A decorticator is a piece of heavy machinery designed to strip the outer layers of material from seeds, plants, and small shrubs and trees. These devices are used all over the world for everything from hulling sunflower materials to preparing fibers used in rope making. Companies that manufacture decorticators often produce a line of products to meet different needs. They can be fixed or portable, depending on how a company plans to use its machine.
The decorticator uses rollers, grinders, blades, and other tools to separate the outer hull, or cortex, from plant materials. This can be useful for stripping useful fibers from flax, hemp, and sisal in addition to processing nuts and seeds. The device will lift bark and outer hulls from a variety of plants and may be adjustable so it can handle different types of materials, rather than just one.
Early designs appear to date to the 1800s, when a number of inventors began working on equipment to industrialize fiber and seed production. Before the development of the decorticator, processes like making hemp rope required painstaking manual preparation of the raw materials, involving beating them to separate out the fibers, cleaning them to extract usable components, and then making them into rope. With a decorticator, companies could radically increase production volumes and skip several steps, as the device would easily separate the usable parts while leaving the rest behind.
Mobile decorticators can be useful in settings where numerous farmers need access to a decorticator, but cannot afford one on their own. Rather than bringing raw materials to a processing plant, the farmers can take advantage of mobile equipment to strip usable parts for sale. The waste left on site can be useful for plowing into the soil to increase loft and nutritional value. Processing materials at a farm eliminates the need to pay for transportation of waste materials, allowing farmers to save money by only shipping the useful products of their crops.
A fixed decorticator can be located at a processing facility on a farm where large volumes of material are grown, or may be located in a central facility to process materials brought in from outlying areas. It tends to be larger, with a bigger capacity. Either device can be dangerous to work around, and it is important to make sure that personnel have adequate training to avoid issues like catching limbs in the decorticator; a device designed to strip the outer casings of seeds, nuts, stems, and similar materials can pulp a worker's arm in seconds.