Metal Analyzers Play Key Role for Scrap Recyclers
One person's trash is another person's treasure, as the
popular saying goes. No one knows this better than the thousands of independent
metal recyclers that make their living in the scrap industry today.
But there is a movement underway that is changing the way some scrap metal
recyclers are doing business. With pressure to improve quality, and with
many products in greater demand, more and more scrap buyers are less willing
to accept mixed loads or inaccurately sorted material. As a result, more
ferrous and non-ferrous metal recyclers are winning new customers and
boosting their earnings by analyzing scrap content.
This competitive edge is made possible by a new breed of electronic metal
analyzers - or spectrometers - that quickly and easily identify materials
in question. While the latest analyzers are impacting recycling, the idea
itself isn't exactly new. According to Randy Moffat, vice president sales
& marketing for Angstrom, Inc., a Belleville, Michigan based manufacturer,
the use of spectrometers has been around for a long time.
"Among the first buyers of spectrometers were steel mills in the
1940s for determining the composition of steel before pouring," he
said. But the equipment at that time was large, cumbersome and not very
well suited to anything outside of laboratory use. "It wasn't until
some years later that spectrometers began to see light duty for sorting
scrap metals in a few of the larger yards across the country," Moffat
However, recent advancements in technology have changed metal analyzers
in a number of ways.
Tom Anderson, director of marketing for Niton, LLC, the Billerica, Massachusetts
producer of hand-held metal analyzers said, "Advancements in digital
signal processing and multilayered electronics have reduced the size of
the equipment considerably."
New technologies have simplified metals anaylsis to "point
and shoot". Recyclers save time, improve quality and boost earnings.
Being both smaller and lighter has created new applications
for analyzers. But that's not where it ends.
Anderson added, "Breakthroughs in x-ray tube and battery technology
have given rise to a new generation of hand-held instruments. More and
more recyclers are beginning to rely on analyzers to assist in a number
According to recyclers that use them, the results have had a positive
impact on their businesses.
John Hunsaker of SOS Metals, Inc., Gardena, California, has been using
the latest generation of hand-held analyzers for more than three months
now. According to Hunsaker, "We do a lot of business in superalloys
and other metals that demand a lot from an analyzer. Nickel cobalt and
cobalt-based alloys are tough because they're so close in chemical composition.
We need an instrument that can identify alloys that contain different
percentages of the same elements. That's where the latest technology really
Among the latest innovations in some hand-held analyzers is the ability
for users to essentially program their own search criteria. The software
in certain models allows the user to set both upper and lower content
limits for various elements. Custom settings are then stored in the unit's
library of possible matches to compare against readings from new samples.
"The single greatest advantage they afford us now is the ability
to program our customers' specifications directly into the unit,"
said Mr. Hunsaker.
By sorting along customer-supplied guidelines, recyclers can identify
exactly what they're looking for much more quickly than before, and with
much greater accuracy. "We don't spend much time doing things the
hard way anymore," Hunsaker said. "Finally, we have a reliable
tool that lets us work smart, and fast," he added.
Tom Anderson of Niton, summarized the primary benefit of the latest hand-held
analyzers. "Increased profitability," he said, is best reason
metal recyclers should consider an analyzer today. "A hand-held analyzer
is not only effective in sorting and segregation of material, but these
analyzers are small enough and reliable enough to be taken off-site when
bidding on material. Some quick spot checks on the material allow a recycler
to be more competitive in his material bid.
Operators improve quality by using anaylzers to compare
incoming materials to customer requirements.
We have heard many times from our customers that material
up for bid was in fact, not what it was claimed to be," said Anderson.
In some cases, financial rewards to the recycler have been both immediate
and significant. Anderson noted, "One of our users took his just-purchased
analyzer to bid on a load of 316 stainless steel and found the material
instead to be nickel 200. With this knowledge, he was able to outbid everyone
else and sell the material right away for a nice profit - more than paying
for the analyzer in a single transaction."
Mr. Stuart Freilich, Universal Metal Corporation, Worcester, Massachusetts,
observed, "Our entire existence revolves around identifying metals.
We guarantee every heat to our customer's certifications," he said.
How important is accuracy? According to Freilich, "If we blew a heat,
claims could surpass six figures. We live and die by our analyzers."
Hand-held metal analyzers are in widespread use outside of the metal recycling
industry as well. Tom Anderson of Niton pointed out, "The United
Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission are depending
on portable metal analyzers to help them carry out their current mission
in Iraq." UN weapons inspectors are equipped with metal analyzers
to assist in the search for evidence of Iraq's involvement in banned weapons