Kabelwerk Eupen AG focuses on sustainable development
Pipe Manufacturer Sets Sights on Uncompromising Quality
It was only business as usual at first glance: A leading international company was searching for a powerful solution to process industrial waste from PE production. However, for the company to achieve its goal of zero-scrap processing, the quality of advice and the strength to successfully implement new ideas were critical factors in finding the right solution. Kabelwerk Eupen AG and Next Generation Recyclingmaschinen GmbH worked together successfully to achieve this goal – a case study.
In the idyllic setting in the broad forests and meadows of Eupen, Belgium’s easternmost city, world-class products are being manufactured. Kabelwerk Eupen AG produces cable, pipes and plastic foam at plant facilities on its 335,000m² site. The quality of its products have an excellent reputation around the world. The company has roots that go back to the 18th century, and all of its activities are conducted at its headquarters in Eupen. From design to production to final product inspection, it all happens at one and the same location for the entire product range. Within the company, there is great appreciation for the resulting efficiency enhancements, the adaptability at all stages, and the control over the high quality standards at every stage of the development and manufacturing process.
Looking to the future responsibly
Not only are they perfectionists in development and production at the company, but they are also just as demanding when it comes to the issue of sustainability. For more than 60 years, Kabelwerk Eupen AG has developed and manufactured plastic pipes. In the related production processes, waste is created. And the Belgium company is therefore looking for an energy-efficient and cost-effective way to process this material. Their focus is on start-up lumps as well as pipes of up to 4,000 mm in length from the production of the entire PE pipe range. These should be processes without any impact on quality and be returned, at a rate of 100 percent, to the production process.
No compromises, just zero-scrap production
The challenge was the length of the material being processed. To produce high-quality pellets that come as close as possible to the quality of new material, only a single-stage process can be used. Existing processing solutions would have, however, required the company to make a compromise. The pipes of up to 4,000 mm first have to be shortened into smaller portions for recycling. Then the plastic can be recycled using the recycling technology. For this preliminary size reduction of the tubes there was no solution as part of a recycling process. The lack of options for a single-stage process meant having to accept continuous loss of pellet quality. And there were other advantages: manpower costs for the size reduction and transport steps for the pipe pieces, creating waste in the work environment, as well as possible loss of materials over the distances traveled. The company wanted to avoid all of this, and continued to pursue its goal of zero-scrap production.
Through redesign to a sustainable solution
The search for the desired solution led to NGR, or Next Generation Recyclingmaschinen GmbH from Feldkirchen, Austria. It took only a few months from the needs assessment to the commissioning of the S: GRAN recycling system on-site. The unit includes a receptacle for pipes, specially designed by NGR for Kabelwerk Eupen AG. This allowed the client to achieve its aim of implementing a single-stage process.
With the forklift, the PE pipe (diameter of 400mm, SDR 11) is loaded in a collecting container. A hydraulic blade, or guillotine, then cuts the pipe in rings to variably adjustable lengths of 500 to 600 mm. The rings drop onto the conveyor belt of the S: GRAN and can be quickly processed, in an energy-efficient manner, in the shredder-feeder-extrusion system and converted to pellets. The space requirements of the machine, including the receptacle, is low, as is the manpower required. The entire process boasts a high level of automation. The collecting container is loaded, then you start the cycle via the control unit.
Rethinking processes and putting them in practice
At Kabelwerk Eupen AG, the company is proud of the complete solution developed for them by NGR. It meets all of their needs exactly. The targeted advice and the partnership with NGR were indispensable factors in the successful realization of this plan. After adjusting the hydraulics of the cutter, the biggest challenge was the live test. Especially for unusual product adaptations, the service quality on-site is critical to whether an innovation is a success. The service strength of NGR in such a case: to be present as long as possible at the site and find the best possible solution, to ensure the client is entirely satisfied with the way the product works. From PE start-up lumps and crushed PE pipes, quality pellets can now can be produced. This leads to gains in productivity in the manufacturing process, because a high-quality material is available again. The pellets are used in Eupen entirely in the production of pipe ducts. The receptacle developed for Kabelwerk Eupen was designed to meet customer needs, for a maximum length of 4 m. It could, in principle, be expanded to a capacity for even longer tubes. The clever guillotine design is now also being used at other manufacturers successfully (sprayed PE large containers, coring of film rolls).
The next critical step
For Kabelwerk Eupen AG, thanks to NGR’s latest innovation, a cycle could be created in PE manufacturing that allows for zero-scrap production. With regard to the valuable material plastic, the business model points to the future. It shows ways for successfully ensuring plastic remains a valuable material – by looking at the entire process chain and, with the goal of sustainability, looking for the best solutions. This calls for extensive rethinking, moving away from linear operations and toward a circular economy. NGR considers itself responsible for actively thinking ahead in this process and successfully shaping it with its clients.
Kabelwerk Eupen AG
The Belgian company is a leading manufacturer of pipe and cable. Founded in 1747, the company continues to be held privately by the Bourseaux family. The company began by manufacturing hemp ropes and cables in a modest workshop. Today, Kabelwerk Eupen AG has more than 850 employees at its headquarters in Eupen. The extensive product portfolio, which features high-performance technology, outstanding quality and full customer service, is used around the world. 80% of the business activities go toward R&D and the production of cables, 10% each toward developing and manufacturing pipe and plastic foam. All development and production activities take place at the corporate headquarters in Eupen.