Xerox innovators find ways to make manufacturing greener
Not only is innovation driving Xerox Corp.'s breakthroughs in color science, design of intelligent printing systems and advances in sophisticated software, but it is also ensuring Xerox is an environmental leader that lives Earth Day values all year long. The company has received a patent on a novel process for measuring residual amounts of volatile solvents in the plant's wastewater...
WEBSTER, NY, April 22, 2005 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Innovative thinking at Xerox Corp. isn't limited to the lab: Not only is innovation driving the company's breakthroughs in color science, design of intelligent printing systems and advances in sophisticated software, but it is also ensuring Xerox is an environmental leader that lives Earth Day values all year long.
This Earth Day, employees at Xerox's photoreceptor plant in this Rochester, N.Y., suburb are celebrating with a greener manufacturing operation, thanks to two innovative processes that they have developed over the past few years. One is a better way to make sure that the plant's wastewater is clean; the other reduces the amount of chemicals used.
"Xerox's earth-friendly photoreceptor manufacturing processes are truly an environmental success story," said Patricia A. Calkins, vice president of Xerox Environment, Health & Safety. "They reflect a focus on earth-friendly practices that permeate our entire business."
Photoreceptors are the light-sensitive elements at the heart of xerographic printers and copiers. In the manufacturing process, light-sensitive materials are dissolved in a chemical called methylene choloride and in other volatile organic compounds, then deposited on a substrate, or film. When the volatile compounds evaporate, they leave a finished photoreceptor behind.
Methylene chloride is a chemical that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies as hazardous, and Xerox has long focused on smart use of this solvent. Xerox already recaptured 98% of the evaporated solvent for reuse and recycling.
Now, the company has received a patent on a novel process for measuring residual amounts of volatile solvents in the plant's wastewater. The method is described in U.S. Patent No. 6793819 for an "Airtight Waste Solution Sampling Apparatus," issued to Xerox last year.
The new technology makes it easier to measure volatile organic compounds that are dissolved in water, a situation common to any organization that uses a steam process for recapturing volatile organic compounds. Before a plant disposes of the wastewater, it must certify that the dissolved volatile compounds in the wastewater fall below a certain target in parts per billion. The dilemma: Volatile compounds in the water can evaporate when the system is exposed to the air, making it difficult when using normal sampling methods to get a true measurement.
Xerox's innovation is a device that works somewhat like a child's Super Soaker water gun to collect the water sample, says Thomas Glenwright, one of the inventors. The device sucks a water sample out of the waste stream and discharges it into an airtight, watertight bag that can be delivered to a laboratory for measurement - with no exposure to open air.
Xerox has implemented the system at the Webster photoreceptor plant, and the town of Webster, which monitors Xerox's discharges, has accepted the results from the system. Glenwright's co-inventors are James Graf, Warren Smith and Brian Spencer.
Xerox's second innovation has slashed the amount of methylene chloride used in the photoreceptor manufacturing process to begin with. Xerox began recovering the evaporated methylene chloride in 1992 using a distillation process. The process allowed Xerox to reclaim and reuse about half of the chemical; the company paid to have the remainder recycled off site. Recently, Xerox engineers discovered a way to modify the process and re-distill the rejected material, boosting the chemical's recovery and reuse rate to more than 70%.
The new process, for which a patent has been applied, is a financial and environmental winner. By reducing the chemicals Xerox must purchase by more than 40% and reducing the amount of hazardous waste that must be disposed of by 45%, the new process is saving the company hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in raw material costs and waste disposal fees.
These innovative projects are among many Xerox has developed to meet its mission of producing "waste-free products in waste-free facilities." Xerox is committed to the protection of the environment and the health and safety of its employees, customers and neighbors. The company has received major environmental awards worldwide, and it been a leader in implementing conservation measures and environmentally friendly policies.
For more information on Xerox's environmental programs, visit www.xerox.com/environment.
Photo credit: Kevin Rivoli, Photo Media