RECOVER PURE ALUMINUM WITH TOMRA’S NEW SOPHISTICATED X-TRACT™ UNIT.All trade, the UK’s largest independent aluminum recycler, and extrusion specialist is the first company in the world to benefit from the new sophisticated sensor-based sorting solution. The new X-TRACT™, TOMRA’s most advanced X-ray metal sorting unit, has enabled Alutrade to obtain 99% pure aluminum for use as recycled aluminum.
The new X-TRACT™ unit was installed in March 2021 at Alutrade’s recycling plant in Oldbury, Birmingham. It processes 42,000 tons of waste per year. The input material for the plant includes metal extrusions from different types of construction waste, such as windows and doors, but also aluminum cans.
When incoming material arrives at Alutrade’s factory in Oldbury, it is first pre-cut into one to two-meter-long pieces and then further re-grinded by a hammer mill. Magnets and eddy current separators are then used to separate ferrous and non-ferrous metals, removing all contaminants in preparation for the next sorting step. After magnetic separation, a combination of TOMRA sensor-based sorting machines is used to process, sort and recover the target aluminum fraction. Two former TOMRA X-TRACT™ machines – installed in 2017 and 2018 respectively – are programmed to capture aluminum fractions larger than 30 mm; the new machine targets the smaller aluminum fractions, between 10 and 30mm, removing any heavy metal content from the aluminum. X-TRACT™ units sort metals based on atomic density difference, removing any heavy metals.
Meeting industry demand for premium recycled aluminum
Alutrade’s customers are based around the world, they demand the highest purity of aluminum for their remelting process, as the lower heavy metal content affects the melting specifications.
Andrew Powell, Director at Alutrade LTD, explains: “Over the past five years we have worked closely with TOMRA and our main customer, and we have done extensive testing to achieve this level of purity, which meets the exceptionally high purity levels required for the remelting process. The small grain size of 10-30mm captured by the new machine is 99% pure aluminum, which means we can sell it at a much higher price to our customers who use it in the production of new aluminum products. Moreover, the new version of X-TRACT™ has opened up new international market opportunities for Alutrade, as we can now source from more suppliers, and also resell the ejected heavy metal products. “
Although the two old TOMRA X-TRACT™ machines at the Oldbury factory enabled Alutrade to capture aluminum fractions above 30 mm, obtaining smaller fractions was not an option. Thanks to a new X-ray sensor design, the new X-TRACT™ can separate very small fractions, down to 5 mm, and even higher levels of purity are expected. TOMRA’s new X-TRACT™ uses the same atomic density metal separation process as the previous version of the machine. But it offers far superior X-ray detection capabilities. The solution can guarantee superior quality recycled aluminum, destined directly for remelting, and which does not contain heavy metals.
The next-generation X-TRACT™ unit introduces a number of innovative new features, including much faster sorting (up to 3.8 meters per second) and increased capacity. A new high-resolution XRT sensor provides more accurate detection, faster processing times, and higher throughput. The high-power X-ray source (up to 1000w) is capable of handling multiple applications and grain sizes. A larger separation chamber reduces material loss by improving the trajectory of sorted objects and a new capture hood ensures safer access and faster maintenance. Alutrade’s X-TRACT™ unit is connected to TOMRA Insight, the cloud-based, secure, near real-time, on-demand data analysis platform. This platform allows customers to transform their sorters into connected devices and move sorting from an operational process to a strategic management tool. By generating high-value data, TOMRA Insight helps maximize plant throughput, increase sorting performance and optimize production quality.
Commenting on the long-standing partnership between Alutrade and TOMRA, Andrew Powell of Alutrade adds: “Alutrade has been using X-TRACT™ units for four years to ensure the quality of the products we supply to our customers. This has allowed us to build trust between us and our customers. From day one of operation, TOMRA has helped us improve aluminum recovery rates. “Investing in the new X-TRACT™ has enabled us to create a circular economy loop, converting aluminum back into aluminum used in high-quality products. So that a window frame can be recycled into a new window frame. With low operational costs, improved security and superior sorting capabilities, the new X-TRACT™ definitely stands out in terms of aluminum recycling solutions available in the global metal recycling market. “
Terence Keyworth, Segment Manager Metal Recycling North/East Europe, adds: “TOMRA and Alutrade have worked together for over ten years. The Alutrade factory in Oldbury was therefore an ideal site for us to test and prove the capabilities of our new X-TRACT™. Developing this first prototype in this industrialized environment was very exciting. We are delighted that Alutrade has been so impressed with the sorting capabilities of this new technology and we look forward to rolling out more installations in the months to come. »
TOMRA Recycling designs and manufactures sensor-based sorting technologies for the global recycling and waste management industry to transform resource recovery and create value from waste. The company pioneered the development of advanced waste and metal sorting applications using high-capacity near-infrared (NIR) technology to extract maximum value from resources and keep materials in a loop of use and reuse . To date, over 8,200 systems have been installed in 100 countries around the world.