A €1.2 million investment in an upgraded recycling facility to handle PVC production left-overs paid for itself in 18 months at Protan Group, the Norway-based manufacturer of roofing foils and ventilation tubes for tunnels and mines. The investment, in equipment from German size-reduction technology specialist Pallmann, came through cost savings and increased capacity. 

Protan is now running a state-of-the-art, tailor-made three-in-one recycling installation for grinding, agglomerating and pulverising. ‘It would have been stupid not to purchase new technology,’ says Tom Lillemoen, Protan’s technical manager.

The company, which has an annual turnover of one billion Norwegian Crowns (€110 million), is one of the world’s largest manufacturers and suppliers of innovative roofs, membranes, technical textiles and ventilation systems. Every year, hundreds of kilometres of its ventilation pipes are installed in mines and tunnels around the globe - mainly in Europe, Africa and South America. 

Protan wins most of its work - some 65% - from above-ground applications, such as the fabrication of foils for roofs on office and industrial buildings located in some of the most challenging climates in the world. Over the past 40 years, Protan’s coverings have been installed on roofs in conditions as diverse as the African desert and the tundra on the Spitzbergen archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. 

High value materials

It is in its roofing products that Protan uses most of its recycled materials. On average, it incorporates 6% recyclate in its production process, most of which is sourced in-house. Owing to their complexity, it is difficult to dispose of or use these materials in other applications; however, the materials are of high value, making internal reuse worthwhile.

Protan started recycling two decades ago and Pallmann’s engineers have been involved from the earliest pioneering stage. The size-reduction technology major installed a reconditioned PFV agglomerator in Protan’s plant in 2000. 

Over the years, this solution has become outdated, according to Lillemoen. ‘It became increasingly unsuitable for the products and recipes we were working with, and its capacity was no longer sufficient,’ he explains. ‘On top of that, new products required new particle sizes, which could not be produced with the old technology. 

Tailor-made solution

Again, Pallmann extended a helping hand. ‘Almost 20 years of experience at Protan and Pallmann in reusing production waste allowed us to engage quickly in deep technical discussions to find the best adapted solutions,’ says Michel Marchal, project & area sales manager for Pallmann.

Pallmann ran an extensive test programme in Germany: existing material mixtures and new recipes and material compositions were all tried out before implementation. Grinding, agglomeration and pulverising tests were done at Pallmann’s large test centre at Zweibrücken, while the end products were tested on Protan’s production lines in Norway.

Three-in-one installation

In the new facility, grinding is undertaken by Pallmann’s knife mill-type PS 4-7,5; agglomeration is carried out in a Plast agglomerator PFV 250; and a PolyGrinder PM 300 unit takes care of the pulverising. The machines are connected via conveying units, silos and collection units. Pallmann supplied and commissioned the entire package of components.