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Photo: Sony DADC Europe GmbH: Waste water-free production thanks to the VACUDEST vacuum distillation system with conductivity monitoring

Wastewater-free production - for a modern, sustainable company like Sony DADC, this was the decisive criteria for a new wastewater treatment system at their enlarged production facility in Thalgau/Austria. Paul Weitnauer, Manager Mastering Engineering at Sony DADC, tells us in an interview. Which solution Sony DADC chose and what helpful tips there are for choosing the right wastewater treatment, can be found below.


According to Wikipedia, Sony's very first CD, produced in 1983 at its plant in the United States, was: Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A.". At the factory in Thalgau, which opened in 1991.

What was the first CD to come off the production line here?

The first disc produced in Austria was Toto IV. 2,500 discs were ordered at that time.

Photo: Sony DADC Europe GmbH


How is an optical disc produced?

The production of optical discs - such as CD, DVD or BluRay, is an injection moulding process, followed by a metallisation process (sputtering with aluminium) and protective lacquering. The replication of the discs is highly automated with cycle times in the range of seconds.

At the end of the production steps in the clean room, the label printing - often colourful and very artistic artwork - is applied. The discs are then packaged in the assembly area. From there, the packaged products are shipped to the various countries via our logistics department.

The template required for injection moulding - we call them internally “stamper” - is produced via a lithography electroforming (LiGA) in the Mastering department.

Photo: Sony DADC Europe GmbH

Which process in your production generates wastewater? 

During the LiGA process in mastering, wastewater contaminated with nickel, caustic soda and other alkaline cleaning media is produced. During replication, on the other hand, maskings are used in the metallisation processes, some of which are chemically cleaned. Aluminum-containing, alkaline rinse water is resulting from thisprocess.

Until now, the wastewater from these processes has been treated by a chemical-physical plant. So, why should this technology be replaced?

Our Mastering department was historically located at the Anif plant. In the course of merging the Anif and Thalgau plants, it was necessary to expand the building services area in Thalgau and build a plant suitable for the electroplating wastewater, as well as construct an entirely new plant for chemical mask cleaning.

In the course of these investments, we also implemented various process improvements that facilitated the use of vacuum distillation technology.

We subsequently evaluated the advantages and disadvantages of the different systems.

You decided to use vacuum distillation. Why?

When moving the mastering department within the electroplating area, vacuum distillation can guarantee that all hazardous components can be separated and disposed of externally. Given the nature of the system,a transfer of the hazardous components into the municipal wastewater can be excluded. This made it much easier for us to obtain approval from the authorities to also set up an electroplating department at the Thalgau plant.

The saving of fresh water is an additional bonus for us, which helps us to meet our self-imposed goal of sustainable production of high-tech products in Austria.

Another important point was the limited space available at the Thalgau plant.

The ZLD post-concentrator saves another 50% in disposal costs thanks to its subsequent concentration.


In addition to the important sustainability advantages, the economic aspect also plays a major role. Is the investment in a vacuum distillation system worthwhile?

The decisive factor for us was that the system operates automatically and non-stop without any major manual support effort. This is where the VACUDEST has an clear advantage over the physical-chemical precipitation.

In this year's peak season - the Christmas business is very important for us - the system provided a valuable contribution.

Bringing the system into the basement of your production site was adventurous, as the corridor was only 5 cm wider than the VACUDEST itself - and then it also went 90 degrees around the corner.... That required brains and muscle power, correct?

The insertion was indeed a highlight. What helped us the most was the "brains" and the meticulous preparation prior to the insertion. This quickly made it clear that we had to do some preliminary work by the construction companies. Concrete walls were cut open and fire doors enlarged.

Now the VACUDEST is in place. Does it keep its promise of "wastewater-free production"? Where is the treated water reused?

For our electroplating area, a wastewater-free production has indeed been achieved. The distillate from the VACUDEST is further treated in an ion exchanger before subsequent use and is used in electroplating with a target conductivity value < 1 µS/cm.

Would you make the decision for a VACUDEST vacuum distillation system again in this way?

I would make the decision for the technology of vacuum distillation again at any time. It is particularly critical to estimate the expected wastewater quantities for the design of the plant size. This is a big challenge in our industry, but we have successfully mastered it with the support of H2O.

Do you have one or more helpful tips for companies that are currently facing the same decision? Something you would have liked to know beforehand?

It is extremely important to calculate the expected wastewater volumes and freshwater requirements. A detailed estimate of the correct plant size together with a good knowledge of the expected composition of the wastewater is key to success. H2O's application laboratory provided us with excellent support here. Definitely worth a look is also the new VACUDEST ZLD to even further minimise the residual volume to be disposed of.


Thank you very much for the interview, Mr Weitnauer!





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