Sumitomo Electric to Start Tungsten Recycling with New Process

Sumitomo Electric Industries will start mass production of recycled tungsten with new process in first half of fiscal 2011 starting April 2011 as a part of national project with subsidiary from Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. The firm recovers monthly 30 tonnes of tungsten trioxide from used cemented carbide tool. With the recycle operation, the firm tries to secure all required tungsten to make insert chip in the group in future.

The firm builds the mass production plant in Toyama plant of A.L.M.T. Corp., which is Sumitomo Electric’s subsidiary to make tungsten powder and other materials. The project is operated by Sumitomo Electric, A.L.M.T. Corp., Sumitomo Electric Hardmetal, which is another subsidiary of Sumitomo Electric to make cemented carbide tool, and Nagoya University with 400 million yen of subsidiary through New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO). Sumitomo Electric group invests around 600 million yen for the project through fiscal 2011 ending March 2012.

Sumitomo Electric has recycled used cemented carbide tool with the zinc process since 1980s. The new project is to develop recovery method for each metal from used cemented carbide tool while the new process can reduce energy consumption by more than 40% and chemical agents and water consumption by more than 30%. The process can recover 90% of the contained rare metals including cobalt and tantalum.

Sumitomo Electric makes around 5 million units per month of insert chip, which needs around 40 tonnes of cemented carbide alloy. The firm tries to secure the required material powder with the recycling process in future to make insert chip.

Tungsten is main material to make cemented carbide tool. Japan heavily depends on the tungsten supply on China. The international price has increased when China controls the export volume and Chinese cost increases to make concentrates. The price of ammonium paratungstate is around US$ 250 per 10 kilogram content of tungsten trioxide.