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Precision sorting thanks to the Westeria AirLift

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Air classifiers are a crucial piece of equipment when it comes to systems that separate materials of different weights present in waste streams. In particular, Westeria’s AirLift is notably precise as far as sorting. As a separator for ultra-lightweight materials, Westeria’s Airlift is also capable of sorting fractions made up of components that differ in specific weight. An example application is the PET bottle recycling, in which the valuable PET fraction can efficiently and thoroughly be separated from lightweight contaminants such as PE films or paper labels.

Regulations governing plastics products are increasingly requiring the use of larger proportions of recycled materials. Germany’s Packaging Act specifies a material recycling rate of 58.5% for plastics packaging, a rate which is set to rise to 63% from 2022. These regulations disregard economic factors such as the oversupply of plastic scrap and the current reduced prices for virgin plastics. This means the requirements on the quality and purity of the input available for recycling are increasing. If these greater quantities of recycled material are to be obtained from post-consumer waste, greater attention has to be paid to the processing step upstream of recycling, particularly sorting.

New market situations demand the right tools for the job

Conventional over-conveyor extractors (or air classifiers) are very well suited to separating different weight fractions in waste streams. They cannot cope when it comes to differentiating presorted or similar lightweight components, which is why the Westeria AirLift plays a key role. The Airlift can replace conventional air classifiers in existing installations where it can then separate plastic film from paper or different plastics from one another.

The complete AirLift system consists of three components. The SpeedCon high-speed conveyor belt, which has a particularly long design service life, feeds the material at up to 4 ms-1 toward the central element, the AirLift while the AirWheel is arranged downstream of the AirLift. Depending on the model, working widths of the AirLift range between 1,000 mm and 3,500 mm, the widest being capable of handling throughputs of up to 320 m³/h with grain sizes varying from 60 mm to 250 mm. Maximum outlet capacity is 5.6 t/h. Automatic gate controllers prevent material blockages on the input and the output sides to ensure high operational reliability. Being continuously adjustable, the automatic gate control also ensures that the passage height can be adjusted exactly to the specific separation goal.

The SpeedCon is angled downwards by 20° directly below the intake. As a result, the air stream can easily get underneath the light parts. Angling the conveyor in this way imparts a ballistic trajectory to all input stream materials. The integrated controller can adjust the trajectory’s shape or throw distance via the belt speed to tailor it precisely to the task at hand. Diametric downflow ensures particularly high selectivity. Levels of purity in excess of 95% are achievable depending on the input material. For instance, an analysis of AirLift systems installed in the mixed plastics feed to an NIR sorter revealed that, for a working width of 2,800 mm, over 90% of the desired film fraction could be reliably separated. As a result, the system considerably reduces disposal costs and increases recycling cost-efficiency. Eliminating the film from mixed plastics facilitates NIR sorting and distinctly improves the sorting result.

System integration

The complete three-part AirLift system can be used as a sub-component of a more comprehensive sorting installation. Its design also allows it to be straightforwardly retrofitted if necessary.

Summary and outlook

Society is demanding the use of recycled plastics, a demand which policymakers are increasingly meeting. In the coming years, the circular economy will stop being a theoretical mission statement and become an everyday reality. Waste disposal operators readily require high-performance sorting technology in order to be able to obtain optimally segregated secondary raw materials from the waste stream. High-quality recycled plastics are essential for manufacturing products that can be put to use long-term.

With the AirLift in its arsenal, Westeria has a solution that meets requirements and can be straightforwardly retrofitted in existing sorting operations. The various models and configurations mean that they can be adapted to any kind of plant configuration. Westeria is constantly developing its technology and current projects, including the boosting of the performance of its high-efficiency “DiscSpreader” material distribution systems.

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3D CAD configurator by CADENAS small belt conveyor product line

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MTF Technik Hardy Schürfeld GmbH & Co. KG has expanded its online product configurator based on eCATALOGsolutions technology by CADENAS GmbH. In addition to the Multi-Tech belt conveyors, customers and interested parties can now also configure straight small belt conveyor belts of the I-Tech type according to their needs. This type is mainly used in confined spaces, such as in machines or tool shafts. Due to these space limitations and the complexity of the product, it is therefore even more important for planners and engineers to have complete and reliable 3D CAD data available right from the start. MTF Technik’s configurator provides this data free of charge in more than 150 common CAD formats – for more planning reliability as well as faster quotation and time-to-market.

Easy configuration

The intuitive configurator is a great help in customizing the I-Tech belt conveyor and its features, such as the dimensions, feeding and discharge heights, belt specifications, drive unit, base frame and some extras. Users are guided step by step through each stage of the configuration. A plausibility check is also carried out in parallel with each input. This ensures that only actually orderable variants can be configured. If needed, a help function provides additional support for each input field.

As soon as the desired belt conveyor has been built, customers receive a 2D preview drawing and a high-quality 3D CAD model that can be rotated and cropped as desired. The product data can then be easily downloaded in the preferred CAD format and as a PDF data sheet including all relevant dimensions and specifications. The data sheet can also be forwarded directly to MTF Technik in order to quickly receive a detailed offer for a specific selection. Once configurations have been made, they can be saved to an individual account and easily modified for further applications.

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Waveless Picking Is A Key Capability For Ecommerce Fulfillment

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Waveless picking (also sometimes referred to as order streaming) is a method used by warehouses and distribution centers to continuously release customer orders for fulfillment. It is an essential capability for consumer goods manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers that need to ship growing volumes of ecommerce orders.

The term waveless picking is used as a contrast to wave picking, which is the traditional method for processing large wholesale or store replenishment orders. Many DCs struggle to adapt to rising ecommerce order volumes alongside wholesale orders because their ERP and warehouse management systems (WMS) only support wave-based picking.

This is a growing challenge for distribution centers that are experiencing an unexpected increase in ecommerce orders. Warehouse optimization solutions lets DCs implement waveless picking with a legacy WMS or ERP. This ensures DC can efficiently ship ecommerce orders alongside wholesale and other B2B orders.

What is Wave Picking?

Wave picking is a common method of creating discrete groupings of orders (waves) that are released in sequence (wave 1 followed by wave 2, etc.) for picking throughout a shift or work day. It is an efficient way for DCs to organize and process large business-to-business orders and to manage DC throughput. Each wave of work typically represents one or more hours’ worth of work for picking, packing and shipping, based on the capacity constraints of the DC (for example, the number of loading doors, sorter capacity, etc.). Waving is a standard capability in most warehouse management systems.

Waves can be created in a WMS (or other software system) based on pre-defined rules, or managers can manually create waves in the system. The objective is to achieve a desired volume and flow of work based on order volume, truck departures, replenishment schedules, available labor, material handling equipment capacity, and other factors. A WMS may allocate inventory based on the waves. In some cases the system will generate replenishment tasks to ensure sufficient inventory is available to fill the orders.

Waves Define Picking Sequences

In many cases, waves of work are created at the start of a shift or work day based on all available orders at the time. In addition to creating the waves, many WMS systems will also break down each wave into discrete picking assignments. For example, the WMS may apply rules to define which products and orders will be picked on every pallet, in every tote, and every cart throughout the day.

In traditional wave-based picking, waves are released and processed in sequence, and once a wave is released it cannot be changed. In some facilities, the first wave must be completed before the next one can be released. This leads to an uneven distribution of work throughout a facility, meaning some workers will be waiting for work (or “stacking” work for future waves in their work area), while workers in other zones complete the current wave. In many DCs, however, multiple waves can be in process for picking at the same time – reducing the problem of uneven work distribution. Workers in one area may start picking a second wave before a first wave is fully completed in other picking zones.

Given the Covid-19 induced surge in ecommerce, many DCs that ship B2B orders are now facing unexpected volumes of direct-to-consumer orders that have shorter delivery time-frames. Filling these direct-to-consumer orders in a traditional wave-based picking system brings a new set of challenges.

Ecommerce Fulfillment Requires Waveless Picking

Ecommerce orders need to be turned around quickly, often the same day they are placed or even within a one to four hour window to meet next day or two-day delivery requirements. Wave picking systems are not designed to manage a constant flow of incoming orders with super short shipping deadlines.

Companies that cannot ship ecommerce orders quickly risk losing sales. A survey conducted by Digital Commerce 360/Bizrate Insights found that 44% of consumers in the U.S do not complete an online order if it will not arrive when they want it. Traditional DC operations need to adapt their current picking, packing and shipping processes to respond to the challenge of fulfilling a rising volume of ecommerce orders.

As noted above, in traditional wave-based picking, waves are often created at the start of a shift and released in sequence. Once released, the first waves are picked prior to subsequent waves, and the waves cannot be changed once they are released. As a result, an ecommerce order received at 2 pm cannot be added to an in-process wave.

At best, this incoming ecommerce order could be added to the next wave that has not yet been released. In practice, this 2pm order might be released in a wave at 2:15, but it will still sit behind orders in previous waves. Those prior waves could represent several hours worth of work. Even worse, some wave-based picking systems cannot adjust a wave plan that has already been completed. In those cases, any orders received today would have to be added to the next day’s waving plan and schedule.

Waveless picking eliminates the constraints of “waves” and works well for any operation that needs to handle a continuous stream of incoming orders with short delivery timeframes.

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Mine operator switches to Cam Clutch backstop to prevent material pile up and reduce maintenance

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A global mining operator has upgraded the backstop on its incline conveyors to non-rollover cam technology to prevent material pile up on stops and stalls. Tsubaki’s Cam Clutch design also incorporates rollers, contributing to longer life operation, enhanced by a labyrinth seal for significantly reduced ingress. As well as enhancing operational efficiency, the backstop will also give the operator a reduced total cost of ownership.

Runback, the freewheel reverse motion of a conveyor, could cause serious harm to personnel, machinery and material in the event of a stoppage or stall; especially when the belt is heavily laden. The mining operator had previously installed ratchet and pawl backstops to prevent runback. However, because of the pitch of the ratchet’s teeth, backstopping was not instantaneous and involved a ‘lag’ that caused an element of backlash runback on each stop or stall.

This backlash was found to disrupt small amounts of material and led to pile ups on the conveyor. This in turn resulted in issues such as belt binding that ultimately meant downtime for repairs and maintenance. The mining operators approached Tsubaki’s engineers to investigate and suggest a solution. It was quickly decided that Tsubaki’s Cam Clutch BS-F backstops would eliminate backlash – offering the additional benefit of reduced maintenance times and long-term cost savings.

The Cam Clutch backstop design holds high backstop torque, as well as excessive torque on its flat area, up to a total of nearly 1,000,000 Nm. This creates near instantaneous stopping for virtually all conveyor applications, preventing any form of run-back and material pile ups. This significantly reduces maintenance time and increases plant productivity. Non-rollover cams prevent runback even if overloaded, providing an additional layer of safety.

“The BS-F backstop has been designed to not only ensure a safer design for operators and the protection of the machinery by preventing runback, but the cams remove any backlash on a conveyor belt stoppage,” says Jake Yamamoto, Sales & Marketing Director for Tsubakimoto Europe B.V. “This has resolved the mining operator’s challenge of material pile up, which was ultimately causing maintenance challenges and decreasing operational efficiency.”

Jake adds: “Combined with reducing pile-up induced downtime, from our site inspection, it was apparent that the mining operator would also be able to benefit productivity by decreasing downtime for lubrication and general maintenance, as well as extending replacement intervals and lowering long term cost.”

During overrunning conditions on the conveyor, the BS-F’s integrated rollers operate alongside the cams within the same cage. This design, combined with lower speed of rotation and constant flow of lubrication, reduces wear on both the cams and the race. Lower speed operation also means decreased operating temperatures, which also contributes to longer life, providing reduced capital cost and less time required in maintenance and replacement.

A mining environment is tough, and ingress of dust and grit can clog up mechanisms and cause rapid deterioration of mechanical devices. With this in mind, the backstops lubrication port incorporates a labyrinth seal that prevents the ingress of dust or water. At the same time, constant lubrication flow is generated by a self-lubrication system that includes temperature adapted grease. While helping to maintain efficient operation, the system cuts down maintenance requirements with re-lubrification only required once a year.

The high torque capacity of the BS-F Cam Clutch, even against similar trapped roller designs, also enables a smaller overall backstop design. This design aspect was advantageous for retrofit on the mining operator’s existing conveyor systems where installation was quickly achieved with no modifications required. The narrow width i-beam will fit virtually any existing conveyor structure with no modifications required, and the compact size also means faster, easier installation. Compact dimensions are also joined by quiet operation compared to other backstop devices.

Following installation, the mining operator was satisfied with the improved safety and operational benefits afforded by the Tsubaki BS-F backstop. Long term, the investment has also provided capital spend efficiencies.

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