The company selected for the study is a privately owned job shop that does rack electroplating of steel and brass plumbing and lighting fixtures with copper, nickel, and chrome. Approximately 10 operators perform the actual plating and buffing of the parts. A waste treatment specialist handles all of the wastewater requiring the necessary pH adjustment, precipitation and filtration. Steel and brass plumbing and lighting fixtures are hand polished and then electroplated with nickel, followed by chrome plating over nickel. Three lines are currently operating. All the rinse water goes to the waste treatment room.
The problem is to reduce the consumption of water. The nickel/chrome electroplating line #3, which releases 10,000 gallons of wastewater per day, was the focus of the study, in particular, one rinsing process.
The New Jersey Technical Assistance Program (NJTAP) is an extension program that provides scientific and technical assistance to small and midsize businesses in New Jersey by helping them understand the environmental implications of their manufacturing processes and advising them of possible alternatives for waste source reduction. A critical part of NJTAP's work consists of visiting industrial sites, evaluating potential opportunities for source reduction and waste minimization, and proposing a cost estimate for eventual process changeovers. In an effort to optimize this type of assistance to business, the Integrated Pollution Prevention Initiative (IPPI), an EPA-funded programs at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), undertook a research project to identify and develop tools to provide small firms in New Jersey with a process optimization service. This Process Optimization Project (POP) has to determine how simulation tools can be used for pollution prevention purposes.
Process modeling is extensively used in the chemical process industries (CPI) for process design; however, these tools are not in common use in small businesses because of cost constraints. Moreover, analyzing an existing process by constructing a model and modifying it to improve efficiency and reduce waste formation is another application area that has not yet been extensively explored. Building the model of an existing process to analyze its behavior gives the user a deeper understanding of the critical phases of the process. This understanding will allow the adjustment of process parameters to reach pollution prevention objectives (i.e., source reduction, control of energy consumption, and waste reduction). Moreover, the simulation will allow the study of process design alternatives.