Deciding on Maintenance for Disintegrators?

June 11, 2018 at 4:02 pm by SEM

Knife mill disintegrators are an SEM specialty. The go to machine for high volume, high security destruction. They offer great throughput while meeting NSA standards for a variety of materials, including paper, key tape, and CDs.

sem-model-23One of the main reasons that disintegrators are one of the go to machines is because of their amazing life span. SEM disintegrators are still being serviced that have been in active use for over 30 years. With such dramatic durability and reliability, it can be forgotten that disintegrators require periodic maintenance.

What Needs to be Maintained?

While the plate steel of a disintegrator won’t show wear, many active components will. Over time, the cutting knives will get dull and chipped. The rubber drive belts will wear. The particle sizing screen can wear out or form over-sized holes. Safety limit switches can move out of position or wear out. Hoses and filters can reach end of life.

This may sound like a lot, but the physical force required for these blades to constantly break down material to its NSA mandated final particle size is substantial. If these wear and tear issues are not addressed, the result can be reduced throughput, increased likelihood of jams, more noise and dust, off-sized end particles, reduced safety, and unexpected or premature failure of the system.

How to Maintain

A complete preventive maintenance (PM) service for a disintegrator addresses all of these concerns and more. Done at appropriate times, PM service is a wise and important part of disintegrator upkeep. Typically the frequency of PM service is tied to the condition of the knives, which are the most regular component that wears down. The rate of knife wear depends on the volume and type of materials fed to the machine. If a fairly large amount of metallic items go through a disintegrator, the knife wear will be more rapid than if the materials have little to no metal. However, even paper and plastics will cause knives to lose their edge over time. SEM recommends service after roughly every 100-150 hours of running time, however this is only a rough guideline. A technician can provide good feedback on how worn knives are, allowing users to adjust to a sensible frequency of PM services.


Most SEM disintegrator users who keep up with their PM will have in the range of 1 to 6 PM services per year, based on a range of light usage through heavy production usage.

Most commonly, SEM disintegrator owners have SEM or an authorized SEM service partner provide the PM service. That insures a reliable PM service by a highly experienced technician. A complete breakout of what is included in an SEM provided PM service can be seen here.

Some SEM disintegrator users do their own preventive maintenance services, sometimes using SEM for only off-site knife sharpening. Manuals and service training videos are available from SEM. Contact us or visit us at and we can provide you with the information you need.