Brazil’s sugar cane straw market is bigger than ever, allowing for the expansion of the renewable energy sector, as well as the emergence of new biofuels.
To satisfy the growing demand for cane straw, equipment manufacturer Fácil System recently developed specialized, wear-resistant steel knives for its raw material shredding mill, making the sugar cane shredding process more efficient and profitable than ever.
Sugar cane straw—the tops and leaves of the sugar cane stalk—has become an important crop for nations like Brazil. The energy-rich straw has become increasingly used to generate electricity and create ethanol. Because it is a clean, affordable and low-carbon biofuel, sugar cane ethanol has emerged as a leading renewable fuel throughout the South American country.
Nevertheless, the processing of sugar cane straw involves an excessive amount of shredding and milling, and the crop’s strong fibers have a reputation for quickly wearing out processing machines. One company, however, is changing the game by utilizing high-strength steel.
A Cutting-Edge Solution
Since 1986, the Brazilian company Fácil System has made equipment and components for drying, crushing, grinding, screening and material handling systems for mining, quarry, ceramics, cement, fertilizer and other industries using creative and innovative techniques. Being located in the sugar plantation region of Araraquara, however, the company is especially familiar with sugar cane straw.
Spotting the added value of sugar cane straw, which had previously been discarded during harvesting, CEO Laércio Ribeiro, began to develop a new machine for shredding the material, envisioning a new market.
After an extensive review of potential materials for the machine, it was determined that only high-strength steel could meet the company’s performance target. Besides its wear properties, high-strength steel provides the possibility of cutting sheet metal via hot methods or water jets without changing the steel’s internal structural composition.
The mill rotor on the new machines, which shreds the sugar cane straw, consists of a set of shredding knives bolted in a spiral pattern to the equipment support at the axles. The knife blades, as well as the machine’s outlet grate, were developed with wear-resistant, high-strength steel.
The end result was a new sugar cane straw shredder for sugar cane waste, which could be used in boilers for energy recovery, like the cogeneration of heat and electricity.
The innovative use of wear-resistant steel extends the service life of the knives, lowers maintenance costs and delivers energy savings. In fact, the new shredders are roughly 40 percent more energy efficient than previous solutions.
Furthermore, the knives can stand up to 120 days of use—exactly half of the typical sugar cane harvest. For comparison, blades made from softer materials only last 48 hours in the process. Compared to conventional hammer shredders, these high-strength steel knife shredders perform significantly better, all the while ensuring the expansion of the renewable energy market.
Because of high-strength steel, Brazil is in an even better position to offer its expertise in sugar cane ethanol to nations worldwide, especially developing countries that could produce biofuels but still depend on oil.