Automated sorting and adding value to materials have a decades-long heritage at Crystal Lake, Illinois-based General Kinematics (GK). Founded in the 1960s to provide automated ore and minerals sorting solutions to the mining industry, it didn’t take long before the company began turning its attention to the sorting challenges faced by recyclers and consumers of scrap metal and other scrap materials.
By 1965, the company’s research and development (R&D) department was helping some of the earliest auto shredding plant operators devise customized and modified equipment to harvest, separate and upgrade shredded metal. GK’s comprehensive perspective also includes decades of serving the foundry sector, as GK and melt shop operators worked in tandem with scrap recyclers to pioneer the creation of foundry-grade shredded scrap.
As of 2018, recyclers of all materials worldwide have “access to the entire GK engineering team to develop solutions for specific processes,” says Dick Reeves, GK’s Director of Resource Recovery. That team includes six technical directors with advanced engineering degrees, several dedicated R&D lab technicians and many other experienced staff members.
GLOBAL, YET CLOSE AT HAND
For GK and the recycling sector it serves, the employee experience and institutional knowledge accumulated has become a valuable industry resource. GK now designs, manufactures and helps install vibratory feeding and automated separating solutions for scrap metal recyclers, construction and demolition (C&D) materials recyclers, at single-stream sorting material recovery facilities (MRFs) and for consumers and recyclers of numerous other materials.
The company’s reach is as impressive as its depth. In the mining and foundry sectors, GK has more than a thousand pieces of machinery installed with a customer base that covers every inhabited continent. In the recycling sector, GK has “hundreds of machines currently operating on nearly every continent and from Australia to Alaska,” says Reeves.
That global client base is served by an organization that spreads well beyond the Crystal Lake headquarters complex. GK has two sales and service offices in Europe (in Germany and the United Kingdom) and three in Asia (in China, India and Thailand). The company can fabricate its equipment not only in the U.S. but also at two plants in Europe, two in China and one in Thailand.
Additionally, GK has active alliances with equipment distributors, dealers, systems designers and installers around the world, including some 14 in North America, two in South America, seven in Europe, four in Asia, two in Australia and one in Africa.
The GK philosophy of acquiring and sharing knowledge plays a key role in its relationship with these allied companies, and in how it serves its diverse cross-section of recycling sector customers.
OBSERVING AND SOLVING
Producers of mined materials, melt shop managers who consume scrap and operators of recycling plants that take in mixed materials have a common goal in mind when they work with GK: using automation to create one or more specified products that meet an industry or corporate standard.
In its decades in the business, GK’s technical staff has toured a staggering number of operating facilities to delve into the processes and material science that will underpin future capital investments. In short, GK’s people have deep and broad knowledge gained not only from applying standard techniques, but also by transferring and customizing best practices in one sector and applying them in a new way.
It all starts with treating each customer and each inquiry as a unique challenge. “Our philosophy is to understand the customer’s requirements as best we can,” says Reeves. “Once we understand the issues, we are better suited to provide the best piece or pieces of equipment for that application.”
Gathering information in this way further increases GK’s industry knowledge while providing an opportunity for GK’s R&D staff, the sales engineers of its allied distributors and the customer’s operations people to collaborate to help develop the best solution.
Reeves can point to numerous examples of GK equipment developed for one industry sector that has been modified to serve several other sectors. It is an ongoing process wherein GK’s experienced staff can envision how one device or technique can solve problems well beyond its original intent.
GK Vibratory Screens of all types have excelled in recycling applications, with two standouts being its DE-STONER® and FINGER-SCREEN™.
The De-Stoner® has transitioned from hog fuel applications initially to become a key part of many C&D materials sorting systems and downstream auto shredder residue (ASR) sorting plants.
GK’s involvement in the recycling industry also has led to its development of the FINGER-SCREEN™ 2.0, a customized version of its multi-purpose FINGER-SCREEN™.
Like the De-Stoner, the FINGER-SCREEN™ was initially supplied to hog fuel producers, says Reeves, “until we developed the finger deck design commonly known as GK’s today.” This modified FINGER-SCREEN™ 2.0 can now be found overcoming sorting challenges in recycling facilities handling municipal solid waste (MSW), single-stream recyclables and mixed C&D materials. “The newest innovation is around C&D fines handling, to improve markets for recyclers,” says Reeves.
In these applications, says Reeves, “GK’s feeders went from a normal feeding displacement to a high-stroke feeder design, which was based off our customers wanting to do more with material presentation for maximum optical sorting effectiveness.”
One customer has told Reeves his FINGER-SCREEN™ 2.0 can “eat all the fines you can throw at it,” which is when GK realized it had something special. “They recognized this machine could do something no other could before,” says Reeves.
With its knack for listening, learning, problem-solving and transferring knowledge from a broad base of industry sectors, GK is prepared to work with recyclers of all materials anywhere in the world.