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Ferrous Metal Balers

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Ferrous Metal BalersLook around any scrap metal recycling yard today and you’ll find a wide variety of equipment. While some may be unique to each operation, most recyclers agree that a good baler is essential to their success in the business.

Balers compress saleable ferrous scrap into a more uniform, rectangular shape (sometimes referred to as a “log”) and enable scrap metal recyclers to move baled material more efficiently from the yard to the shredder or to the mill, depending on a number of factors.

To avoid any confusion, it is important to distinguish bales of scrap ferrous from logs. “The difference is density,” said Charlie Hall, president of Iron Ax, Inc. of Hadley, Georgia, makers of balers and loggers for the scrap metal industry. “A baler typically produces a tighter, denser bale of metal, weighing from between 70 to 95 pounds per cubic foot of material. And because bales will usually contain more similar grades of metal, they are almost always sold and delivered directly to a steel mill, without further processing by a shredder,” he said.

In contrast, a “log” of mixed ferrous metal, such as auto bodies for example, is much looser and less dense than a bale, running from 30 to 50 pounds of metal per cubic foot. Logs of scrap metal will usually go to a shredder.

“A lot of shredders either can’t or won’t process the denser bales,” said Mr. Hall. “Sometimes, they could even damage the shredder,” he added.

Choosing a baler
Balers can be a significant capital investment for most metals recyclers, so choosing the right one for your operation is important. Roger Williams, national sales manager for American Baler Corporation in Bellevue, Ohio said, “High volume recyclers can pay for a baler through cost savings in labor, storage and handling in just a short time,” he said. “Operating without one means doing most everything the hard way,” he added.

There are many things to consider before choosing a baler. Most balers for ferrous metals are horizontal, rather than vertical, and they can be portable (mobile) or stationary. Recyclers should begin with a clear understanding of their customers’ requirements, as well as how it will be used in the operation. “You have to know the limits on what your customer can or cannot handle,” said Charlie Hall. “Maximum bale size is critical, both in dimensions and weight. Bale density is the key factor. You can’t be shipping bales that are too big to process. And if they’re too small, there’s additional labor and handling costs involved on both ends,” he observed.

Once customer requirements are met, recyclers should look at the maximum density a baler can produce. Balers with more compaction force enable recyclers to process a wide range of material types and create a nice, tight bale. The latest offering from Iron Ax, for example, features variable density selection – up to 4,350 psi – through a simple “up-arrow/down-arrow” keypad input from the crane operator’s cab. Charlie Hall points out, “With so much scrap metal going overseas today, exporters want a baler than can fill a cargo container for the best value on shipping costs. The variable density feature gives operators a lot of flexibility to produce whatever bale size they need depending on the material involved.”

The most common source of power for today’s stationary ferrous balers is electric motors. In contrast, portable balers are most always equipped with diesel engines. Shoppers should first consider whether a stationary baler is best for their needs, or if a portable model is the better choice.

Productivity and training
In high volume operations, loading and unloading the baler is handled by crane, and many of the portable models either come equipped with a crane, or offer options.

The crane boosts productivity by moving material in and out of the baler safely, and as quickly as possible.

According to Jose Pereya, general sales manager for Sierra International Machinery in Bakersfield, California, “There are basically three factors that impact productivity of a ferrous metals baler - the material mix, cycle time and the size and design of the charging box. The mix is obvious. Some materials are easier to work with than others. Cycle times vary from baler to baler, and can be as long as several minutes. A good-sized charging box measures about 13 feet long by 7 feet wide. That enables operators to process more material per cycle of the ram,” he said. “In addition, certain models of the Sierra balers feature an ejector to move finished bales from the charging box. That helps to keep metal moving quickly through the baling process,” he added.

Of course, skilled operators are important for safety and productivity as well. Most manufacturers offer some form of training, either before or after the sale of the baler. “We often bring our customers into our own yard,” said Charlie Hall of Iron Ax. That way, they can operate the baler themselves under the supervision of our own people, and learn exactly how things are done before they take delivery.”

Ralph Johnson, vice president and sales manager of the R.M. Johnson Company in Annandale, Minnesota added, “Knowing how to make a good bale is as important as knowing how to run the baler. We recommend that new operators put larger pieces of steel in the box first, then place the smaller pieces in the middle. Larger pieces complete the charge, so the bale stays together better. By stressing both baler function and how to make a good bale, new operators become productive more quickly. And once we leave our customer’s site, they can always call to ask questions or address other issues with us on the phone,” he said.

Keeping a baler running well isn’t too difficult. Doug Sebastian, executive vice president, Harris Waste Management Group, Inc. said, “A regular schedule for greasing pivot points, checking hydraulic components and filters, and inspecting the charge box lining are about all there is to it.”

Of late, engineering has played an increasingly more important role in baler maintenance as well. Doug Sebastian continues, “Recently, most all of the Harris balers were re-designed for improved accessibility to key system functions. The new, ‘flooded suction power unit’ design places the hydraulic pump at the lowest point in the system, ensuring it stays lubricated, and makes it much simpler to access when service is necessary,” he said. Advances in hydraulic cylinder design and sealing technology have improved baler performance, too.

Baling ferrous metals is a tough job, and good maintenance begins with a solid, heavy-duty design. Critical wear parts, such as charge box liners for example, are replaceable on most ferrous metals balers today. That’s good news, because as a consequence, a well designed, well maintained baler could be expected to last a long time. “We estimate that about 90% of all Harris balers built over the past 30 years are still in operation today,” said Mr. Sebastian.


Company Name
Contact Person
Phone Number
Airborn Industries Drew Sigmund 800-986-4646
Al-jon, Inc. Don Thompson 888-255-6681
American Baler Co. Roger Williams 800-843-7512
Colmar USA, Inc. Lisa Bresolin 716-693-9877
Gensco Equipment Alan Zelunka 800-268-6797
Granutech Saturn Systems Corporation John Crowley 877-582-7800
Harris Waste Management Group, Inc. Doug Sebastion 800-373-9131
Iron Ax, Inc. John Kitchens 877-247-6629
LeFort USA, Inc. Gus Arenas 813-282-8712
Metso Minerals, Recycling Division Bryce Sandell 800-995-9149
Moros North America Ed List 502-368-1637
R.M. Johnson Company Dave VanVleet 800-328-3613
Sierra International Machinery Jose Pereyra 800-343-8503
SSI Shredding Systems, Inc. Dave Miller 800-537-4733
Van Dyk Baler Corporation Pieter Eenkema van Dijk 203-967-1110
Vezzani USA, Inc. Mike Pass 770-487-3907
American Baler's Ram II Harris Waste Iron Ax E-Z Crusher Sierra International