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Production Engineering Corporation Streamlines Aluminum Chip Handling

"It is a brand new era for chip recycling at Production Engineering Corporation and at a growing number of its peers. The new era embodies a major change not only in chip recycling technology but also the role that chip production plays in the manufacturing process."

"For Production Engineering, the 1-1/2 tons of its chips we generate daily are an important by-product of our manufacturing operation," said Clint Emmert, vice president of manufacturing. "No longer considered scrap and certainly not waste, these chips are handled judiciously as a serious profit center."

Improving Machining Processes Mandates Upgrading Chip Handling
"Here's a leading precision parts manufacturer that recognizes chip handling and recycling as an extremely important function of the entire manufacturing process," the spokesperson said. "The importance is not just in the added value for the aluminum briquettes it generates but also a raft of better manufacturing practices Production Engineering now adheres to that indirectly adds even more to its bottom line. Now there is more than added money to be gained from recycled chips.

"Production Engineering Corporation is one of the originators of the Midwest's precision machining industry, started in 1957, to serve the needs of an emerging computer industry and quality conscious defense contractors. Today, it is a leading provider of complex precision parts for the military and aerospace industries. Production Engineering views its aluminum chip generation, handling and disposition as a key revenue factor in the projects it handles. To be as competitive as possible, this facet of its business gets priority attention on an ongoing basis," said Emmert.

"We've always been very conscious of the chips we generate because by the nature of our projects, we do a lot of metal removal," Emmert said. "Our attention level really accelerated in the last two years when the cost of aluminum skyrocketed, scrap paybacks didn't keep pace and we were approached by Kurt Manufacturing with its new chip recycling technology. Looking back, a new era was beginning for companies like ours generating aluminum chips, not just because its value was increasing but also because new technology was being developed to meet those needs plus all of the emerging environmental and worker safety issues had to be addressed as well."

Getting Paid Market Value Prices for Aluminum Chips Versus a Flat Rate Starts the Ball Rolling
"We were being paid a flat rate per pound for our aluminum chips," said Emmert, "which was customary for precision machine operations such as ours. Our scrap dealer picked up our wet chips in barrels every day and paid us by the pound. However, we heard how Kurt Manufacturing improved its method of dealing with aluminum chips and their new Chipmunk compacting system, so we had them pay us a visit to discuss options."

Chip compacting and recycling has been around for decades. It's a process that has appealed primarily to larger machining operations but has received more attention lately by mid-size and smaller operations just because the value of aluminum has increased dramatically.

"Kurt told us how it had realigned its own chip processing operations by compacting chips and removing coolant from them on a big heat sink job they were machining," Emmert said. "Like us, Kurt previously handled its aluminum chips by loading them up in luggers and having a nearby scrap dealer haul them almost daily. Payment was made at a flat rate, by the pound, and not at prevailing market rates that was traceable. They were also being penalized on the scrap price because the chips were wet with machine coolant that had to be removed before the smelting process could begin. There was also a $90 per trip charge."

"As Kurt demonstrated to Production Engineering, when it began its own chip compacting and coolant removal, it gained $180 an hour higher profit yield for the compacted chips versus not compacting them," said a Kurt spokesperson. "It also saved $8,000 a month in coolant costs by recovering, filtering and reusing it. Kurt studied the precision machining market and saw that only a small percentage of

Clint Emmert, vice president of manufacturing for Production Engineering Corporation.
Production Engineering's 6061 aluminum chips are carted to the Kurt Chipmunk compactor where they are loaded for compaction into dense, dry briquettes.
 The Chipmunk features front loading and eight to one compaction ratio.
The Chipmunk's new front load design utilizes a hydraulically driven infeed auger that separates most unwanted solids from chips prior to compacting.
Compacted briquettes are accumulated in gaylord boxes stored inside the recycler's truck trailer at the back of Production Engineering's plant. This eliminates inside-the-plant storage, plus when filled the trailer is ready to be driven to the recycler.

machine shops like Production Engineering were compacting chips and not always cost effectively. Kurt recognized this opportunity and focused on developing new chip compacting technology based on its own experience rather than replicate what was already being sold to the market."

Dense eight-to-One Compaction Ratio Sets New Industry Standard
"The big difference we saw with Kurt's Chipmunk compactor over what was out in the market was its simplistic design and its kinetic energy drive which produces a very high eight to one compaction ratio," said Emmert. "We wanted to produce the densest chips possible for the best payback and lowest cost of operation so the density quality of the briquettes was very important to us. Also, the Kurt Chipmunk itself was a high volume machine for its compact size, was simple and easy to operate, and we were confident in Kurt's service support since we used their Anglock vises for many years."

"The Kurt Chipmunk can compact chips more consistently and efficiently than conventional hydraulic compactors that require twice the horsepower," said the spokesperson. "It has a single auger feeding design which operates from a powerful but simple compression plate which forms and compresses the wet chips into 3-1/2 inch x 1-1/4 inch continuous extruded briquettes. It utilizes a power-saving 30 HP main motor that is about half the size required in conventional compactors, which produce less than half of the Chipmunk's output. Also, this patented compactor design compresses out up to 98 percent of residue coolant so neat, firm briquettes are produced that are dry to the touch and require no further coolant removal. The recovered coolant collects in a separate reservoir at the base of the Chipmunk system ready for filtration and reuse. The Kurt Chipmunk has a payback of one year or less on most installations."

Chipmunk Setup at Production Engineering Streamlines Briquette Storage and Pickup
"Upon arrival of the new Chipmunk compactor, we partnered with a new local recycler and changed our entire method of chip pickup, weighing and payment," said Emmert. "Instead of 55 gallon barrels, our new recycler provided us with gaylord boxes 40 inches x 48 inches x 48 inches that hold 3,000 lbs of compacted briquettes. The empty boxes are delivered to us in a truck trailer that is left parked at a loading dock in the back of our plant. The Chipmunk compactor is located near that dock. As chips are produced in our various machining centers, they are immediately placed in movable carts that hold a cubic yard of chips and are lined up for loading into the Chipmunk compactor. It takes just a few minutes to load a day's worth of chips, which are compacted into briquettes long before the shift is over that day. Also, once the Chipmunk hopper is loaded, the system operates unattended, automatically filling each box with dense, dry briquettes. When a gaylord box is filled, it is weighed and then loaded into the truck trailer. An empty box is substituted for it with the process repeated until the trailer is filled."

"This process really is much more efficient than the old method," said the spokesperson. "A fork truck stacks the fully enclosed briquette-filled boxes neatly inside the trailer. When filled, a replacement trailer load of empty boxes is delivered and the full trailer driven to the recycler. None of the chips accumulate inside Production Engineering, either on the plant floor or at the back of the plant. All chips are processed the same day through the Chipmunk compactor as they are produced. The recovered coolant is filtered and readied for reuse. This new method eliminates any chance of wet chips draining off coolant onto the floor or parking lot surfaces and creating difficult cleanups."

"When the recycler receives the trailer full of loaded boxes, they are emptied and the briquettes weighed as a unit. We know ahead of time what each full box of compacted briquettes weighs, give or take a few pounds, so there are no 'short weighing' problems. A settlement report and check is sent to us by mail based on market prices for compacted 6061 aluminum chips every 30 days. The settlement report is verified against the weight of briquettes sent out to make sure we are getting full credit. The trailer pickup/drop-off cycle occurs about once every 15 days, filling a truck and then starting over with an empty one. There is no deduction for coolant residue in the briquettes because it has all been removed. The only charge to us by the recycler is $90 for pickup of each trailer load."

"We improved the sale of our aluminum chips on average by 10 cents a pound using the Kurt Chipmunk compactor," said Emmert. "At 3,000 lbs of chips a day, that is very important to our profitability. And the higher return gets better as the price of aluminum increases. However, our using the Chipmunk system is as much about improved plant processes as it is about getting more money out of scrap dealers."

"Having a rigid, flow-through process for chip handling improves a lot of things. Our workers, for example, understand that chips are a by-product and must be treated with as much care as finished parts. Nothing is wasted or discarded. All chips and coolant are saved. The Chipmunk system itself takes up no more space than a standard sized machining center or less than the amount of space originally required for the old barrel method of accumulating chips. Everything is a lot neater and cleaner. We've always had clean floors but now we have immaculate floors with not a trace of spilled coolant or stray aluminum chips. Floors are coated with a high gloss sealant making them very attractive and non-slip so they're safer and easier to keep clean. Also, our customers appreciate top-notch housekeeping because they know it contributes to a more positive worker attitude that contributes to quality and efficiency."

For more information contact:

Steve Kane

Kurt Manufacturing Co.

Chip Solutions Division

1325 Quincy Street NE

Minneapolis, MN 55413




Clint Emmert, Vice President

Production Engineering Corporation

3515 Marshall Street, NE

Minneapolis, MN 55418


Fax: 612-788-0472




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