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June 2007

Equipment Spotlight

Blowers & Cyclones

—View a list of manufacturers at the bottom of the page

Whether they are recycling industrial waste in a plastic film or forming plant or grinding post-consumer plastic wastes, plastics recyclers rely on air to help them move the stream and separate different materials. Blowers and cyclones fill the bill, allowing recyclers to transport materials from or to grinders efficiently while removing contaminates from all kinds of plastics entering the recycling stream.

The basic technology behind blowers hasn’t changed in a century. A fan creates negative pressure on one side and positive pressure on the other, causing a powerful, speedy flow of air. Plastic pellets or particles introduced into the stream are quickly blown through tubes, sometimes surprising distances, to reach balers or hoppers for storage or transport, or go through additional processing. Some blowers chop material, others are specially designed to handle abrasive materials.

Cyclones have a cone shape that lets air out the top while the material being conveyed by the air drops to the bottom. They are used to separate granular and dense material from the air so it can be easily and neatly dropped into bins for storage or more processing. Both types of systems, as well as their variants, are experiencing increasing demand from recyclers who are getting larger quantities of plastics-heavy electronic and computer waste, at the same time that higher oil prices are increasing the value of recycled plastics.

Rotogran International

Mike Cyr, vice president of Rotogran International Inc. headquartered in Concord, Ontario, says he rarely sells one of the company’s granulating systems without an accompanying blower. Recyclers who attempt to avoid the expense sometimes mount granulators directly over a hopper, he says. However, an attached blower helps force air and materials through the granulator, improving throughput and efficiency. “You’re assisting the particles making their way through the machine,” he explains. “At the same time you’re cooling the machine so it will run more efficiently.” Blowers also improve the quality of the regrind, he adds, because material moves through the grinder faster and production fines and angel hair is reduced.

Rotogran blowers employ impellers directly mounted on motor shafts so there are no drive belts.

The company offers stainless steel impellers and abrasion resistant impeller and housings for applications that call for extra durability. Rotogran matches its granulators with blowers that have enough power to handle the material stream at peak capacity. “A blower system has to be sized large enough to take a shock load in the drawer,” Cyr says. “Otherwise it will clog and not work at all.”

Precision Air Convey Corp. of Newark, Delaware, specializes in providing blowers and cyclones to the plastics recycling industry. Tom Embley, CEO, says the company’s air conveying systems can develop enough pressure that they can convey streams of plastic materials for distances of up to half a mile. “We can convey longer distances than anybody in the world with our blower designer,” Embley says. Recyclers like the systems because they can reduce overall capital costs for equipment. “It’s more efficient and it uses less horsepower when you can do it one shot,” he explains.

Precision Air Convey Corp.

Precision Air Convey also makes fans with cutting blades that chop plastics to make them easier to convey. “If it’s something that won’t tear, like plastic ribbon, we use cutters in front of the fan so we can still take it through the fan,” Embley explains. The most attractive feature of all its machines, however, is the powerful air streams they create using patented blade designs. “The biggest advantage is the pressure we can create,” says Embley.

Ron Pelletier, vice president of marketing and sales with Sterling Systems in Forest, Virginia, says the company’s EZ - AC blowers address the issue of maintenance costs. These models allow technicians to simply and quickly perform maintenance without having to remove tubing and cover plate bolts and pull the fan wheel. “With the ES - AC, you basically just turn an arm,” says Pelletier. “It takes a couple of minutes to undo this one screw handle. When it swings out the impeller and motor swing out and you can access the blower without disconnecting the tubing. It saves hours.”

The hinged blowers cost more but offer quick paybacks for recyclers who change colors or materials often and require maintenance to avoid contamination of the stream. “All you have to do is get one black pellet with white material or one nylon with polyethylene,” Pelletier says. “For them, it’s a godsend.”

Sterling Systems

Sterling’s ST Series machines address a different issue: durability. These employ a specially hardened material for fan blades. “It’s difficult to form and to weld, but it’s going to last 8 to 10 times longer than a steel impeller,” says Pelletier. “Again, it’s very expensive. Maybe three times more expensive than the standard blower, but we sell a lot of those to the reclaimers. In post consumer, wear on the blowers is one of the most costly parts of the operation.”

No matter what specific equipment they manufacture, makers of blowers and cyclones are finding renewed interest from recyclers today. “Guys who used to landfill their waste now are finding homes for their waste,” says Embley. “And that’s increasing our business.”


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