It can be difficult to identify a problem with conveyor systems. What may seem like a minor issue can quickly become a major problem that can lead to lost productivity, safety concerns, and long downtime.
Jason Coe, National Heavy Duty Field Expert, and Adam Wright (Western Australia Manager at Flexco), are both experts in the field of conveyor belts. They share their top tips and tricks for conveyor maintenance with Australian mining.
What are the main causes of conveyor failure and problems?
Adam: Conveyor problems are often caused by carryback. Mistracking, spillage, and slippage are just a few of the issues that can arise.
Jason: Carryback refers to fine products that get stuck to your belt. It can be carried down the line, causing all kinds of problems. It can catch on idlers or rollers, causing the belt to flop. It can also fall onto the conveyor structure, causing hang-up issues and causing a mess.
How can we prevent carryback?
Adam: Belt cleaners are one way to prevent carryback. The cleaner’s purpose is to get rid of any carryback on the conveyor and place it in a controlled environment. Although you can’t eliminate all carryback, a cleaner will do their best job.
Jason: When the conveyor belt runs into a structure, mistracking occurs. This can cause belt damage, which can lead to structural damage.
How can mistracking not be prevented?
Adam: The industry standard is actually a quick fix. This is tracking frames. They are economical and serve the purpose by essentially tracking the conveyor back centrally.
A tracking frame can be used to grab the belt and place it back centrally if mistracking is an issue. This prevents the belt from digging into the structure, causing damage.
What is Slippage? How can you avoid it?
Jason: Slippage occurs when the belt slides on the conveyor pulleys. It mainly happens on drive pulleys. The pulley can become clogged with debris or the lagging could be damaged, especially if it is not installed correctly. The lagging will not grip, and can cause conveyor wear, premature belt wear, or even fire.
This can be prevented by making sure the lagging is properly installed and in good order. Regular maintenance is important – along with keeping the conveyor clean and all its parts clean.
What does spillage mean and how can we prevent it?
Jason: When excess product is dropped from the conveyor belt and is carried along the line. The goal of mining companies is to get as much product as possible shipped, so it’s important that there’s as little product on the ground as possible. Spillage can lead to downtime and increase costs for cleaning up. You want to ensure that the product is on the belt. You should always be watching your chutes to ensure that the belt is in its centre. This will prevent spillage.
Can a conveyor have multiple of these issues simultaneously?
Adam: Absolutely. Carryback can cause a lot more problems. It can cause your belt to flap, which can lead to cleaners not working properly. This can result in lagging. Carryback can cause so many problems.
You can have a problem at the head pulley and it won’t affect the rest of the system.
What maintenance strategy would you recommend?
Jason: It is important to inspect conveyors and belt cleaners on a weekly basis. It is essential that conveyor systems be maintained clean. It is important to hose them off regularly. They have moving parts and need regular maintenance.
Why is visual inspection so important?
Jason: These conveyors can be used 24/7. You might have walked it yesterday, but there may have been something caught in it tomorrow. You should walk around the belt to avoid any problems. It’s easy to get lost in a computer system or assume everything is fine. But it’s only when you actually walk through the system and record what happened that you can really understand how it works.
Do you have a specific skill set or tool that is required for visual inspection?
Adam: It’s important to not just throw people in the deep end. People are still learning how to inspect and make quick repairs, but this is a very specialist area. Training should be provided before these tasks can be performed.
The auditing process is another important part of managing conveyor systems. Why is it so important?
Jason: Audits are great as things change constantly. Conveyors in australia can be accelerated so that original cleaners, which may have been used in construction but were running at a slower speed, may not be suitable for their purpose.
Audits can focus on all four of these key issues. These issues can be picked up, recorded and presented to decision-makers on the spot. Mining companies have a great advantage by conducting regular audits.
What happens in an audit process?
Jason: We take a walk around the conveyor and inspect it from the tail to its head. We inspect all the pulleys and watch the belt run.
The key is to simply walk along the conveyors. It’s important to visual inspect what’s happening.