertainty. How can you really know how much gold is inside each of the old cell phones that your electronics company has taken back in trades, for example? You can’t tell by looking. And how can you know much gold can be extracted from the used sputtering targets that you’ve taken off your production line?

If you’re feeling that uncertainty, you’re probably feeling some anxiety too. Sure, you could send those old cellphones or circuit boards to just any precious metal recycling company you find online, but how can you be sure that company will pay you for the gold that those items really contain – and pay you a fair price? How can you be sure that you’re not about to be ripped off?

Three Steps to Finding a Reputable Gold Refining Company that Pays You What You Deserve

Well, there are ways. Here are some steps that can safeguard you . . .

  • Step One – Check out the company’s reputation. Before you send in any items that could potentially contain gold, ask to speak with one or two of the companies that the recycling company serves. Ask those client companies about the refiner’s expertise, honesty, and speed in paying. Note that although many companies display customer testimonials on their websites, those quotes have been carefully selected for inclusion. So speak with some of the refiner’s clients instead.
  • Step Two – Send in only a few items for testing and evaluation.  For example, if you’re an automobile dealer with hundreds of airbags that were removed from cars because of a recall, don’t send them all to a refiner and hope for the best. Send in just one and listen to what the company has to say before sending in everything that you have. Also: Consider sending the same kind of samples to several refiners/recyclers to see which is offering you the highest value.
  • Step Three – Do business with a company that bases its value on current metal prices that you can verify independently. We do this at Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners, for example. You can always visit our home page to see the current market price for gold. It’s an open, verifiable process, because you’ll know exactly how much gold is contained in each item that you’re recycling and know the current market price too.

Don’t let uncertainty or anxiety keep you from extracting the gold from components and materials that you have on hand. Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners has been the top choice of businesses and individuals in the US for secondary refining for over 30 years. We invite you to call us today at 800-426-2344 to learn more.

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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.

Related Posts:

Don’t Throw Dollars Away! How to Mine the Hidden Value in Used Sputtering Targets
Use an Organized Recycling Program for Sputtering Targets to Boost Your Company Profits by 10% or More
Plating Primer: How Do Sputtering Targets Work?

 

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?

 

Precious Metal Alert: Are You Protecting Your Precious Metal Holdings from Pilfering?

The good news is, there could be considerable dollar value in the precious metals, used and new sputtering targets, and other production materials that you keep on hand. The bad news is, those materials are prone to pilfering by visitors to your business or by your own employees too. Small items that contain precious metals, or quantities of the precious metals themselves, are usually easy to conceal in a pocket, a shoe, a briefcase, or elsewhere. The result could be that dollars are literally “walking away” from your company.

Image of a gold vault door, symbolizing the value of precious metals in used sputtering targets that can be refined and recycled by Specialty Metals.

If you’re a small company with only a few trustworthy employees, you might not need to worry about pilfering. Otherwise, it’s a good idea to review the following security procedures. They can help deter theft or identify individuals who have been stealing from you if losses have already occurred.

  • Control access to your premises by equipping employees with key cards or access badges. Consider using a system that generates an ongoing record of employees’ arrivals and departures from your building too – the knowledge that their movements are being tracked will help discourage any dishonest employees from pilfering your materials. Also: If you discover that a theft has just occurred, identifying the guilty party will be a lot easier if you have an accurate record of who was on site at the time.
  • Monitor, lock, and alarm exit doors. Have you ever visited a factory where employees prop open an exit door during the warm summer months? We have. Unless you prevent that, there’s a good chance that valuable materials will walk right out the door.
  • Install a second security perimeter around areas where precious metals or other valuable materials are stored. It could be a safe room or a metal security cage with access that is restricted by a card-activated electronic lock or other means. Another option: Use an “open security” strategy by storing valuable materials in a central location that is constantly in view from a main office.
  • Install video surveillance cameras prominently throughout your premises. They should be outside your main entrance, pointed from the outside at all secondary exit doors, and positioned around production machinery and in areas where valuable materials are stored. Also: Consider installing them visibly in company parking areas; they send a signal that your company is well protected against theft.
  • Have a professional security company review and upgrade your current alarm if necessary. The addition of a few features – such as a second alarmed perimeter around storage areas or cellular (not land-line) call-out to notify local police – can make your current alarm a lot more robust.
  • Minimize the precious materials that you keep on your premises. That could mean applying “just in time” production protocols, in which new sputtering targets and other valuable materials arrive just when you need them, not weeks or months ahead of time. It also means quickly disposing of used sputtering targets or other valuable materials. The longer valuable materials sit around, the greater the chances are that they will be stolen. Troubling: Many companies only discover a theft long after it has occurred - that is usually because valuable materials have been stored on site for weeks or months. We can help you with the disposal: 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 like gold from sputtering targets.
  • Install bright lighting in your parking lot, around exit doors, and in other key areas that could be vulnerable during non-business hours. Lights are strong deterrents. Also: If you have a stand-alone manufacturing facility, avoid having extensive plantings adjacent to your building’s exterior walls. They might be attractive, but they provide thieves with a convenient area to conceal stolen items or hide.

Also . . .

Consider hiring a security company. Even if you don’t need to have a professional security guard on your premises during business hours, consider retaining a professional security company to check on your business during non-business hours. Be sure to post signs that your premises are being monitored by that company too – they go a long way toward discouraging theft.

Related Posts

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Some Fascinating – and Potentially Profitable – Facts You Never Knew about Refining Gold
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The Confusing – and Very Profitable – World of Gold Alloys

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.