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Innovation in the compaction of industrial minerals

EUROTAB has pushed the limits of its binder-free compaction technology even further to enable industry to better valorise its by-products and fine powders, especially users and producers of industrial minerals and ores.

This innovation will foster the sustainable economy, in industries where conventional technologies could not. A major player in powder compaction (tableting), the technological and industrial SME, EUROTAB, continues its diversification by innovating in industrial minerals. Capitalising on its process and equipment expertise, the company is aiming to create added value in this colossal market, where the company says it will provide “an adapted and effective response to the economic, environmental and societal problems of an entire sector.”

Industry in quest of a sustainable economy

Industry, particularly users and producers of industrial minerals and ores, is today confronted with environmental and profitability issues following changes in regulations surrounding waste disposal and its associated costs, the rarefaction of raw materials and an increase in manufacturing and manpower costs that will certainly increase with time. The steel industry can be used to illustrate this.

Steel manufacturing is technologically segmented into two branches: the BF/BOF branch using the blast furnace/basic oxygen furnace (58 per cent in EU), and the EAF branch using the electric arc furnace (42 per cent in EU). The BOF process generates 450kg of waste (by-products) for every ton of crude steel produced, while EAF generates 180kg. Over the past twenty years, the steel industry’s recovery rate of by-products has increased significantly. However, the last mile to zero-waste has proven very difficult, and since 2012 the material efficiency rate has stagnated. In Europe, over four million tons of EAF-generated by-products are yet to find their way to being economically upgraded or recycled. These by-products, however, contain valuable raw materials.

In this context, technology providing sustainable solutions for upgrading such waste and/or optimising the use of raw material resources in a sustainable manner will definitively be one of the levers in maintaining the competitiveness of this industry, as well as complying with European Waste Legislation.

 

EUROTAB, innovation in industrial minerals compaction

Binder-free compaction is an innovative cold agglomeration technique. It enables powdered materials to be transformed into a solid shape, known as a tablet. Thanks to this process, the tablet benefits from a strong mechanical resistance and without the use of any additives, contrary to alternative technology such as briquetting.  

Current mechanical processing solutions for by-product recycling or usage of fines, besides having poor output performance, require the recycled fines to stay outside for long periods of time – otherwise known as ‘curing time’, usually several days – before being reinjected into the process. This open loop process, coupled with a high production volume, makes the whole process a logistical nightmare and economically unviable.

The characteristics of the tablets obtained using EUROTAB’s technology, either enable them to be reintroduced directly into the process or to produce a valuable product. This could lead to the non-upgraded finely powdered by-products and raw material fines being recycled or used almost at 100 per cent in several industries.

Eurotab’s technology relies on binder-free compaction, which consists of compressing a powder located within a die with two punches that fragment the powder particles to yield a cohesive compact called a tablet. Whereas this technology is widely used in the pharmaceutical industry, for manufacturing consumer goods and metallic catalysts, its operating window has so far been limited. The innovation lies in the combination of high pressure / high load and high output.

EUROTAB has pushed its powder compaction technology beyond its original limits in the tableting of consumer goods such as automatic dishwashing and detergent tablets, coffee and bouillon cubes). Through innovative thinking and equipment design, the company yields tableting of industrial minerals in applying high compaction pressures at high speed. This approach has been successfully carried over on compaction of finely powdered raw materials, with the design of prototype compaction equipment. This latter has been used to validate on the equipment some of the technology choices as well as to confirm the technical viability of such a process.

 

Binder-free compaction technology / equipment advantages versus current agglomeration solutions

Different technologies are already used today to compact industrial mineral fines or powdered by-products. Coal briquettes or salt pellets are widely known.

EUROTAB’s tableting technology in the world of industrial minerals and ores means:

  • Compacting of a wider range of materials than other technologies, the compression cycle can be adapted to the characteristics of the powder.
  • Compacting with using a binder.
  • Compacting even very fine powders.
  • Production of products with a more uniform hardness, both within and between compacts, leading to higher mechanical resistance and a more regular dissolution rate.
  • Increased weight regularity.

 

Technology to create added value in major markets

This technology is environmentally friendly (no waste) and processes a wide range of raw materials including very fine powders that can: 

  • Improve performance of industrial applications of raw materials through improved thermal efficiency, reduced reaction time, improved process reliability, lower raw material consumption, improved end product quality.
  • Improve performance in applications through tailored and homogeneous characteristics such as shape, size, porosity, mechanical resistance.
  • Improve performance in applications through sequential actions of ingredients obtained via multilayer tablets or customised dissolution time.
  • Improve mass balance of quarries, mines, through valuation of fines.
  • Improve handling: the compact format means optimum safety, logistics, dosing and storage when compared to powders.

 

EUROTAB

Founded in 1957, EUROTAB is an independent SME specialised in the conception and technology of powder compression – the tablet. The company’s objective is to make the tablet a real concept in sustainable development, a creator of added value for its users and all sectors involved.

EUROTAB's business model is structured around three main skills:

  • Research and development elaborates formulas and processes to invent new products in tablet form in different applications, such as household care, the food and industrial minerals. 
  • Design and manufacture of industrial equipment (rotary presses) enables tablets to be produced in the best economic and operational conditions. This part of the group’s business is a market leader in tableting equipment for detergents, water softening and swimming pools.  
  • Tablet production is carried out for customers in one of four factories in France, Turkey and Spain, thanks to the technology developed by the other two entities.

The company witnessed €48m annual turnover in 2015 and has seen an average annual growth of thirteen percent since 2001. On average seven per cent of turnover is invested in innovation. 62 per cent of the turnover is generated at export from sites in France, Spain, Turkey and the USA.

Contact: Julien Banchet, director of projects, Eurotab, Tel: +33 (0) 477 021731, email: julien.banchet@eurotab.eu web: www.eurotab.eu

Follow EUROTAB on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/eurotab