by Mark Henricks
the list of manufacturers at the bottom of the page
Good things come in small packages, and
nowhere is that more true than when it comes to briquetters.
Briquetters or puckers are machines that turn loose, hard-to-handle
metal chips and shavings and fine coal and other materials
into compact bundles of more valuable, less-contaminated
Briquetters can reduce the volume of aluminum
shavings from machine tool operations by as much as
8 to 1. That reduces the costs of handling, storing and
transporting bulky metal chips and shavings. “The
chips are generally 95 percent solid,” says Melanie
Staas, sales administrator at briquetter maker Applied Recovery
Systems Inc., in Waco, Texas.
Squeezing the metal chips from machining
work also removes nearly all the liquid coolant used in
the machining process. That allows users to recycle and,
after filtering, reuse as much as a third of the valuable
out coolant greatly reduces the possibility of contaminating
the shop environment. “Since the metal shavings are
very oily, the floor and other surfaces they came in contact
with through processing became very slippery,” explains
Bud Greener, manufacturing engineer with Aeropquip Engineered
Systems Groups’ Hose Products in Jackson, Michigan.
A system from Puckmaster Inc. in Minneapolis fixed that.
“The Puckmaster has helped us achieve a much cleaner
and safer workplace since the pucks are virtually oil free,”
Briquettes also offer lower risk of liability
and lower costs for handling so-called wet chips that have
yet to have the coolants removed. Wet chips can’t
be easily melted for recycling, and other approaches including
washing and spinning wet chips in a centrifuge to remove
coolants, don’t offer the compacting benefits.
Finally, turning chips into pucks increases
the value of the metal scrap when sold to recycling operations.
For the reasons cited above — lower volume and less
coolant — recyclers find briquettes less costly to
recycle and, therefore, more valuable to them. Staas says
an aluminum puck may bring three times the price of non-briquetted
Compressing hard-to-handle recyclables
has a long history. Briquetting of fuel such as coal dust
powder goes back more than 100 years. “They were briquetting
coal for home heating even in this country until the end
of World War II, and it’s still done in Europe,”
says Richard Komarek, president of briquetter maker K.R.
Komarek Inc. in Elk Grove Village, Illinois.
Briquetting has applications today in
metalworking shops, recycling companies, steel mills and
foundries and a few other places. Metalworkers use them
to turn unwieldy refuse from lathes, drills, grinders and
other machines into briquettes. Scrap yards may also turn
metal waste into pucks in the same manner.
Mills, foundries and, again, scrap yards
also employ briquetters, but in somewhat different applications.
Here, briquetters are used to help manage materials such
as coal dust and granules, sludge from refining operations
and similar recyclable materials. “Steel mill waste
is one of our big markets,” says Komarek, whose company
makes high-volume rotary briquetters.
Hydraulic presses, which compress wads
of recyclable material using a metal ram, are also often
called “puckers.” These collect the material
— typically metal chips — in a bin where they
are pushed up against a wall by a hydraulically powered
piston. Puckers may produce compressed packages from a few
to several inches across, in the general configuration of
a hockey puck.
Puckers may be part of a chip management
system employing washers, centrifugal coolant removers and
other components. Generally they can be divided into those
that use gravity feed and those that use auger or conveyor
feed. Gravity feed systems, in which scrap is dumped into
a hopper that drops chips into a chamber below, are less
complex and require less maintenance, Staas says. Some systems
are capable of more-or-less unattended operation, activating
the press automatically when the chamber is full and ejecting
pucks from the other end.
Puckers are also differentiated by volume,
from a few hundred to a few thousand pounds per hour, by
pounds-per-square inch of compression and by the size of
the finished puck. The precise model used in an application
depends on the type of metal, the size of the chips, the
type of coolant and the size of puck desired.
Rotary presses employ two rotating cylinders
with their faces shaped to capture and compress the recyclable
material — often coal fines or other powder or finely
chipped material — into small briquettes. These briquettes
resemble charcoal briquettes used in family backyard barbeques
more than hockey pucks.
Rotary briquetters are generally more
expensive and operate at higher volumes than hydraulic presses.
A rotary briquetter may be able to handle 30 tons to 50
tons of coal fines per hour, for example. However, rotary
presses don’t remove fluids as hydraulic ram puckers
do. Rotary briquetters come in two types as well, those
that employ a binder ingredient to help some compressed
materials stick together, and binder-less models.
Economic and regulatory trends may boost
use and acceptance of briquetters. The increasing requirement
among state regulators and big customers for metalworking
operations to be certified under the ISO 14001 environmental
standard means that it’s more important than ever
to ensure proper handling of environmentally hazardous coolants.
“It’s getting more and more stringent,”
says Staas. “And there are very high fines for any
irresponsible handling of material.”
Meanwhile, higher oil prices are leading
to a spike of activity around rotary-type briquetters employed
in recycling coal fines. Many coal transport terminals have
huge piles of coal fines lying around and, as oil prices
rise, briquetting of these otherwise unusable energy sources
becomes more attractive, says Mark Koenig, president of
Komar Industries Inc., a rotary briquetter maker in Groveport,
Ohio. “We’ve had three different groups in this
month with different projects,” says Koenig. “So
the activity has picked up significantly.”