This year, the first horizontal grinder in the Rotochopper lineup, the MC grinder celebrated its 25th anniversary. Technology and innovation have brought the MC grinder a long way in 25 years, but the core purpose of this grinder has remained the same since the start – turn waste materials into a profitable product.
Several current Rotochopper employees and co-founder, Vince Hundt, were part of the process of dreaming, building, and selling the first MC grinder, and have shared their memories of this significant piece of Rotochopper history.
This story begins with the problem our customers were facing – finding an outlet for wood waste and junk pallets, and Rotochopper working to find a solution to their challenge. “In the early 1990s the big box stores were growing like crazy, China was starting it’s avalanche of exports and consumer spending was roaring. In a matter of a decade or so almost all commerce started to ship prepackaged, shrink wrapped, and on a pallet. These were great times to build and sell pallets, but nobody had bothered to consider how used ones were to be disposed of,” said Vince Hundt, Rotochopper co-founder. “Many of the recyclers and garbage haulers that bought our newspaper bedding systems told us, “You solved the newspaper problem, now help us deal with all this wood waste and junk pallets.””
In 1994, Carroll County, IA inquired about a pallet and wood grinder, so Vince brought them to St. Martin to watch the MP156 machine run. They liked it but asked if we could build something bigger for composting that could be fed scrambled up messes of pallets and green waste with a loader. Hand feeding was not going to work for his employees. Of course, without hesitation, we said, “Yes! We can do that! With a signed order in hand the course was set in motion for the first MC156. Everything about it at that time seemed huge,” said Hundt.
The MC156 was developed from the MP156. “We took what we learned from the MP and used its framework with some modifications to design the MC to be able to more efficiently handle compost and other materials. The infeed was a rubber belt, the rotor was 20” diameter, and the powerfeed was 22” diameter. We soon learned that the rubber belt needed to be steel, and the powerfeed and the rotor needed to be bigger! It was basically a complete redesign,” said engineer Todd Marquardsen, who had been working at Rotochopper for about a year at the time.
Fred had been thinking and drawing and planning this move for some time. Up to this point when we went on the road, the demo machine was being pulled by his F250 and as the truck groaned up yet another hill at about 45mph I remember Fred saying, “For the next one, we are going to need a semi.” Vince remembers being stunned by this notion. About this time Fred made a trip to Rapid City and saw a German Willibald compost grinder. This new machine had some serious weaknesses but had some basic ideas Fred kept in mind as he dreamt up his design.
Over the next several months, the team at Rotochopper continued to work on the first MC156. Pat Burg now, Rotochopper’s Director of Quality Assurance and Outside Processing, said, “The grinder didn’t even have a complete drawing to build from, there was a lot of head scratching, and grabbing steel from the rack to see what would work.”
Marquardsen said, “Some of my most vivid memories, from that era, are of Fred drawing out his concepts on the floor with chalk, or on scratch paper. Fred took a CADD course once, but luckily for me, soon realized that sitting in a classroom, or anywhere else for that matter, was not for him. He had to keep moving, and that’s exactly how he approached the development of the MC, just keep it moving, always better, always farther.”
The MP (mobile pallet) machine transformed into the MC (mobile compost) model. It was called the MC to more broadly encompass its versatility. The new MC came with some serious upgrades. The powerfeed grew to 32” and the rotor to 26”. The steel belt and the belt scraper were introduced, keeping the machine much cleaner. Screen changing became much easier with the rolling cradle and removeable screen. Engine clutches back then were unreliable and hard to operate, so the auto belt drive was soon developed to solve that problem. The first MC was powered by a 225 hp Cummins engine to process larger amounts of wood waste more efficiently.
“When it was finished, we did the test run, and everyone marveled at its size and ferocity. Pallets could be fed with a skid steer and it easily made 3” compost material at a rate of 500+ pallets an hour,” said Hundt. “We invited in the city fathers of Carroll, Iowa who saw it, liked it, and bought it.”
“The MC156 was the first “horizontal grinder” in the USA. We paraded the first MC all over the Midwest and orders and prospects followed,” said Hundt.
The MC has evolved over the years and inspired other models like the EC, the MC track, and the MP2. The core design concept has stayed the same, but many enhancements, like modern control systems, and engineering updates, have allowed the MC to maintain its position as an industry leader in the pallet market and open opportunities in additional markets as well. Every Rotochopper grinder produced since the first MC has DNA in it from this first machine, which speaks to the impact the MC has continued to have on Rotochopper’s success.
We have come a long way from that first MC to the B-66 L-Series of today but it’s always stayed Fred’s favorite color, Red! Can you imagine what you will see 25 years from now?