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A high and rapid ROI makes the purchase of a briquetter easy to justify


They're often seen as the orphans of the scrap metal industry, but turnings and borings are stirring new interest among scrap processors and manufacturers. The biggest hurdle seems to be a commitment to buying the machinery that makes the process economical.

Those who used to throw turnings away or bury them in the trunk of a car headed for a shredder are looking at turnings and borings as a new way to make money, according to Michael Dempsey, national sales manager at the North American arm of Austrian equipment maker ATM-Recyclingsystems GmbH. "We are finding that quite a few people are looking for the advantage," he said.

Briquetters and puckers—the latter being machines that make smaller briquettes, often no bigger than a hockey puck—are his company' biggest sellers today. ATM-Recyclingsystems' machines are all cold briquetters. The briquette might feel hot when it comes out of the machine, but it's just the pressure that makes them feel hot—there is no heat involved in the production process.

Some scrapyards tend to specialize in handling more turnings, so they're willing to look at the briquetter to determine if they can use it to make a product that mills will want. Others ship the turnings elsewhere for processing, Dempsey said. "Now they are saying this briquetted material is a huge difference in price between loose turnings, and I want that in my pocket not in somebody else's."

Scrapyards aren't the only metal handlers interested in the machines, Dempsey said. Quite a bit of his business is with the aerospace industry. Some manufacturers want better ways to separate aluminum and steel cuttings. Others who work with high-priced alloys, like titanium, use the briquetters and puckers in conjunction with other machinery that wrings all the cutting fluids and oils out of the material.

Many of the machines sold to the scrap industry today are cold briquetters, although there are still some yards—like the Zalev Brothers Co. facility in Windsor, Ontario, a unit of Detroit-based Ferrous Processing & Trading Co.—operating both a hot and cold briquetter, Dempsey said.

The hot briquetter makes a very good briquette, not only because it presses the metal together well but also because it boils away the remaining cutting oils and fluids, he said.

The problem with hot briquetting, though, might be environmental. The machine coughs up a blue plume of smoke constantly while it is running, which some regard as an environmental problem.

Dempsey said that one of the few frustrations of his job lies in how long it takes some managers to make up their minds about buying a machine—up to a year and a half.

"They should have made a decision before that because some are doing in excess of $2,000 a day. The machine could pay for itself in a matter of months, but they don't make a decision for a year or a year and half," he said.

"I have a customer who generates tire wire. He's knows that he gets in excess of $100 a ton for his steel briquettes. He used to sell it loose and get maybe $15 a ton. He wants to hold off a bit before buying the machine. To me there is no question."

Axel Hufziger, product manager at Metso Lindemann GmbH, Düsseldorf, Germany, said he is still seeing an increase in demand for briquetters in Europe and Russia.

One reason is that scrap shippers can get better prices for turnings and borings; another is that the manufacturer can recapture the oils and cutting fluids.

In the future there will be machines that briquette the borings and turnings as well as separate the waste from the oils and cutting fluids and return them for reuse in the factory. "Then, you'll have a win-win situation," he said.

When Metso is asked to quote on a machine, it's mostly for cold briquetters. "Those who are interested in briquetting are mostly interested in cold briquette. I haven't had an inquiry about a hot briquetter in more than a year," Hufziger said.

While it is mostly scrapyards that are interested in briquetting, Hufziger said that his company has sold and installed a few briquetting machines in manufacturing plants.

Metso's briquetters press the turnings and borings from both sides so that they don't break in the melting process. These briquettes sink to the bottom of the furnace, where they won't flake apart and be blown into the baghouse, he added.


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