For Immediate Release:
Magnetic Separators – The Value Proposition
Posted On 9/28/2011 By Industrial Magnetics, Inc.
Dennis O’Leary -
For longer than most (if not all) magnet
manufacturers would care to admit, separators
didn’t exactly hover at or near the top of most
plants’ equipment priority lists. However, the
last decade has seen significant momentum that has
clearly swept magnetic separation equipment into
the discussion when either designing a new
facility or retro-fitting an existing one. Why?
For starters, the use of rare earth material in
creating the magnetic circuit became a mainstream
alternative to the industry standard of ceramic.
This opened the door to stronger circuits, unique
design options, and a much broader range for
processors from which to choose. Thankfully, this
effectively ended the "a magnet is a magnet" era.
Like its ceramic counterpart, rare earth is strong
but it also offers greater ability to hold the
captured ferrous metal and weakly magnetic
contaminants to prevent them from "washing off"
back into a cleaned product stream; rare earth is
also roughly 15 times stronger than ceramic. When
an application requires a minimum holding value
that cannot be accomplished with ceramic due to
dimensional constraints (structural, stack-up, or
otherwise), the higher strength-to-size benefit of
rare earth can play a positive role. The general
rule of thumb says rare earth is for consumer
product protection and ceramic is for capital
The relevancy and enforcement of HACCP and
related QA/QC programs has been an effective
driver for magnetic separators as well. The use of
separators to target upstream contamination points
is certainly a cost-effective alternative to
waiting until the final product has been presented
for packaging or - worse yet - is at the end user.
The shift that continues to occur as a result of
these programs is the push up the supply stream
for a cleaner product. Just some of the positive
changes resulting from this shift include:
increased plant efficiency, reduced downtime, less
capital equipment repair, and streamlined
preventative equipment maintenance schedules.
Every one of these examples is traceable,
tangible, and provides value to the bottom line.
Unless a company is 100% vertically integrated -
creating, planting, harvesting, producing,
processing, packaging, and acting as the ultimate
end user of the product - it is reasonable to make
an assumption that somewhere on that supply stream
there exists a real opportunity for contamination
- intentional or otherwise - that should be
addressed. Rail cars, bulk trucks, storage silos,
processing equipment, box cutters, and tools are
all prevalent in the supply stream and all proven
again and again to be prime culprits for ferrous
The broad popularity that metal detectors
gained at the start of this millennium had a
positive impact on how facilities viewed the use
of magnets. It didn’t take long for many plant
operators, engineers, and maintenance personnel
to realize this was an effective one-two punch; it
was usually shortly after the detector discharged
a massive amount of clean product into a bin or
onto the floor because of a small piece of ferrous
metal. The fix was in: placing the magnetic
separator upstream from the detector, thereby
minimizing the number of "trips" or rejections of
the detector since the vast majority of
contaminants are of the ferrous nature.
Forget about food for a moment since that
always seems to be the hot button reference. It
almost feels like a guilt-trip sales pitch: "If
it’s a food plant you’d better have magnets".
Perhaps the concern is metal fines resulting from
the friction on a piece of processing equipment to
minimize the chance of a flash fire. Most
processing equipment is manufactured from 400
series stainless steel which by its very nature is
weakly magnetic; the shavings and fines whose
metallurgic properties have changed as a result of
the friction now become much easier to capture.
The point is this: broadening the thought process
on magnetic separators with an honest assessment
of the necessity for this equipment is a pain-free
process that every facility ought to undertake.
While that audit process isn’t going to provide
any financial value, the results of the process
most assuredly will and that is the value
Dennis O’Leary is General Manager for Industrial Magnetics, Inc. (Boyne
City, MI), a provider of both permanent magnets
and electromagnets for work holding, lifting,
fixturing, conveying, and magnetic
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