Choosing the right baler for your application is an important decision that can have a long-term financial impact on your operation. Whether your baler is the prime producer or part of a much larger production, choosing the improper baler you could jeopardize your plant efficiency, which can lead to excessive operating costs due to poor productivity and high consumable costs. There are a number of types of balers on the market such as Horizontal Extrusion Balers, Closed Door Horizontal Balers, Two Ram Balers and Vertical Downstroke Balers; each type is available from several manufacturers. If you only make a few bales of cardboard per day, a lower cost Vertical Downstroke or a Closed Door Horizontal Baler may be all that you need. If you generate several tonnes of baleable material per hour you will require a more expensive Horizontal Auto-Tie baler or a Two Ram Baler, depending on the type of material to be baled. Of course, it’s also important to project realistic business growth over the next five years or so and factor the increased volume into your capacity requirement.
When selecting a baler you need to review the full selection of materials the you want to bale, the physical size and density of the material and the amount of material that you need to bale. This information will help set up the criteria for the proper baler for your application. Balers are typically rated by through-put (tonnes per hour capacity) and bale chamber size. For instance, if you want to bale a high volume of cardboard you would need a wide mouth baler with enough displacement “under load” to keep up with your volume. If you want to bale paper trim fed from an air handling system, you would only require a less expensive narrow chamber horizontal baler that has ample displacement under load to keep up with your production.
Understanding the loose density of the material that you want to bale is also important because it will have a large effect on the baler’s productivity. Be careful of manufacturers that make claims of high through-put with lower than normal horsepower. These low horsepower balers typically produce light density bales, which inflate the cost of baling due to excessive bale wire costs. The two highest costs in a baling operation are the cost of transporting bales and the cost of baling wire. Some will tell you that the cost of electricity is the most significant cost in a baling operation. However; electricity costs are minuscule compared to the cost of baling wire and freight. Most balers on the market that use lower horsepower motors usually suffer up to 30 per cent in bale density, which in a high-volume application can have a dramatic wire and freight cost impacts, increasing wire costs by as much as an additional $100,000 per year.
There are specific hydraulic principles that cannot be altered such as the formula used to determine the speed of a hydraulic cylinder that moves the ram in a baler. In order to move a cylinder at a given speed at a specific amount of pressure, a certain flow of oil is required by the pump, which in turn requires a certain horsepower to maintain proper operating pressure. Maximizing oil flow is commonly accomplished by using multiple pumps (high and low volume) and regenerative hydraulic circuits. In some cases the weight of the balers ram alone will switch off a high volume pump, decreasing the speed of the baler before the ram has even met the resistance of the material being baled. The denser the material, the slower the ram will travel which can lead to lower productivity.
The design of the extrusion chamber has a lot to do with the baler’s ability to produce dense bales. As the balers cycle time is important, so is the extrusion chambers ability to hold the baled material as it travels through the extrusion chamber as this chamber is instrumental in creating dense bales. Balers such as American Balers Wide Mouth and PAC series balers produce high density bales at low operational costs due to their unique extrusion chamber design, power packs and control systems.
In conclusion, a baler is a larger investment than meets the eye and it is well worth your time to do your homework, get the facts and ask the manufacturer the right questions. If you are not comfortable with the answers, ask for the proof or choose another manufacturer.
Bob Marshall is president of Machinex Recycling Technologies in Pickering, Ontario.