How Paper Shredders Work?

posted this on May 25, 2016

It seems simple enough-paper shredders shred paper, right? Sort of. “Shred” is a sort of catchall word used to describe the mechanized pcess of destroying confidential or sensitive papers to ensure private information is not revealed to others. While all paper shredders have the same goal, they don’t all achieve their objective in the same manner or with the same level of effectiveness.The two main types of paper shredders are strip-cut and cross-cut (confetti-cut). Strip-cut models are also known as straight-cut or spaghetti-cut and cut the paper into long strips about ¼ to ½ inch wide running the length of the original paper. The narrower the strip, the more secure the shred. This type of shredder creates the most waste and is the least secure, as the pieces can be reassembled; however, they require less maintenance and can handle high volumes of paper. Cross-cut/Confetti-cut shredding machines are also known as micro-cut or diamond-cut. They cut the paper horizontally and vertically into approximately 500-800 small geometric shapes such as diamonds, rectangles, and parallelograms. Although these machines are more expensive and may require more maintenance, they provide a more secure shred and require fewer trips to the trash bin to dispose of shreds. The smaller the particles that the machine produces the higher the security that is offered and the slower the shredder will operate.

Other types of shredding machines include particle-cut, disintegrators and granulators, hammermills, pierce and tear machines, and grinders. Particle-cut machines cut the paper into small squares or circles. Disintegrators and granulators randomly cut and recut the paper until they are a fine powder. Hammermills do not cut the paper at all. Instead, they “hammer” the paper through a screen creating tiny paper grains. Pierce and tear shredders do exactly what their name suggests; they pierce the paper with rotating blades and then tear it. Grinders shred paper by grinding the paper until it is small enough to pass through a screen.

In addition to differences in how paper shredding machines work, they also differ in their capacity and quality. There are machines designed for personal use by an individual or small group dealing with fewer than 200 sheets per day, office machines for larger organizations, production equipment for nonstop business use, and high security models for the best information protection. Shredder feed capacity ranges from one sheet at a time to over 500 at a time. To avoid a breakdown, look for a shredder that can handle about 20% more volume than you predict you will require.

Shredders also offer different features such as automatic start/stop. These machines are equipped with sensors and will begin shredding automatically when paper is inserted. Another useful feature included with some equipment is a bag or rack for shredded paper. This reduces the work involved in handling paper shreds. Although most paper shredders can handle the occasional overlooked staple or paper clip, efforts should be made to check for these types of foreign objects prior to shredding. Because of the variety in quality, capacity, and features, there is no single best shredder. The best shredder is the one that makes the most sense based on user needs.

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