Challenges and opportunities of optical sorting
Pain points in an MRF can lead to heavy financial and logistical constraints. By identifying these challenges, operators are better equipped to seek the right solution to their needs. The back of the container and fiber sorting lines in MRFs represent the final steps to separate valuable products. Let’s explore how optical sorting can keep low operating expenses while providing high volume separation and significant purity recovery.
Changing tone and purity standards
Recycled material flows have changed in recent years with a decrease in newspaper volume and an increase in OCC. Optical sorters have the ability to control the quality of fiber products and monitor reject and prohibitive reject levels. The latest generation NIR, color and metal sensors provide the operator with a deep understanding of the products being generated and can be adapted to changing market dynamics as needed with the push of a button.
Manual sorters are increasingly loaded with decryption containers featuring a new and much wider variety of fully jacketed bottles and label designs. The sophisticated optical sorter reference libraries contain material and color categories that can be easily updated to maximize plastic recovery, especially PET containers. To alleviate the stress of on-site operator training in MRF, next-generation optical sorters are accessible remotely to easily and quickly update parameters.
Maintenance and cleaning
Machine downtime is one of the main drivers of higher cost per ton in an FRM. To ensure system reliability and optimum performance, it is important to regularly clean and maintain optical sorters. This includes the glass windows in front of the halogen lamps and the NIR spectrometer, as well as the separator rollers inside the collector hood. A routine cleaning program helps reduce the potential for jams and keeps sorting performance at an optimal level.
Consistent compressed air quality adds to the longevity of any optical sorter. To ensure optimum sorting performance, it is essential to regularly test the operation of each air valve.
Old vs new technology
Keeping up with the ton in today’s tough market is proving exhausting if the technology isn’t there to back it up. Generating cleaner products at a higher recovery rate is the end goal of FRMs, but units five years or older can be difficult to monitor and maintain effectively because they lack automation and accessibility. remote from their newer counterparts.
As with any technology, an increase in performance is inevitable with each new generation. While the return on investment for new optical sorters may not seem sufficient for some MRFs (full upgrades can be costly with logistical challenges and installation downtime), there are options to upgrade. older optical sorters with a “sensor only” package, reducing the cost compared to replacing an entire unit. If there is no added value like reducing labor costs, processing larger volumes or generating higher value products, it can be difficult to choose the decision to save. and realize long-term benefits.
In the end, the newer machines offer an array of possibilities that outweigh any doubts to undertake a great transition. Time-consuming manual calibration is a thing of the past, now that new optical sorters can virtually eliminate the task using internal routines and algorithms that compensate for changes in the machine environment. Automation is what separates the old and the new with self-report units that monitor sensor performance and provide status updates to internal optical and electronic components. Sorter libraries are enhanced with advanced statistics and analysis of data from sensors in the MRF that feeds the main Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) or Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system and suitable for mechanical separation equipment as well as optical sorters.
Evaluating the best solutions for material separation at all stages of an FRM can be daunting. As material flows evolve and markets change, new technologies allow operators to evaluate what is going on with their system in real time to make the necessary program adjustments to meet their needs. Optical separation of products is an option to recover higher volumes more efficiently with better purity at lower cost.
Learn more about separation solutions.