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TOMRA opens new test centre dedicated to metals sorting applications

The sun sets above two test centres
TOMRA's test centres in Mülheim-Kärlich, Germany TOMRA

TOMRA has celebrated the opening of a second test centre at its headquarters in Mülheim-Kärlich, Germany. More than 200 participants from 26 countries joined the two-day event and enjoyed a diverse conference and event program. On the first conference day, participants listened to numerous presentations detailing the company's strategic direction, including one held by TOMRA CEO, Tove Andersen. The second day focused on the extension of the test facilities which marked another milestone in TOMRA's long-term goals.

"With more stringent legislation and higher recycling targets, the demand to recover recyclables from waste is at a record high and so is the demand for our sorting solutions and material tests. We've observed this situation over the last few years and came close to our test capacity limits in Germany. We had to act to ensure the best service for customers and partners", states Fabrizio Radice, vice president and head of global sales and marketing at TOMRA Recycling Sorting. 

Previously, TOMRA's test centre incorporated both its waste and metal sorting solutions and is one of eight facilities operated at seven locations worldwide. They give recyclers and plant operators the opportunity to test their materials on TOMRA's advanced sorting machines before making an investment.

"Apart from the increasing demand for tests, we are continuously developing new sorting systems that are all installed in our test centre. In the last few years, we have introduced multiple new products into the market and will roll out more in the future," adds Radice. "Thus, we needed to make sure that we have sufficient space for our growing portfolio and decided to invest in an additional building."

TOMRA itself will use the extra space for the development of innovations that can be extensively tested and optimized by specialized teams on-site. The company conducts approximately 650 user and internal trials each year and anticipates the demand to grow.

"Until recently, we've combined both metal and waste sorting machines in one area," says Ralph Uepping, VP, head of technology at TOMRA Recycling Sorting. "Now, each test hall will be dedicated to one segment only. While waste sorting trials are done in the first established facility, the focus of the new facility is on metal sorting."


TOMRA's new X-TRACT, FINDER, and COMBISENSE, as well as a soon-to-be release machine for advanced aluminum sorting, have been installed in the new facility.

TOMRA's metal sorting systems recover recyclable metals from mixed metal streams and enable plant operators to create the material fractions, such as furnace-ready aluminum. As the industry strives for sustainable production and a reduction of CO2 emissions, the global demand for recycled metals continues to surge and so does the need for accurate material recovery and processing.

"We have a long legacy in the metal industry, but, given current market trends and our customer's requirements, we will concentrate even more on this area in the future. With our expanded test capacities and the most advanced technology, we are well-equipped to support the industry in processing higher volumes and reaching the required qualities," explains Radice.

While the new facility allows the company to place a stronger emphasis on the metals segment, waste applications continue to play an equally important role. The original test centre started as a mobile test station in Andernach, Germany, moved to Mülheim-Kärlich in 2009, and steadily grew in sophistication. It now offers 16,146 square feet (1.500 square metres) for waste sorting trials. The test possibilities range from the recovery of recyclable polymers from mixed and source-separated waste streams to flake sorting, the separation of wood by material type, and more. 

Also, deep learning technologies, as a subset of AI, are part of TOMRA's product portfolio and can be tested in different sorting tasks. Available as a complementary solution to its core technologies, deep learning is a tool that helps improve sorting performance by detecting previously hard or impossible-to-detect materials.

Attendees celebrate the opening of TOMRA's metal recycling test centre. TOMRA

Summarizing the advantages of the new test centre setup, Uepping stresses: "All our products are installed and can be tested in a complete circuit. Together with our expert teams, we can simulate the entire sorting process with eddy currents, magnets, screens and a ballistic separator. This allows us to demonstrate the importance of material pretreatment and define processes that are stable and economically viable even with changing input streams."

The rationale behind the expansion was explained during the three-day conference that took place both at TOMRA's German headquarters as well as in a hotel nearby to combine theory and practice. On the first conference day, participants listened to numerous presentations to learn more about TOMRA's strategy, new ventures, its digital offerings including deep learning, as well as its approach to customer service. On the second day, it got more practical on-site. After a presentation held by Tom Eng, SVP and head of TOMRA Recycling Sorting, to explain the evolution of the site in Mülheim-Kärlich, the management team guided the participants to the new facility to cut the ribbon and declare the new building opened. Divided into different groups, the conference attendees were guided through the plant and saw live demonstrations for numerous applications. The tour was rounded off by presentations that emphasized how TOMRA and its technology support maximizing resource circularity in the plastic, metal and wood industries.

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