Great honor for University of Applied
Sciences Südwestfalen + Consortium

During the tenth awards for resource-efficient management, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) actually gave the German Raw Materials Efficiency Prize (DREP) to an old product. Zinc wrought alloys were originally developed during World War II to compensate for the lack of copper. The excellent research project of the Laboratory for Bulk Metal Forming of the University of Applied Sciences Südwestfalen, which was funded by the German Federal Environmental Foundation (DBU), involves the application of zinc wrought alloys that now possess a high percentage of secondary aluminum (known as zinc extrusion products or “ZEP”) during forming processes. The new light, lead-free zinc alloy of the zinc specialists Grillo-Werke AG can be used as a replacement for brass and other copper alloys during rolling, pressing, drawing, or forging. The development, with which an improved energy efficiency and CO2 balance can be attained, is broadly applicable within the industrial consortium due to its material properties and the participation of various sectors. “In our research project, we were able to show the process design for mass production with the new alloy for the first time,” reported Dr. Michael Marré, the project head. “Substituting zinc wrought alloys for brass offers great potential for reducing CO2 emissions while saving costs and energy. And heavy metals are omitted as alloy components.” The research project and the application were carried out jointly by the University of Applied Sciences Südwestfalen, Gesamtverband der Deutschen Buntmetallindustrie e. V., Möhling GmbH & Co. KG, Müller Engineering GmbH & Co. KG, Grillo-Werke AG, Metallpresswerk Hohenlimburg GmbH, and Carl Bechem GmbH.

BECHEM, who has supported this innovative project with a fitting lubricant concept, is pleased about the honor and the award as a consortium member. One product from the Beruform MF series (cold forming) and one from the   Beruforge series (warm forming) perform in the application.

Dr. Franziska Brantner, the Parliamentary State Secretary for the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection, said during the award: “A secure supply of raw materials and an intelligent and sustainable handling of raw materials are crucial for Germany’s industry, especially during times of crisis, when we are reminded of global dependencies. The careful, efficient use of raw materials is also a decisive building block of sustainable development and an important pillar of the European Green Deal. This year’s winners of the German Raw Materials Efficiency Prize, for example, advocate innovative solutions in this area.”

Dr. Michael Marré (sixth from left) accepted the prize from State Secretary Dr. Franziska Brantner (seventh from left) in Berlin along with the consortium

ZEP reimagined – for energy savings and sustainability

Interview with Dr. Michael Marré, Laboratory for Bulk Metal Forming of the University of Applied Sciences Südwestfalen.

What does this award mean to you?

For us, this award is and remains a great honor and a recognition of our innovative, practical teaching and research activities at the University of Applied Sciences Südwestfalen in Iserlohn.

Why do we need a replacement material for the tried-and-true brass?

In the EU, 600,000 tons of brass per year are processed using forming technology. Brass is more than 50% copper. All brass alloys have a very high melting point. This means we expend a great deal of energy during material processing to attain the high melting temperature required, thereby producing a great amount of CO2.

Moreover, many brass materials contain amounts of lead that will be forbidden in the future. Zinc extrusion  products (ZEP) were developed for that reason, based on a new zinc wrought alloy.

Can the brass materials, which can be used in a variety of ways, simply be replaced by ZEP?

Using the parameters and alloy components aluminum, copper, and magnesium, as well as smaller amounts of additional alloy components, the qualities of semi-finished products can be altered. For example, we can obtain an electrical conductivity increased by 15% and a yield  strength increased by up to 20% with a considerably smaller thickness and reduced material costs. Many application areas for brass, such as electrical engineering  and sanitary technology, can be covered by zinc extrusion products. Naturally, changing materials will always present challenges.

You’ve already addressed the topic of saving energy. How great are the effects for sustainability?

The material offers not only price advantages, but also significant advantages regarding sustainability. Significant environmental advantages can be achieved due to the savings of copper and energy and the reduced weight of the material. Another notable advantage is that this material can be completely recycled without altering its material properties.
It is estimated that, in the future, up to a fifth of the market volume of brass can be replaced by this material. This would lead to an annual CO2 savings of 240,000 tons. To compare: That equals the CO2 emissions of the entire street traffic of a large German city.

Dr. Michael Marré
Laboratory for Bulk Metal Forming
University of Applied Sciences

Important building blocks:
Products of BECHEM’s Beruform and Beruforge series perform in the award-winning research project.