Remanufacturing is an industrial process by which a previously sold, worn, or non-functional product can be rebuilt and recovered. Through the disassembly, cleaning, repair and replacement of worn out and obsolete components, the piece can be returned to a ‘like-new’ or ‘better-than-new’ condition and will be just as reliable as the original product. Remanufacturing plays an important role in the concept of a circular economy.
Remanufacturing technology is becoming more popular as companies look for a way to combat the current climate crisis, as it allows a company to reduce waste and environmental pollution. Not only is remanufacturing an environmentally friendly process, it allows products to be reused, rather than go to waste, and therefore supports a circular economy. As a result, remanufacturing technology greatly benefits the development of the economy and is becoming a new point of economic growth.
What can be Remanufactured?
There are no easily definable rules as to what can be remanufactured. However, there are general traits of an object that facilitate remanufacturing processes. It is generally for objects and parts that are complex, durable, and of high value that a company will choose remanufacturing. Additionally, a product is especially suitable to be remanufactured if it uses or is made of technology that will last for a long time and is made of valuable or high quality material. It must also contain a durable core which can be reused and repurposed, as the core is the central part of an item which is generally the focus of remanufacture. In most examples of this process, the core is returned to work after having been remanufactured. It is also vital that the original equipment can be disassembled and taken down to its various component parts.
- Maintains high standards of performance
- Avoids issues of parts becoming obsolete
- Environmentally friendly, contributes significantly to the reduction of CO² emissions
- Energy efficient – 80% less energy is used during remanufacturing compared to that used in the production of new parts
- Conserves precious raw materials
- Sustainable, keeps existing petrol and diesel vehicles operating longer
- Cost, often cheaper to buy new products than to recondition old ones
- Image, some remanufactured goods may be perceived as 'second class'
The capabilities of remanufacturing to keep certain products in use, and its contribution to a sustainable future, makes it a popular process with many industrial applications. These include:
- Aircraft components
- Automotive parts such as car engines and components
- Electrical appliances and equipment
- Medical tools
- Office furniture
- Printing equipment
- Restaurant and food-service equipment
As a useful case study, laser remanufacturing uses laser beams as a heat source, in a process that can renew and improve failed metal components, whilst simultaneously improving their performance. Specially developed alloy materials with high erosion and corrosion resistance are added to the metal components, and optimum processing parameters are chosen.
Remanufacturing technology is an effective way to reduce waste and environmental pollution. This area is a developing new research field, and a growing and developing advanced manufacturing technology, offering an extension to the whole life cycle of many manufacturing processes. Remanufacturing technology provides an important technical support to industrial sustainable development, bringing great benefits to the development of the national economy, and becoming a new point of economic growth.
What's the Difference Between Remanufactured and Rebuilt?
Remanufacturing involves recreating the object as close to new as possible, with the the remanufactured product being of an equal or higher standard, in which any remanufactured part is optimised. Any core material is disassembled, cleaned, closely inspected against original equipment specifications, and replacement parts are made to replace any that are worn or damaged. Any part that has an important function, such as a piston, connecting rod, ring, or bearing, will be remanufactured, and through these newly refurbished products the original mechanical tolerances may be restored either by re-machining or by installing the necessary inserts.
In comparison, rebuilding is to recondition a part or an object by cleaning, inspecting, and replacing only the parts which are specifically worn or broken. Anything which is serviceable, even if it is not optimal or is used, will be left in the product provided it fits within the manufacturer’s acceptable wear limits. Therefore, after rebuilding, some of the components could be new but others far older, whereas a remanufactured product will be completely as if new.
How is Remanufacturing Different to Recycling?
As previously discussed, when a product is remanufactured it retains its general form, even if the parts are taken or remade. However, recycling involves breaking the product down into component parts, which are then remade into something completely new. This could be through melting, smelting or reprocessing, which is a completely different process to remanufacturing an item to continue with the same purpose.
How is Remanufacturing Different to Product Reuse?
Reuse involves whole products, or sometimes just parts of them, being repurposed and used again in one piece. This could sometimes take variant forms, such as ‘straight reuse’ in which a product is used in a different way by somebody else, refurbishment in which a product is cleaned or lubricated and then continues work, or cannibalisation where working parts are used elsewhere, however should be differentiated from remanufacture.