Harder, better, faster, stronger?

Written by: Chris Oldfield and Doppstadt | Published:
UNTHA XR mobile

In a world of constant technological advancements, what is driving industrial shredder innovations? That’s the question RWW put to Chris Oldfield, chairman of UNTHA UK, who uses examples of the shredder specialist’s machines to demonstrate how the sector is meeting clients’ needs

Customers are constantly demanding more from every investment that they make, and rightly so. The pace of innovation within the world of engineering means that waste machinery can – and does – continually break boundaries.

This is particularly the case when it comes to industrial shredders. Operators seek more throughput, more yield per tonne and more wealth on their bottom line. That’s why research and development never stops, and manufacturers keep bringing pioneering new technologies to market.

But what truly defines innovation within the world of industrial shredding? Is it a machine that is harder, better, faster and stronger than its predecessors? Is it one that costs less while delivering the same results? Or is it one that makes the industry think a little differently about processing ‘waste’?

If I reflect on the last six months of innovation at UNTHA – as well as our upcoming product roadmap and project schedule – there are some key themes that encapsulate the progress our industry is making.

If we focus firstly on waste to energy, we’ve seen a number of notable developments in recent times. Of course throughputs are important, as operators seek to achieve production efficiencies within their RDF, SRF and biomass facilities. But shredder manufacturers have started to think about previously non-essential factors too, for the good of operators, the environment and industry progress on the whole.

Your flexible friend

We’ve seen growth in shredder flexibility – a machine’s competence to handle varied wastes. This widens the market opportunities for the shredder manufacturer. The new UNTHA XR, for example, has received praise for its ability to efficiently shred waste wood for biomass energy boilers, at a comfortable rate of 35-40 tonnes per hour. Yet it can be configured to suit a number of different applications, as was seen, for example, with the complex processing of footwear production waste to help power a Lafarge-Holcim cement kiln calciner in Vietnam.

Such flexibility also presents machine versatility for the operator.

The XR has recently been installed at Avanti’s new alternative fuel production plant in Merseyside, for instance. This client is currently handling pre-shredded, high-calorific material, but there is the option to vary the feedstock and shred bulky, rigid waste too, if the input or end-user requirements change. The machine can be reconfigured in as little as two hours, ensuring Avanti is not restricted by the technology it has invested in.

Closely linked to flexibility is shredder mobility, for ease of movement around a site. Mobile waste shredders are not new, but they have typically been fuel-intensive, diesel-driven machines to date. The XR mobile, on the other hand, has a low-power electric drive. This more energy-efficient technology therefore helps to reduce the environmental impact of RDF/SRF plants, while the fuel savings also boost the speed with which a return on investment can be recouped. The slow-speed shredding concept of this electro-mechanic innovation also considerably reduces the fire risk and hence insurance premiums, which is something many operators are prioritising in the wake of industry blazes.

However, flexibility and mobility weren’t the only factors spearheading the XR’s innovation. Noise was another key consideration given the increasing obligation to protect operator wellbeing and limit disruption to neighbouring communities. Such advantages will enhance organisations’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) as well as having bottom-line benefits – if a plant runs at below 80 dB(A), there is no need to invest in ear defenders and longer operating hours are also more feasible.

Good value for money

Many shredder innovations create the opportunity to achieve greater value for money, but this doesn’t always mean they boast the cheapest price tag at the point of investment. Whole-life running costs should also be considered. Lower operating costs were the key procurement factor for a new XR client in Mexico, for example. Alternative fuel production margins are much lower in Latin America than in Europe, therefore the waste shredder had to prove economical to run. Thankfully, the XR’s typical wear costs are significantly less than £1 per tonne.

Long-term machine robustness presents another ‘value for money’ consideration. That’s why the new four-shaft UNTHA RS150 shredder has been purposefully engineered to withstand the pressures associated with extreme shredding applications such as heavy-duty metals or bulky WEEE. Operators can adjust the machine’s cutting speed and torque, while the cutters frequently reverse to avoid damage. The RS150 also functions without couplings, fly wheels or shear pins, which increases the shredder’s reliability and significantly reduces the risk of mechanical failure, and therefore further expenditure.

Such in-built protection mechanisms aren’t just included within UNTHA’s larger four-shaft machines. The more compact RS40 food waste shredder is also equipped with an innovative sealing system to prevent corrosion, for instance, and the shredder will automatically stop if an unshreddable foreign object is detected. This prevents machine damage – and therefore costly repairs.

Of course machine wear is inevitable, which is why the affordability of spare parts is important. But, in keeping with the principles of the waste hierarchy, it is possible to engineer components for re-use. UNTHA’s four-shaft cutters, for example, have been designed so that they can be refurbished with ease. Sometimes a light dressing is all that is required, or a more comprehensive grind, weld and rebuild may be necessary. However, the refurbishment process is worth the effort as the restored cutters look and perform like a new set, but cost 40% less – and the parts have been salvaged for re-use rather than them becoming defunct.

When it comes to some applications, single-shaft shredders can offer the best-fit solution. However, such equipment is often high speed which has the potential to cause unnecessary strain and therefore operational disruption when maintenance is required.

We’ve spent two years researching how to further combat this, so one of UNTHA’s latest innovations – new to the UK market this summer – is the high-performance QR shredder for plastic recycling. With maintenance-free pusher technology and resilient drive, the QR represents a new era of high uptime, single-shaft shredding for production waste, plastic lump, drums, post-consumer waste, film, mixed rigid plastics and more.

Plastic shredding isn’t new to us – we’ve installed single and four-shaft plastic shredders for clients all over the world. However, we’re always looking for ways to drive down customer costs, boost operational performance and streamline maintenance.

Maintenance matters

On that note, it is not just the shredders themselves that require innovation scrutiny. Ever-evolving customer service is equally important if clients are to achieve a greater return on investment from their machinery.

That’s why the more forward-thinking of vendors are devising auxiliary, people-led packages that ensure customers – and their assets – are looked after long into the future.

From a seamless project delivery, installation and the provision of comprehensive operator training, to dedicated after-sales support and preventative maintenance packages, these supplementary services are starting to be analysed as much as the machines themselves.

Shredder innovation checklist

During the shredder procurement phase, there are a number of key criteria that represent a truly innovative machine that will ensure a greater return on investment:

  • Impressive throughputs
  • Future-proofed flexibility
  • Low noise
  • Easy maintenance
  • Low operating costs
  • Energy efficiency
  • Machine robustness
  • Ongoing customer support


Case study: Doppstadt

The customer

Willshee’s is an independent domestic, industrial and commercial waste management company in Burton-on-Trent.

The challenge

Willshee’s wants to be at the forefront in providing an ever-increasing biomass market with a consistent <70mm woodchip for biomass production without high levels of dust and fines.

Willshee’s was also looking to achieve this by purchasing just one piece of heavy machinery rather than outlaying on several pieces of equipment. They also wanted to minimise ongoing running costs.

The solution

A Doppstadt DW 256 Ceron static shredder. This slow-speed shredder offers lower running costs than the high speed alternatives and also produces less dust and fines.

The potential issue of the material not being shredded to the required <70mm size by a slow-speed shredder is overcome with the use of a Doppstadt star screen and conveyors manufactured by BlueMAC. When the shredded material goes under the overband magnet to remove the ferrous metal, any oversize is fed back into the DW 256 via the start screen and conveyors until it is reduced to the desired size. Once the <70mm is achieved, it falls through the start screen onto a conveyor which stockpiles it ready for distribution.

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