Thanks to acquisitions, alliances and the development of new processes, the Plansee Group has further increased the quantity of valuable raw materials such as tungsten, cobalt and tantalum that is recycled.

Recycling of cobalt metal powder
GTP has entered into a strategic partnership with the materials technology group Umicore in order to fully recycle cobalt. GTP processes hard metal scrap to produce a cobalt intermediate material that is then converted to cobalt metal powder by Umicore. The company uses chemical processes to convert hard metal tools such as drills and cutting tools that have reached the end of their service life to form intermediate products containing tungsten, cobalt and tantalum.

Recycling of hard metals
In the past, GTP processed hard metals or tungsten carbide to produce fresh tungsten carbide powder using a chemical process. In summer 2015, GTP acquired the hard metal recycler Tikomet, thus extending its product range: “Tikomet is a perfect strategic match for us,” says Dr. Andreas Lackner, President and CEO of GTP. Tikomet has furthered development of zinc recycling technology and has invested
in a modern manufacturing plant and in research and development to open up new applications for recycled hard metal powder. Lackner: “The better the quality of the recycled hard metal powder, the greater the demand from the hard metal manufacturers, because they can make significant savings in the use of raw materials.”

Recycling of tantalum
Thanks to its good adherence to glass and high level of electrical conductivity, molybdenum is a popular material for electrode layers in thin-film transistors (TFT-LCD) and touch sensors (touch panels). Both during the production process and as a component in the future displays, these layers are exposed to atmospheric humidity and perspiration from the user’s hand. The answer to corrosion: Molybdenum-tantalum sputtering targets. The sputtering targets are used in the coating systems of the major display manufacturers. But a relatively large quantity of the material remains unused, and this is taken back by Plansee. Plansee has developed a thermal recycling process, primarily to recover the extremely valuable tantalum. “In particular when we are dealing with valuable and rare materials such as tantalum, it is crucial to achieve a closed-loop supply chain, which is why Plansee is placing such emphasis on its recycling activities,” explains Ulrich Lausecker, responsible for the display business at Plansee. Closed-loop recycling chains are intended to reduce the risks associated with raw materials availability and ensure that key customers from high-tech industries always have a reliable supply of these materials. In collaboration with its customers, the Plansee Group will continue to work on developing and establishing efficient recycling processes for valuable metals when they reach the end of their service lives.