Prairie Dawg Practical
by Tim Holmberg, DEMI Equipment
Conveyors have no value without a couple of key components working together to transfer materials from one location to the opposite end where they will exit or be discharged. The specific distances and elevations of the site will determine how the conveyor will be required to perform to get the job accomplished. The key components we are going to discuss further are referred to as idlers or troughing idlers and the other is power transmissions, also referred to as a gear box or gear reducer. When people hear the phrase power transmission, many quickly think of high voltage power or maybe even the dangerous power lines that deliver electrical power into the homes and communities where they live and work. In our industry, the phrase power transmission isn’t quite as shocking (or shall we say dangerous) if touched accidentally with both hands. Needless to say, it is an extremely necessary part of the materials handling world for moving mountains – literally. It is easily the number one form of drive component in the conveying market today and will be for many years to come.
Power transmission comes in many shapes, sizes and configurations and will always require some sort of preliminary gathering of data. Numerous amounts of location-specific climatic characteristics need to be considered, ranging from temperature highs and lows to moisture accumulation (both rain and snow if applicable), and even wind speed can have an effect – but most important are the terrain elevations and the physical amount and size particles of materials needing to be conveyed.
Consider how fast or slow the entire system will need to operate in order to accommodate all of the variables with best consistency, reliability and longevity of operation. Hourly use per day and operation expectancy should be factored in as well.
As you can see, it is extremely important for the power transmission to be first of all qualified correctly in size and type/configuration for each conveying machine. Then the brands themselves should be considered based upon reviews or feedback and possibly for a specific warranty offering and known process upgrades or improvements versus another brand’s offering.
Maintaining a power transmission is as important as the process of sizing the correct one from the beginning. The transmissions require routine and ongoing maintenance for the life of the installment and the better these practices are followed, using highest quality lubricants and hard parts, the more likely they will provide maximum life expectancy and often even exceed the manufacturer’s own stated values. Keeping transmission components well-serviced will also keep your energy consumption at its optimal operating targets, extending the savings directly back into the operation.
Idlers are the backbone of the conveyor and without their uniquely engineered design, the overall length a conveying system designed and built would be severely limited. Many conveyors – whether 5 feet long or 5,000 feet – or even the longest conveyor in the world, at 61 miles long, couldn’t have been built without the invention of idlers.
There are many manufacturers, both domestic and foreign, who are mass producing these rolling assemblies at competitive prices. There are many series and size options as well as configurations for specific application requirements, so it is not always easy to replace an existing one without first knowing some minimal terminology and some measurements. Today’s manufacturers are always working to improve life cycles of their products and have made many changes since their first inception. One key improvement has been the introduction of sealed bearings – especially on long-run overland conveyors. Maintaining this one aspect alone is not only time consuming but expensive for the amount of grease utilized and the delicate risk of over-greasing – exposing the bearing (with the now blown seal arrangement) to the dusty and dirty surrounding environment.
Once these bearings are breached and infected it’s not long before the roller seizes up and the belting starts to wear the can off the frozen bearing, until it wears through and creates an edge sharpened like a razor – often snagging a frayed portion of the belting and tearing it the entire length of the conveyor. These mistakes have been costly in the past, which is why as a conveyor manufacturer myself, it is so wonderful to have the idler manufacturers working hard to improve somewhat flawed designs and making other improvements along the way. Idlers today are becoming more advanced than ever before. They play an equally important roll in energy-cost savings while in peak operating performance, as any time we can reduce friction values on any of the conveyor components, the savings will be revealed quickly when the maintenance on these items is performed on a regularly scheduled interval.
Conveyors are very necessary to an operation and it is critical to respect them for the amazing amount of work these miles of moving components on a framework provide. Conveyors are all around us in most every industry, but it’s in the aggregate and mining industries where these components are pushed to the production and design limits – and where they are exposed to the harshest of conditions they will ever encounter. Remember this article as you drive, because not only may you happen to see a conveyor out the side window some distance away, just know that a conveyor with idlers and a power transmission was used to convey the materials used in making the very road you drive on every day. Stay tuned in for more conveyor topics and details associated to come.
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Tim Holmberg / 2915 Idea Ave. / Aberdeen, SD 57401