Rob Jones explains why he is calling for an industry standard to measure the performance of Eddy Current Separator machines
Currently there is no recognised standard for measuring the capability of an Eddy Current Separator (ECS) machine to sort specific non-ferrous materials and, with these machines becoming an ever important tool in many recycling plants, customers need to know that a specific machine is capable of achieving the job it is intended for.
We often get customers providing us with a sample and asking us to provide separation efficiencies for their material. If there was an industry standard, we would be able to quickly show customers an ECS performance indicator at an earlier stage so they can establish which machine suits their product prior to testing.
At the moment, manufacturers use a mix of figures such as number of poles, gauss or belt speed to describe the machine. But, to me, this can be misleading. It is the equivalent of a car manufacturer only publishing the rpm of a vehicle and expecting someone to be able to judge the overall performance based on that. As we know, some design characteristics can be incorporated at the expense of others, so one figure does not give the complete picture.
I would like to see a test which measures what the machine separates. This should not be confused with how far something can be thrown. Throwing is a function of the belt speed which does not lead to separation – it is one part of the equation.
The logic behind an industry standard is to enable customers to compare the ability of different machines to separate recyclate – whether that is to source valuable materials or remove contaminants. Knowing the capability of a machine, the customer can then select a range and use the other influencing factors such as price, availability and reliability to decide which is best for their application. Just because a machine does not meet the standard, it does not make it of no benefit, but it does indicate which machines are able to recover higher levels of metal.
My belief is that the industry is capable of adopting, applying and administering this standard. I do not see a need to bring in outside monitoring – which would only add cost to the machines – as the industry comprises a small number of manufacturers who are able to self-assess and monitor. The testing itself would be relatively simple and carried out as part of the normal testing process of the machine in the factory, which all ECS manufacturers currently do anyway.
If we are able to give our customers figures which they can identify as reliable they will have confidence that the machine can deliver accordingly. Being able to demonstrate – through distinct, defined separation testing protocols – the level of separation achievable and the value this potentially adds to the recovered material will help manufacturers when talking about the return on investment from a particular machine.
One of the challenges we will face is in ensuring we communicate this standard to our customers. We need to make sure they understand it is not intended to be a measure relative to a material, but a performance indicator relative to the machines. Once established, the standard would give customers useful, relevant information to support and enhance their purchasing decisions.
Rob Jones is managing director of Magnapower, a UK based equipment manufacturer for the waste and recycling sector