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Plant layout at a glance

When it comes to MRF efficiency, many owners have a pretty good idea of what equipment they want.

But they are not always so decisive on how to include everything or position machinery in a way that makes the most of the space they have available.

This is why 3D design is an invaluable tool in creating the blueprint for a MRF layout that really works. The laser survey methods used to create the raw data for 3D design enable accurate scanning of the interior of a building, to maximise efficient use of the space in ways that were not possible with traditional survey methods.

For example, it is difficult to reach and accurately measure a roof 15m in height which may be obscured by services. With laser mapping, it is possible to reach right into small spaces such as between girders, and map every inch of the building.

The challenge in the vast majority of plants is to fit large machines into small spaces, often many metres off the ground. The precision and accuracy required can be compared with threading a needle. This is where 3D design comes into its own, and the reason why it is fast becoming standard practice within the industry.

This degree of accuracy is crucial to not only planning where machinery can physically fit, but also when establishing precise safe operating distances between different types of equipment.

It is also essential to stopping simple errors – for example, it is surprising how often the windows for a viewing platform end up in a location where the view is blocked by the equipment. 3D mapping enables flaws to be easily spotted before any machinery is fitted.

3D design can save time and costs for non-equipment MRF basics, such as lighting and fire detection. A civil engineer might design standard banks of lights across the whole building, for example, but some structures will then be designed to go almost to the roof – walking through the 3D design, it soon becomes obvious where savings can be made on unnecessary lighting.

The process can also help to maximise routing of services such as fire sprinkler systems and security cameras.

And it is not only new MRFs which can benefit from 3D design. Stadler is often asked to evaluate and upgrade plants where operators are looking to fit new machinery or are not happy with the way their current setup is working.

Key to an effective upgrade is the ability to maximise the harmony with which any new equipment matches with the old. Sometimes the existing equipment will be ours, which of course makes the transition easier for us to plan, but we often have to match our equipment to another suppliers’ existing machinery.

3D design means we can plan effective integration; the more precise the interfaces, the better the plant will operate.

By demanding the best in the design technologies, MRF operators can benefit from being able to ‘walk through’ each space and look at the minute details. Not only will this make the most of plant space, but it reduces the capacity for errors and allows for time and cost savings.

Case Study: Amey Waterbeach MRF

3D design was a crucial tool in a recent upgrade at Amey’s MRF in Waterbeach, Cambridge, a light packaging MRF which recovers a variety of materials, including ferrous and non-ferrous metals, PET and HDPE plastics, mixed plastics, news & pams paper grade, mixed paper, film and glass fractions.

Equipment at Waterbeach originally comprised a single infeed line, accommodating a bag opener, near infra-red (NIR) sorters with metal separation, eddy current separators and air separation.

Stadler was contracted in August 2015 to upgrade the plant with the aim of increasing its extraction efficiency and overall capacity.

The company used 3D laser mapping and design to locate new equipment precisely in the middle of Waterbeach’s existing plant machinery. The result was a smooth integration of new and existing equipment, with an increase in capacity from 60,000 tonnes a year to 80,000.

Paco Hevia, Amey’s head of projects, said: “It was essential for us to use state-of-the-art technology in the most effective way, helping us to further improve recycling rates in Cambridgeshire.

“The use of the 3D laser mapping allowed us to fully understand where new and improved equipment could be placed and work with the existing equipment. This in turn means we can now sort and recycle more materials, which is good news for the local authority and business customers served by the MRF.”

Trevor Smart is international sales manager at Stadler Engineering

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