TOMRA celebrates 15 years dual energy X-ray sorting of aluminum

A look back at the legendary design and in-house software development of x-ray transmission (XRT) sensor technology for metals and mineral sorting

TOMRA’s ambition to be a leader in the resource revolution is a long-standing commitment that goes back decades. Striving to improve the environmental performance of industries through sensor-based sorting solutions, TOMRA machines are all developed in-house – from high precision sensors to software intelligence. As a trailblazer in dual energy XRT technology with an impressive legacy in metal, mineral and diamond sorting, TOMRA proves once again that its legendary performance continues to advance the aluminum industry.

x-tract tomra 15 years

Continually setting new standards in sorting

TOMRA X-TRACT captivated metal recyclers in 2007 with its capability to harness the power of dual energy x-ray transmission with either high resolution or high sensitivity sensors, as well as a 500W and 1000W x-ray power supply. At the time, demand for aluminum was strong in both transport and building sectors. The amount of aluminum produced from scrap globally had grown from 1 million metric tons in 1980 to 8 million metric tons in 2017. Refiners and re-melters also played instrumental role in 2007 – according to the International Aluminium Institute (AIA), they produced close to 18 million metric tons of recycled aluminum from old and traded new scrap, including ingots for casting, rolling and extrusion.

​X-TRACT delivers a unique density detection with unsurpassed sorting accuracy and throughput, largely thanks to its sensors and software being developed in-house by TOMRA. Unlike other XRT solutions that rely on third-party development, TOMRA’s data-driven technology is synchronized and engineered to process primary and secondary raw materials.

Matthias Winkler, Product Manager at TOMRA explains: “Over the years, countless X-TRACT features have been enhanced to accelerate sorting performance and the purity of yields. Whether it’s a new scanning technology to increase spectral sensitivity or a software upgrade to increase belt coverage, we intend to make the most out of every aspect of the machine.” It's no wonder that in 2017, X-TRACT was awarded special mention at the German Design Awards for its improved performance and efficiency.

Limitless potential with in-house development

TOMRA’s strategic decision to keep development in-house benefits customers with unrivaled sorting performance. The X-TRACT FINES unit is an example of excellence: it consistently achieves 98 - 99% purity levels in high throughput applications. “The aluminum industry is transforming, and smelters are demanding high-grade secondary aluminum. TOMRA’s high precision sensors and software intelligence help scrap recyclers and processors get ahead of the curve,” comments Winkler.

As a pioneer in metal and mineral sorting, TOMRA understands industry trends and proactively responds to assure its poll position in the market. When the automotive industry tightened controls on excessive magnesium and impurities in alloys, TOMRA’s team of in-house experts developed a software enhancement in 2020 to improve the separation of magnesium from zorba and twitch to create furnace-ready products.

Pioneering technology across multiple business units with its in-house R&D, mechanical engineering and proprietary software, TOMRA leverages combinational synergies to enhance efficiency and create value.
When it comes to advancing performance, TOMRA leaves no stone uncovered. In 2015, TOMRA XRT technology was selected the primary recovery tool for its unmatched recovery rate and operational efficiency at Lucara Diamond’s Karowe Mine in Botswana. Here, one of the world’s largest diamonds in recorded history, an unbroken 1758 carat stone, was recovered by TOMRA XRT sensor technology. Last Name says, “When any of our machines has such a brilliant result, our product development team immediately begins to look for potential synergies. It’s easier to leverage these synergies because everything we do is developed in-house.”

Robust design that stands the test of time

Built for high performance separation of aluminum from heavy metals based on density detection, X-TRACT features market-leading innovations for unparallel image sharpness and faster integration times. Its unrivaled performance is thanks to its built-in software intelligence and field-proven design.

x-tract tomra 15 years

X-TRACT’s robust construction also includes a top-mounted x-ray source that protects it from dirt, preventing costly maintenance and extending the machine's lifetime. Winkler comments: “Our machine concept was built from the ground up with an extra focus on performance longevity. We offer a variety of sensor, valve and even x-ray power options to maximize throughput and minimize product loss.”

Depending on the application, X-TRACT comes with an optional x-ray power supply up to 1000W for high throughput processing of multiple materials and grain sizes, including 5 – 40 mm aluminum fines and copper wires. The machine’s software-based Dual Processing Technology offers simultaneous object and area processing of adjacent and overlapping objects, therefore eliminating the need for additional sensors.

Accelerating the Future of Green Aluminum

Recycled aluminum can be produced with less than 5% of the carbon footprint of primary aluminum. In Cisterna di Latina in Italy, the green billet foundry Indivest LT purchases post-consumer aluminum scrap from Centro Rottami. After introducing X-TRACT technology at Centro Rottami, Indivest LT has been able to more than double the amount of recycled content from 20% to between 40 and 50% thanks to the purity levels provided by X-TRACT.

Roberto Antichi, President of Indinvest LT, added: “Using the clean material from X-TRACT, we have far fewer pollutants and don’t need to clean the furnace as frequently. Cleaning the furnace involves opening the door and dropping the temperature from 1100 degrees to 800 or 900 degrees. Getting it back to 1100 degrees requires time, gas and electricity.”

With strategies like the The European Circular Aluminium Action Plan setting a clear path towards higher recycling rates and more post-consumer aluminum used in production, scrap metal operators and smelters alike significantly benefit from X-TRACT technology. It has already proven to help reduce the industry’s dependency on bauxite and other raw materials, while saving massive amounts of energy and gas during aluminum production. Last Winkler explains: “Sustainable, high-performance design is essential for both small and large operators. Preventing downtime is going to become even more critical, especially as the demand for recycled aluminum continues to grow across automotive, construction and packaging industries. It’s technologies like X-TRACT that bridge the gap and make the most of the secondary raw materials in the economy.” Today, TOMRA serves all-sized players metal recycling and smelting with X-TRACT units installed in 34 countries.