Roger Williams, Sales Manager at American Baler Co., offers readers this checklist when perusing the complex and competitive baler market:
The industry has moved from baling with vertical presses (a very slow, labor-intensive process) to baling with high-speed, automated, horizontal presses. The future holds the promise of machines becoming more automated and even smarter, with the ability to provide detailed information to the end-user in addition to the production reports, alarm messages and motor run time reports that are accessible now. We’re seeing a boom in the types of materials being baled, such as plastic, wet pulp and carpet padding. This has led to the pursuit of new developments in baling.
2. What to look for
We counsel customers to understand the materials they want to bale and the different qualities they present to the baler. If a customer is looking to bale multiple grades with distinctly different characteristics, a two-ram baler will provide the best results both in quality of baled material and production volume. The downside to a two-ram is that the process is more labor intensive compared to a single-ram extrusion baler. If a customer’s material is primarily fibre, the ideal machine would be a single-ram horizontal baler. This can take many forms depending on the expected volume, where the bales will be sent for processing, and even the characteristics of the material itself, such as physical size, additional conditioning needed, and so on.
3. Specific features/innovations
In facilities that are baling multiple grades, a machine with an operator interface that provides quick and easy switching between grades is essential. The “con” to this is increased cost, not only initially, but also for replacement or troubleshooting. Some materials, such as newspaper and printers mix, require additional conditioning to maximize bale quality. This can be done with a fluffer (also known as a distributor or ruffler depending on the manufacturer.) The downside to this is that it makes the operation noisier and requires some operator intervention to move the fluffer in and out of the feed hopper.
4. Common problems (end users)
New baler technology reduces the opportunity for companies to use a third party for troubleshooting. It also increases the level of knowledge that maintenance people will need to keep the machines operating. It’s recommended that companies look for manufacturers that provide on-going training and support for their products. Parts have also become more expensive to stock or replace and there are fewer suppliers in the marketplace today. It will be to the customer’s benefit if they choose a manufacturer with readily available, off-the-shelf components for quick turnaround.
5. Important options
Important options will vary by customer and facility, but typically reporting and troubleshooting are high priorities. A machine with an operator interface that provides quick, reliable information is important. Information can range from status of the operation, including production numbers, to status of the baler. The ability to quickly troubleshoot a baler from a remote site via modem is also often important.
6. Maintenance and training recommendations
Number one on everybody’s list should be housekeeping. It greatly reduces the minor problems that occur during daily operation while making it easier to see if a major problem is beginning. Secondly, preventive maintenance is key to correct problems before they can become major. Third, regularly scheduled factory visits for evaluation of machines are important. And lastly, all equipment manufacturers should offer training classes on its machinery, either at the manufacturer’s facility or the customer’s plant.