Hey Prairie Dawg, “How about some CONVEYOR need to know basics”

Believe it or not conveyors are the underrated work horses of the aggregate and mining industry. Conveyors, often taken for granted and typically the most underappreciated item on the property are often thought or looked to be so similar and without really having much for an impressive display of earth shaking action like a rock crusher or screening plant, yet these simplistic pieces of equipment are so very important to the bottom line profits they are literally nonreplicable works of art designed very specifically per their unique application or function.

As most conveyors are first designed and commissioned they are rigorously engineered for their application in both performance and structural integrity and fitted with calculated components to satisfy the specific environmental conditions in which they will be performing often for four decades and longer. It’s when a conveyor is typically decommissioned and then repurposed within an operation that it starts to become problematic. Whether being underpowered or maybe under specked components that keep the continuous belt in motion it begins to start failing prematurely do to the severity of application.

Lots of times companies will speed up a conveyor belt that maybe wasn’t wide enough for the new job causing premature life cycle failure in bearings and gear reducer components. Many times, I hear the production crews saying that their conveyors are always causing them lots of busy work, always being in need some sort of daily attention. I guess these quiet giants and all they are capable of doing deserve to be graciously taken care of. Here are some quick points to keep in mind for properly maintaining a Basic Conveyor:

  • Don’t be afraid to dedicate a specific person or two to walk the conveyors each day in an operation looking for worn troughing idlers and returns, damaged pulleys and frayed or punctured belting often easily spotted wherever bulk material is seen spilling to the ground below.
  • Weekly checks on all pulley bearings while providing proper grease intervals and amounts per the bearing specifications. It is better to under-grease a bearing than to over-grease it and blow out their delicate seals now exposing the fine finished machined internal surfaces to dirt, debris, and moisture, three nuisances always present and waiting to enter and destroy.
  • Monthly checkups on all hoppers, wear liners, skirt rubber and all 3-4 types of belt cleaners often utilized.

Every six months perform gear reducer maintenance, checking for leaking seals, worn sheaves and drive belts, recommended oil change, guarding and all structural components such as main frame, support stands, undercarriages and all their hydraulic lift components and associated structural items.

Keeping a dedicated set of eyes on these few listed items will definitely keep the investment of operating conveyors at your operation most profitable. Anytime you can schedule repairs versus having them unceasingly show up throughout the day, you will see the added value and safety compliance too.

Here are some items to consider when possibly repurposing a conveyor within an existing operation:

  • Are the length and belt width equitable for moving the amount of flow desired to the location necessary without major horsepower or length modifications that may be costlier than starting over with an entirely different series or style of conveyor?
  1. For instance, overland style conveyors are much more favorably modified for length purposes, especially when involved with distances beyond 150 feet. Overland frames are of a more simplistically designed framework than that of a lattice frame-constructed conveyor typically engineered and built for extensive spanning purposes. A quick decision easily determined by the terrain on which the repurposed conveyor will be positioned.
  2. Often overland conveyors being modularly built, allow for easier modifications to the conveyor’s drive package to change horsepower requirements when built as a separate entity of the intermediate sections or core body of the system. This modular build style framework also allows the conveyor to follow the natural contours of the location not requiring much for site preparation other than some adjustable support leg adjustments to maintain a consistent vertical levelness throughout.
  3. Belt width differences can often be compensated if needed by adjusting belt speed but always remember the faster a belt runs the quicker it wears out its components — very much like an automobile going up and down the road. It is always better to run a belt at its optimal speed as this provides a maximized life cycle on components and is most efficient to operate from an energy usage perspective. Properly designed, the horsepower to torque to speed ratio keeps the system running at its easiest frictional condition.

Conveyors are so necessary to an operation and it is so critical to respect them for the amazing amount of work these miles of moving components and rigid frameworks provide. I for one am a huge fan of all they have to offer and the many different variations or configurations made available by both major manufacturers as well as small fab shops today. Conveyors are all around us in most every industry but it’s in the aggregate and mining industry where they are pushed to the production and design limits and where they are exposed to the harshest of conditions. Stay tuned in for more conveyor topics and details associated to come.

Questions? Tim Holmberg at prairiedawg@pdpractical.com.


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