Time doesn’t stand still. Neither should conveyor belts. But when unexpected maintenance or repairs bring belts to a standstill, only the clock moves forward, and the time lost can result in significantly reduced production and profit.
Recent product and tool innovations offer new solutions that can save time without sacrificing the strength, consistency and quality of the repair. Having the right tools on hand and applying basic belt repair safety guidelines can help make belt maintenance faster and easier, and help keep periods of downtime to the absolute minimum.
For the sake of convenience and effective repair, here are tools and procedures that all maintenance personnel should regard as indispensable to efficient operation, and should always have on hand.
Safety isn’t generally regarded as a product innovation. However, maintenance people should approach every repair with knowledge of – and training in – recommended safety procedures. These procedures include lockout/tagout, proper belt squaring, skiving and cutting measures, and fastener installation. Proper safety training, as well as regular reminders on safe operating procedures, should be an essential part of every repair operation.
Straight, Square Cuts
Effective belt repairs start with straight, square cuts. Doing the job with a knife is both inexact and potentially unsafe. What’s more, the wider the belt, the greater the margin for imprecision and error.
Portable, lightweight belt cutters make it easier to achieve straighter, squarer cuts, and to do so safely and with more uniformity. Their use helps maximize mechanical fastener splice life and minimize downtime because a properly squared belt distributes tension evenly across the splice. With belt ends properly squared, the problems associated with mistracking, such as premature belt and splice wear, load spillage and fastener pullouts, are less likely to occur.
Belt cutters are designed for belt thicknesses ranging up to 1 inch (12 to 25 millimeters) and for belt widths up to 84 inches (900 to 2,130 millimeters). By itself, the belt cutting procedure is not appreciably faster than alternate methods. Preliminary steps to properly measure and square belt ends still need to be undertaken, regardless of the cutting method. Instead, savings associated with a belt cutter stem from avoiding the time-consuming complications associated with imprecise cuts and the need to repeat the process.
Compact and fully portable belt skivers are another essential tool in the repair technician’s arsenal. Belt skivers remove the conveyor belt’s top cover in order to prepare a belt for countersunk fasteners. The skiver is specially designed to help ensure quick, safe and accurate top cover removal at various depths. It eliminates the danger and imprecise cuts that can result from hand-knife skiving. It is also a cleaner and faster alternative to a router since the skiver removes the top cover as one continuous strip, and does so in only a few minutes.
Skiving helps ensure proper fastener installation, which, in turn, helps prolong the life of the splice and prevent downtime.
A skived belt also works more effectively with belt cleaners. When fasteners are countersunk, fastener top plates are positioned flush to the conveyor belt’s top cover. Impact between cleaner blades and fasteners is virtually eliminated, enabling cleaners to operate more effectively, while adding to the operating life of both the cleaner blades and the fasteners. Routine maintenance is reduced because less materials drop from the belt and require cleanup. The operation is quieter, too, because fastener contact with the cleaner is minimized.
Some skivers are very compact (for example, 11.5" long, 8.25" wide and 6" high), lightweight (under 20 pounds) and completely portable. The tool shouldn’t require electrical power, so it’s easy to use throughout plants, warehouses and other facilities. The tool’s self-contained design does not require a separate guide track and winch.
Other tools have been developed to increase the speed and precision of fastener installation. Many of these are fully portable and easy to operate, resulting in faster repairs and less wear and tear on the user.
Portable, power-driven belt repair tools are also available. Air-operated rivet drivers function like a drill or impact wrench and are designed for one-hand operation. They eliminate the potential dangers associated with manual hammering. They also simplify repairs in locations with tight clearances.
Collated rivet sets, designed for use with specific air-operated rivet drivers, further speed splice installations. Tests have shown that some of these rivet strips, carrying as many as 40 rivets, can be loaded and ready for use in just five seconds. When rivets are loaded individually, the process takes approximately 35 seconds.
Keeping instruments like these readily available will help maintenance personnel safely respond to unanticipated belt downtime efficiently from a time standpoint, and effectively in terms of lasting repairs. Whether purchased individually or as a repair set, they quickly pay for themselves with decreases in both the number of repairs and the length of time taken to perform them. Furthermore, reducing potential risks found in routine belt conveyor maintenance can add up to long-term savings.
Training tools increase belt repair safety
Belt manufacturers offer a variety of materials and programs to assist in plant safety efforts. Flexible Steel Lacing Company (Flexco), for example, developed an online training tool called the Safety Task Training Programs.
With the Flexco Web site serving as the portal, maintenance personnel can download materials that describe four essential tasks. These include: lockout/tagout measures that help reduce the hazards associated with accidental belt startup; belt clamping procedures that draw belt ends together and hold them in place for mechanical splice installation; belt cutting guidelines to help ensure a straight, square belt end for optimum splice performance; and skiving procedures that simplify the removal of the conveyor belt top cover for countersinking mechanical splicing flush with the belt surface.
Each program ends with a test that helps takers identify their level of proficiency. Program materials are appropriate for group presentations. The information, also available on CD, provides instruction and guidance for personnel and can be applied toward annual training requirements. Plus, the downloaded info can be printed and used for quick reference.
Photo 1. Portable tools result in faster on-site repairs and less wear and tear on the maintenance mechanic and/or operator doing the work.
Photo 2. Belt skivers ensure proper fastener installation, resulting in longer operating life of the cleaner blades and fasteners.
Photo 3. Innovations such as bolt-on fasteners can significantly reduce the time it takes to install a splice.
About the author:
Kevin Finnegan is the market manager for heavy-duty products at Flexible Steel Lacing Company. To learn more, call 630-971-0150 or visit www.flexco.com.