Space Age Chemical

A Space-Age Chemical Helps Reduce Waste

Grinder burn is caused by improper grinding in the manufacturing process and can cause parts to fail prematurely. Caterpillar routinely uses an acid etch check on a variety of manufactured parts to detect any presence of grinder burn. The acid etch check has historically required methanol, which is a toxic and flammable material, as well as a hazardous air pollutant. Caterpillar’s usage of methanol is regulated by a U.S. EPA air permit that is evaluated annually.

When members of Caterpillar’s Advanced Materials Technology (AMT) team learned of a new chemical being used in the aerospace industry to conduct similar tests, they were moved to try its effectiveness for acid etch checks. The substance, JAR-3N, allows for the use of water instead of methanol, and was successfully validated on many Cat® part families that undergo a grinding operation.

What began as an effort to improve product quality also yielded safety, productivity and environmental benefits. The new process removes tanks of toxic, category 2 flammable material off the shop floor while lowering cycle times from eight minutes to five minutes. Piloted in operations at our East Peoria facility, the new process will reduce hazardous air pollutants by 3.3 tons and hazardous waste by nearly 900 pounds annually from that facility alone. The new process also does not require a ventilation system, which will reduce facility energy consumption. The new Caterpillar facility in Cienega de Flores, Mexico, was designed to use the new process from the start, meaning that methanol will never be used in that facility. There are opportunities for the process to be adopted within other Caterpillar facilities that perform the acid etch process, and we are also sharing the results of this project with suppliers.