Super-smart sensors are revolutionizing the sorting of auto shreds

Apr 01, 2010 | 05:32 AM | Paul Schaffer

The increased sophistication of sensor sorting equipment, which began as a way to supplement traditional methods of processing auto shredder output, might qualify it for a more central role with shreds.

"The X-rays now are actually perceptive enough to remove the zinc from aluminum. They also separate sheet and tube from die cast aluminum," according to Dennis Ciccotelli, southeast regional manager at Steinert US LLC, Erlanger, Ky., which sells sensor devices made by its parent company in Germany. The more-common color-based sensors can't handle those distinctions, he said.

"I believe that one day sensor sorting will replace heavy media" that distinguish metals by their density, Ciccotelli said. "It will be much easier to control and maintain."

Even now, some heavy media operators are reducing the strain on their equipment by using sensors ahead of the intake. Diverting irrelevant shards holds down the proportion of unwanted material entering the density sort, Ciccotelli said, adding that he views density sorting that uses sand flow as a more resilient technology than the traditional liquid-based heavy media. "Sand flow is a more manageable process. It handles small tonnage rates but it's more environmentally capable and you can contain it," he said. "But you still have to clean that media, and the media is expensive."

Sensor sorting had problems of scale a few years back, but these have been dealt with, Ciccotelli said. "For a while we were really unsure how many tons an hour we could do with a given system. Could we maintain somewhere between 5 and 10 tonnes an hour and get the high-purity rating of a sand-flow process? At between 5 and 10 tonnes, we now can get purities that sand flow and heavy media can get. It isn't 2 tonnes an hour any more."....

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