August 2005

Equipment Spotlight
by Mark Henricks

View 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 recyclable material.

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 coolant.

Squeezing 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,” says Greener.

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 aluminum shavings.

Compressing hard-to-handle recyclables has a long history. Briquetting of fuel such as coal dust and 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.”

Company Name
Contact Person
Amada Cutting Technologies, Inc. Joe Mashione 714-670-1704
Applied Recovery Systems, Inc. Melanie Staas 254-666-0144
K.R. Komarek, Inc. Richard Komarek 847-956-0060
Komar Industries, Inc. Mark Koenig 614-836-2366
Mayfran International Rich Westfall 440-461-4100
Prab, Inc. Greg Nowak 269-382-8200
Puckmaster, Inc. Debbie Vosejpka 763-786-9119



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