The Sugar Engineers

Killer Plate

As a young engineer I was intrigued by the terminology found in sugar factories. One term that has always perplexed me is killer plate. The factory where I started in the Sugar Industry had one on the main cane carrier. It consisted of a shaft running accross the bed of cane on the carrier that onto which was connected a number of tines or levers. The killer plate detects a rise or fall in the level of the cane bed and speeds or slows the slows the carriers appropriately.

The device was also known by the operating staff as a kilo plate, but that made no sense to me. I had thought that the name, killer plate came from the fact that the deviced killed the speed of the carrier; I was never really convinced by my own argument though.

The real reason for the name killer plate seems to be because it was named after a Mr J Killer, a Queensland sugar mill engineer.

Quoting from Technology in Australia 1788-1988

The Queensland (now Australian) Society of Sugar Cane Technologists was established in 1929 and has made a significant contribution to the Australian sugar industry from that time. It is clear from the papers presented at the society's early annual conferences that Australian mills were already quickly adopting technological advances as they became available. Automatic mill speed control had been developed by J. Killer, a legendary Queensland sugar mill engineer, and in the 1930s the CSR pressure feeder was developed.