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Features - Scrap Handler Focus

MetalX invested in an equilibrium crane to feed its Delta, Ohio, heavy-duty shredder in part because the machine is as productive as two traditional mobile cranes.

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May 29, 2020

Photos courtesy of MetalX

When Danny and Neal Rifkin launched MetalX as an independent scrap recycling business in 2012, the father-and-son team were determined to grow at a measured pace.

“We will expand systematically, one step at a time,” Danny Rifkin told Recycling Today in an interview in the beginning of 2013, not long after starting MetalX in Waterloo, Indiana. “We have to make sure that our foundation is solid, that our base is well-established” before expanding organically and through acquisitions, he said.

In that interview, Rifkin told Recycling Today that he planned to grow the new business strategically, beginning with incremental, small opportunities before tackling more substantial initiatives. “We prefer to build on one unremarkable success after another. Before you know it, we’ll have developed something pretty significant.”

Since then, MetalX has experienced continuous growth, with current annual revenue approaching $300 million. The company employs almost 200 people at three processing facilities and one retail operation.

Its most recent expansion has been the greenfield construction and commissioning of a 60-acre scrap processing facility near North Star BlueScope’s Delta, Ohio, flat-rolled steel mill. MetalX invested more than $50 million to develop a state-of-the-art “mega yard” capable of handling more than 700,000 tons per year.

“We set out to incorporate the best available technologies when we designed and built our 60-acre greenfield scrap facility in Delta, Ohio,” says Clyde Billips, vice president of ferrous operations at MetalX.

With this objective in mind, the company connected with E-Crane Worldwide in the fall of 2017 to discuss the potential value of installing an equilibrium crane to feed the shredder at its new facility.

E-Crane offers equilibrium cranes, which use about 10 percent of the energy required by diesel-driven cranes and about one-third of the energy required by traditional electrically driven cranes. Equilibrium cranes are purpose-built for bulk material handling. According to E-Crane, the machines use a parallelogram-style boom that gives a direct mechanical connection between the counterweight and the bulk load, enabling them to work in near perfect balance throughout their lifting range.

“Any time a company builds a greenfield project, you’re on the lookout for the greatest technology,” says Steven Osborne, CEO of E-Crane USA. “The MetalX management team was serious about finding the right technology to fit this new application [and was] especially focused on what is available from the shredder to [the] downstream. They really studied to see what the best pieces of equipment were for that Delta operation.”

MetalX decided that E-Crane’s 1000 Series Model EC7317 PD-E would be a good fit. “Given such stringent requirements, the choice was easy after reviewing all the relevant data” on the E-Crane models, Billips adds.

The crane was delivered to the Delta facility in September 2018 and was operational only a few months later. “The installation process came in ahead of schedule and under budget using both E-Crane installation crew members and MetalX maintenance employees,” Billips says.

A high-tech material handler

The company’s E-Crane has a maximum outreach of up to 104 feet and a maximum duty-cycle capacity of about 10 tons. The crane, which uses a 200-kilowatt main motor, can stockpile scrap up to 90 feet high and provides more than 80,000 cubic yards of scrap storage capacity around its base.

The EC7317 PD-E is powered by a 270-horsepower electric motor, which contributes to its low energy consumption. It also features an electronic machine management operating system, which gives MetalX remote access for troubleshooting, live operating data collection and semiautomatic operation. E-Crane also offers customers a five-year, or 10,000-hour, warranty with service subscriptions in place.

Equilibrium cranes offer some advantages and differences compared with traditional diesel crane models.

“The capacity and reach of the E-Crane we installed allows us to do the work of two-to-three large mobile cranes at a lower capital cost and lower operating cost than traditional mobile or crawler cranes,” says Billips, who adds that crane operators sit 54 feet above the ground, providing them with good visibility. As a bonus, he says, the cab is comfortable and the electric motor is quieter when compared with diesel models.

Billips says maintenance on the crane is not very different than maintenance on traditional diesel-powered material handlers. “The machine requires greasing the 5-yard grapple daily, as you would with other material handlers. Inspecting the machine for wear top to bottom on a regular basis is also the same. However, the E-Crane has a 270-horsepower electric motor to power its hydraulic pumps, so the machine doesn’t require fuel, oil changes or waiting time for regens that are common with Tier 4 diesel engines.”

He explains that some of the best applications of an equilibrium crane include stationary feeding of high-volume production equipment—such as a shredder—or bulk loading operations.

“Every application needs to be carefully studied to determine if or when it makes sense to incorporate this type of technology,” Billips says. “It would not make sense to incorporate such a capital investment if the volume cannot be supported long term.”

The author is managing editor of Recycling Today and can be contacted at msmalley@gie.net.