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Keep Things Moving Along with a Conveyor Belt Cleaner and Impact Saddles

Conveyor belts — serious conveyor belts, not the ones you use at the grocery store — can take a heck of a beating over a pretty short period of time. When you’re pulling cubic tons of ore or coal out of the earth — or “just” moving several hundred thousand pounds of freshly-minted roofing nails out of the foundry and into some cargo trucks — you’ve got belts that have Stonehenge’s weight in sharp, viciously pointy rock and metal dropped on them every hour.

Needless to say, there are some problems that can arise…but for every problem, human ingenuity eventually produces a solution. For conveyor belts, we have the impact saddle and the conveyor belt cleaner.

The Conveyor Belt Cleaner
Conveyor belts all operate the same basic way: you’ve got a long series of rollers with a belt of some usually-rubberlike material running along it. At the end of the series, the belt rolls around the final roller and starts coming back the other way. Usually, this is exactly what you want, but when you get something stuck into the belt, that roll-around sometimes isn’t enough to get the sharp item dislodged from the belt. If it continues along back the way it came, it can get jammed in the machinery along the underside of the belt and — worst case — act like a knife, cutting the belt as the belt continues to rotate past.

Enter the conveyor belt cleaner. These clever contraptions come in a variety of forms, from a simple bulldozer-like blade that scrapes away anything stuck in the belt to a brush or set of rubber ‘wipers’ that spin in the direction opposite the way the conveyor belt is moving. With a conveyor belt cleaner, even if something does get stuck in your belt, you can be assured it’s not going to end up destroying the entire thing.

The Impact Saddle
As you might imagine, the most dangerous place for any conveyor belt is the place where the tons of sharp, pointy material land on it. Typical rollers — generally a set of three bars, one horizontal in the middle and one diagonal on either side — leave gaps where the bars meet that don’t actually support the belt. If a sharp object hits that spot just right (and they will), it’ll pierce the belt and become a problem.

Impact saddles replace the traditional rollers with a U-shaped arrangement of solid rubber ‘bricks’ that the conveyor belt will slide right along. Because they support the entire conveyor belt equally, there are no weak spots where material can break through — saving an extraordinary amount of wear and tear on your belt.

No conveyor belt will last forever — there will always be maintenance costs in the budget — but with some proper prior planning, a conveyor belt cleaner, and impact saddles, you can slash a big chunk off of that maintenance budget and keep your margins high. All it takes is a bit of that human ingenuity.

A Layman’s Guide to Hydraulic Power Units

Hydraulic Power Units are machines that create mechanical force using fluids. HPUs (Hydraulic Power Units) are used in any industry in which large things need to be moved smoothly — construction, theme parks, farming, commercial fishing, and dozens more.

If you’ve seen a backhoe, loader, crane, power shovel, forklift, or garbage truck, you’ve seen an HPU in action. There’s an HPU in every set of the Jaws of Life as well. And of course, every mechanic uses a powerful hydraulic lifter to pick your car up and get to its underbelly.

One of the most commonplace hydraulic power units is in your car: the braking system of every car in the world uses an HPU. When you push the brake pedal in your car, you’re pushing hydraulic fluid (in this case commonly called ‘brake fluid’ for obvious reasons) into a hydraulic cylinder, which in turn pushes a piston, generating mechanical force that moves the brake pads up against the rotor, slowing your car. That’s why keeping your brake fluid levels topped off (and your brake lines free of air bubbles) is so important to your safety.

Hydraulics is a very powerful force because of a simple law of physics: while liquid can take on the shape of any container it’s put in, it cannot be compressed. What that means in short is that liquid can transfer force perfectly through almost any number of twists, turns, and corners without needing to involve a lot of gears, levers, and other mechanical parts prone to breakdown. Instead, the hydraulic fluid moves through hoses and tubes, using hydraulic valves to ensure it takes the path you need it to take in order to perform the task at hand.

Hydraulic fluid is almost always some combination of petroleum oil, water, and antifreeze — dependent on the specific job the machine is intended to perform. A hydraulic filter keeps the fluid free of contaminants, and when unused, the fluid sits in a special container made to remove air bubbles from the fluid. Thus, the fluid remains in working order for as long as possible, and your HPU can continue functioning continuously for years with minimal maintenance.

These powerful machines are among the most versatile (and surprisingly common) of our mechanical aids. Everyone ought to know at least a little bit about the hydraulic power units that help them throughout their lives.