Plasmac is proud to announce it has been shortlisted as one of the finalists in the prestigious Plastics Recycling Awards Europe 2021 in the category of Recycling Machinery Innovation of the Year, for their new recycling system, the Epsilon, an innovative inline shredder extruder combination. The winners will be announced on the 05th November at the Plastics Recycling Awards, which is part of the Plastics Recycling Europe Exhibition, held at the RAI, Amsterdam on the 04th and 05th November.
Let’s find out why Plasmac’s latest innovation should win! We were asked:
The Epsilon is an inline shredder extruder repelletising machine, it was designed to recycle inline trims, start-up scrap, non-woven’s, apron cut-outs and masks among other things. It uses an innovative extruder screw design and feeding entry, the dual diameter, short screw technology has a length to diameter ratio of 8, uses less than 0.2kW/Kg of energy to recycle the plastic scrap material and ensures there is the absolute minimum of material degradation and heat history put back into the material. The integrated shredder sits above the feed entry of the screw and size reduces the material entering the extruder before plastification, this means it can recycle high speed trims, thicker films, injection moulded parts and small pieces of start-up lump scrap. the slow rotating shredder requires no water cooling, adding to the efficiency of the machine and due to the short screw technology, the machine had a very compact size. The machine is also designed with flexibility in mind, it can be equipped with either an air or water pelletising system, it can be equipped with a vacuum degassing system to allow it to handle printed materials or materials that are hydroscopic and require venting such as biodegradable materials, it can also be supplied with a variety of feeding systems, trim baskets for inline trims, a roll feeder for scrap or start-up reels, an elevator with integrated metal detector for lumps, pieces, slabbed or loose materials. Due to the unique screw design, very little heat is needed to melt the material, typically the extruder will run at processing temperatures of 40 to 50 degrees lower than the main extrusion lines, this ensures the pellets produced have the highest quality and can be used directly back into the extrusion process, even up to 100%.
What are the key objectives & innovation aspects of this machinery development?
The key objectives of this machine development was to design a recycling machine that can repelletise all forms or extrusion scrap that today’s extrusion factories are producing on their extrusion lines which have higher and higher outputs and line speeds. We also wanted to produce a machine that could handle the scrap material from the sudden explosion in PPE products, such as masks and aprons, so the machine needed to be able to handle not only blown film and cast film products, but also non-woven’s and fabrics.
The machine range needed to be flexible so it would appeal to customers both small and large, it needed to be extremely flexible in the products it could handle with regards to both raw material and product form and shape, it needed to be compact in size and also economically attractive compared to other types of machines available on the market. The range of machines designed range from outputs of 40 Kg/h up to 200 Kg/h, all types of material can be fed in to the machine from inline trims, cut-out scrap, mask scrap, lumps and pieces, the control system of the machine features a B&R HMI with a super intuitive operator screen and a new “deep learning” software package, that records various common settings and makes suggestions for improvements in running conditions and how to lower energy consumption.
The inline shredder, is a slow rotating shredder which ensures there is no heat build-up in the size reduction process, meaning no water cooling is needed for the rotor, it generates very little dust and this was really important to ensure that the resultant pellets contain the absolute minimum of gels.
A new feed section of the screw was designed to ensure trouble free feeding of the material into the processing section of the screw and by helping the feeding of the screw, the size of the drive motor could be reduced due to the lower torque needed and hence lower current needed to drive the screw.
What novelties does this machinery innovation introduce and what are their implications for the recycling industry?
The inline shredder fitted directly over the feed section of the screw means the operator can feed into the machine, virtually any form of scrap as the inline shredder will size reduce the material before feeding in to the screw. By allowing the material to fall directly on to the extruder screw, there is no need to for additional feeding systems, such as auger screw, taper scrolls etc. this means the machine is a power efficient as physically possible but is also extremely versatile in what it can repelletise.
When recycling products, the feedstock is basically free of charge, the key operating costs are energy and labour, energy costs are only going in one directing in almost every market in the world and by making the machine as energy efficient as possible, you significantly increase the users return on their investment. All of the different stages of the Epsilon have been designed to drive down energy use. The shredders design means no cooling water, the short screw technology and enhanced feeding section design means the lowest energy use available in the market, the simplified air pelletiser and water pelletiser designs use significantly less energy than other systems on the market and the fact that the processing temperatures needed by the machine are 40 – 50 degrees lower than normal extrusion lines means less energy is needed to plasticise the material, the less heat you put in, the less heat you need to take out, all of this means an incredibly energy efficient machine.
By equipping the machine with an inline trim basket and reel feeder for film applications, the machine can be run by the same operators running the extrusion line resulting in no additional operators being required, keeping operator costs to an absolute minimum, equipping it with an elevator and metal detector means the operator can fill up the feed system with product and then use their time for other duties, again keeping the operator cost to a minimum.
By reducing the operation costs to a minimum, giving an excellent payback, companies will readily invest in recycling.
Could you briefly describe the companies involved in the development of this technology?
Plasmac Srl is part of the Syncro Group of companies and part of the EREMA Group of companies, we are based in Busto Arsizio near Milan, in the heart of the Italian Extrusion Valley. Plasmac Srl was established when Plasmac Limited was relocated from Aylesbury in the UK to Italy in 2018 and in 2019, EREMA took a 60% share in the business to grow its own market share in the inhouse film and extrusion recycling sector. Plasmac has over 25 years of history of supplying its machines to companies all over the world and has various types of machines installed in over 44 countries worldwide. Plasmac will shortly open a new technical centre for customer trials and machine development and the Epsilon will be the centre piece of equipment on display.
What information would you provide in order to assess your innovation?
Since its launch at the beginning of this year, we have sold our Epsilon machines to a non-woven’s producer to recycle their packaging and PPE products, to a customer who produces high speed cast stretch film, to inline recycle their trims and to an injection moulding company to recycle their off-spec materials and start-up scrap. Word of our innovation has already reached the ears of our competition and we know they already developing their own version of our design, but as someone famous once said “the best compliment someone can give you, is to copy you”.