An Introduction to Metal Shears for Metal Recyclers

Steel worker driving forklift to move steel
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A very important step in the scrap metal recycling process is the use of metal shears for breaking down larger pieces of metals into smaller pieces for reprocessing those metals to produce metal products. The metal shear, also known as metal sheet shear, plays a huge role in making this happen. In fact, metal shears are used for sizing bulky scrap metals down to a manageable size for transportation and reprocessing.

Types of Metal Shears

There are many different types of metal shears based on the way shears cut metals. The common types of metal shears include alligator shear, bench shear or lever shear, guillotine or squaring shear, power shears, throatless shear, and tin snips. Some of these shears are powered and some are manual.

Alligator shears, also known as crocodile shears, are hydraulic cylinder or flywheel powered metal-cutting shears with hinged jaws. The size of jaws used in alligator shears ranges from 100 to 910 mm long. Alligator shears are commonly used for cutting long and big scrap metals, normally where the accuracy of cutting is not an important issue. Therefore, alligator shears are often used in scrap metal collecting process to cut metals into a manageable size to enable easier transportation. Alligator shears are also frequently used in combination with large metal shredders to clean and prepare scrap metals for shredding by removing unnecessary fittings and parts that shredders normally reject.

Bench shears are bench mounted shears with compound mechanisms to enhance the mechanical advantages. Bench shears are commonly used for cutting medium sized rough metals. Small bench shears are designed for multiple uses as these shears are lightweight and easily moveable.

Guillotine or squaring shear refers to a kind of metal shear which is operated completely manually.

Initially, it works by clamping metals with rams. Then, a movable blade comes down across a fixed blade to cut the metals. A squaring shear requires several pieces of equipment such as a shear table, a gauging device, upper and lower blades and a work-holding device. Guillotines are frequently used in many different applications.

Power shears are pneumatically or electrically powered hand tools which are designed to blank large metal sheet pieces and cut relatively large radius curve and straight lines.

The throatless shear is another type of metal shear which is designed specially to make complex curved and straight cuts in metals. It allows metals to move freely around its cutting blade and provide greater flexibility in shaping metal pieces.

The tin snip is the smallest form of metal shear, utilized to cut small metal sheets. There are two types of snips; tinner's snips and compound-action snips. Tinner's snips are just like everyday scissors. On the other hand, compound-action snips are compound leverage handle tools which give particular mechanical advantages in metal cutting.

Safe Operation of Shears

Safety is always an important issue when operating equipment, particularly regarding metal.

Never operate powered equipment unless trained, and be sure to follow their company’s safe work procedure. Also, take necessary precautionary steps such as inspecting equipment and reading safety labeling before starting. Make sure the workstation is clean, and wear personal protective equipment as applicable. Avoid loosely fitting clothing of jewelry when working in proximity to moving equipment. 

Key risks of working in proximity to shears include amputation, crushing as well as material handling injuries. Be sure not to tamper with equipment guarding, as well as to follow lockout/tagout (LOTO) procedures during maintenance. 

Refer to OSHA’s Guidance for the Identification and Control of Safety and Health Hazards in Metal Scrap Recycling for more information.