Automatic belt alignment solutions
Today’s top belt training technologies are proven solutions that minimize maintenance manpower. Importantly, they are automatic solutions that continuously keep the belt aligned, allowing the crew to attain that coveted set-it-and-forget-it attitude. After all, who wants to continuously adjust and monitor a belt – especially when the one moment you walk away is the one moment that the belt rips?
“One of the best belt tracking solutions is the automatic return training idler, which provides continuous alignment, centering the belt and reducing or eliminating any belt damage,” says Jarrod Felton, president of Superior Industries, a Morris, Minn.-based manufacturer of conveyor components and systems. “Automatic return training idlers are particularly effective for operators of portable equipment or mobile track-mounted equipment. They are an ideal choice in a variety of tough applications; or in applications where self-aligning idlers do not fit. Return training idlers can be applied to either high- or low-end belts,” he says.
Felton points to a couple of recent in-the-field examples where the automatic return training idler is a welcome alternative to costly maintenance time and labor. For example, a major limestone operation in Texas operates a two-mile-long overland cable belt conveyor that negotiates low radius curves as it conveys material from the primary crushing circuit to the wash plant. Constructed in ten sections, with the 8th section being more than 1700-feet long, this major cable conveyor system is in constant motion. There were constant alignment issues that required a crew to continually monitor the system by driving back and forth all day long to check for potential mistracking. Manual adjustments to the idlers were required every other day. On the occasions that problems were not caught in time, belts were damaged. Automatic return training idlers were installed every 100-feet on section eight; and were installed in varying intervals on the remaining sections. As a result, the operation is not experiencing any alignment issues on the overland system. They no longer need to monitor the system on a daily basis; and the maintenance crew can be assigned to key efficiency upgrades and critical preventive maintenance.
Another Texas-based operation wanted to eliminate belt mistracking on the side conveyor of a mobile track-mounted cone crushing plant. The misalignment was causing considerable material spillage during material transfer; and when running empty, the maintenance crew had to place hold-down rollers on the belt to hold it down. It was a situation that required continuous attention as they had to adjust the conveyor belt after each travel of the tracks, and after each transport of the plant to a new location. They placed an automatic return training idler at the point where the side conveyor angles. After its installation, the belt remains constantly centered regardless of any material buildup on other rollers, or regardless of the movement or placement of the machine.
When choosing a belt trainer, Felton says to make sure that the return trainer is indeed automatic. “If a trainer is not automatic, it requires frequent adjustments – and that really defeats the purpose,” he says.
“Also, depending upon the brand one chooses, the return training idler is either a contact or contact-free product. Much of the industry prefers a return trainer that is contact-free, as this eliminates wear parts and any side contact to the belt. So, a contact-free trainer leads to longer wear life and less maintenance. Additionally, look for models featuring rubber lagging which sheds material and increases friction, keeping the belt aligned,” says Felton. He adds that trainers, such as the Superior Industries Navigator® Return Trainer, operate by using the gravity of the belt weight. “We feel using the weight of the belt to make the roller shift and thus track the belt is the most foolproof method,” he says, explaining that the misaligned belt puts pressure on one side of the training idler. The pressure causes the training idler to tilt and guide the belt back to center.
Considering the headaches of costly belt damage, material spillage, and maintenance labor – an investment in automatic belt training solutions is arguably a no-brainer.