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Automated recycling plant built for disabled workers

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A RURAL NSW engineering company has produced an automated recycling plant designed for simple and efficient operation by disabled workers.

Wee Waa Engineering has completely upgraded and automated a plant operated by Challenge Disability Services near Tamworth, which has enabled it to handle 12-14t of paper, plastic, glass and metal waste a day from the city and surrounding district.

Wee Waa Engineering project manager Paul Kirkman said the versatile machine, featuring some of the latest industrial gearbox designs from Bonfiglioli Transmission Australia, has built in sufficient technology and automation to make the recycling plant suitable for the eight disabled people, without being so advanced as to exceed their needs.

“We could have built in an even higher degree of automation using the gearboxes and associated equipment, but we focused on producing a rugged and versatile design that made appropriate demands on the people who have been employed in recycling tasks for the last 10 years,” Kirkman said.

“This design makes their working life easier, while providing the levels of efficiency needed for a successful business. It is an instance of where technology has enriched needy people’s productivity and work satisfaction,” Kirkman said, whose company manufactures machinery ranging from cotton gins to mobile stock feeding equipment and industrial machinery.

The plant incorporates three of Bonfiglioli’s Model 309 modular planetary gearboxes, which are used on the dragline elevator used to raise material delivered by truck up onto conveyors for processing. They also power scrapers and conveyors.

The Trasmitals – designed for torque outputs from compact installations - are available in 14 basic sizes, with output torque up to 540,000Nm and transmissible power up to 450kW. They are suitable for applications requiring high reduction ratios, high transmissible torque and high radial loads on output shafts. Their rugged construction makes them suited to heavy-duty applications involving variable work cycles as well as intermittent and continuous operation – the type of conditions encountered in the recycling plant.

Driving two four-inch (approx 102mm) chains in the Wee Waa elevator application, they are powered by a 5.5kW electric motor fitted with a 605 Eurotherm flux drive.

“This arrangement provides the heart of the automation system. It enables us to easily vary speeds according to the material being processed, and to easily stop and start the elevators while the processing lines are in operation. When the hoppers are empty, we can run the system through the 605,” Kirkman said.

The planetaries deliver waste to flat belts, where the gearboxes have to cope with a wide range of different loads that are then transported to different hoppers and tube conveyors.

Powering the tube conveyors and bottle crushers on the processing lines are eight of Bonfiglioli’s new W series worm gearboxes, which offer high torque ratings up to 1,000 Nm and enhanced thermal ratings to permit more compact units to be selected for many applications.

The new units having five machined sides to offer maximum versatility for universal mounting enhance mounting versatility, while a new motor spline adaptor permits easier and quicker motor changes

The units selected by Wee Waa Engineering are shaft-mounted models in ratios of 10:1 and 20:1, fitted with quick release universal couplings to permit quick changes of gearboxes for ease of servicing and replacement.

“It takes only 20 minutes for a complete change of motor and gearbox, which is a strong feature in avoiding downtime,” Kirkman said.

Bonfiglioli state sales manager Simon Jamieson said the Trasmital 300 series specified for Wee Waa Engineering is used internationally for many static industrial plant applications, including conveyor feeders, pumps, mixers, stirrers and settling pond thickeners, for example. Heavy duty industrial uses include steel mills; mining equipment; quarry equipment; woodworking, pulp and paper; chemical industries; rubber and plastic processing; food processing; materials handling and transport; and water treatment.

“Planetary gear units have distinct advantages over traditional helical and parallel axis gear units in many applications, offering high performance generally and enhanced performance, particularly in terms of torque transmitted per unit of weight and size,” Jamieson said.

“These advantages are even greater when the reduction ratio is increased, and they translate into an economical purchase price and installation,”

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