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Extend Belt Life With Some Basic Maintenance and a Conveyor Belt Cleaner

Conveyor belt life can often be unfortunately shortened by something as simple as a failure to keep the belt clean — and while the people who manufacture the belts are profiting from your loss, it can really hit your bottom line hard. Not only do you have to buy and install a new belt, but your entire process is halted while that happens, costing you days of downtime in addition to the literal cost of the belt.

There are a few different problems that can happen when you don’t maintain your belts. First, small particles can attach themselves to the inside of the belt, getting crushed into it as it passes the pulleys. This causes the belt to get stretched every time that thicker area passes over the pulleys, eventually causing the belt to slip or split at the splice.

Second, larger sharper particles can get wedged into the belt and then catch on an impact saddle or other piece of machinery and begin making a long, continuous scratch in the belt that will eventually cause the belt to split lengthwise.

Finally, particles can get into the pulley mechanism itself and build up, slowly increasing friction and either heating up the pulley or slowing it down — either one of which can result in long-term problems.

Fortunately, all you need is a bit of basic maintenance and a decent conveyor belt cleaner setup to keep your belts lasting for their full lifetimes.

  • First, use a air compressor and blow off the inside edge of the belt a few times a day. It takes only a minute if you have everything set up and in place. Alternately, use a plough scraper or, if you have a grooved belt, a belt brush set up along the inside surface of the belt.
  • Suffice it to say, the outside of the belt deserves the same or better care than the inside; getting the appropriate kind of cleaner set up for the outside surface is critical.
  • Denatured alcohol is a good cleaner for most kinds of conveyor belt. Avoid solvents or harsh cleaners unless they’re specifically intended for your kind of belt: synthetic rubber, PVC, and polyurethane are common materials in conveyor belts and all of them react violently to different cleaners. Contact your belts’ manufacturer if you have any questions.

How to Buy an Industrial Hydraulic Power Unit

Hydraulic power units (HPUs) are everywhere — many jackhammers, most auto lifts that mechanics walk under, many fishing boats’ net-haulers, almost every big yellow machine you see at a construction site all use hydraulic power units. Obviously they come in quite a variety — how do you know you’re getting the right one for your needs?

At it’s simplest, when you need a single HPU to power a single tool, the answer is usually written right on (or in the instruction booklet of) the tool in question. You need an HPU that provides at least enough actual hydraulic fluid to power the tool (for handheld tools, a half-gallon is usually all you need, but for industrial applications, a 250 gallon tank isn’t unheard of.) It also needs to supply adequate pressure to get the job done — your typical hydraulic jackhammer, for example, won’t function at less than 1300 psi.

But the simplest is hardly adequate to most industrial applications. If you’re, say, a machine shop, and you need a single hydraulic power unit that can provide hydraulic power to a dozen different metal grinders, pipe benders, sheet stampers, and so forth, you’ve got a lot more to worry about than just matching one machine’s numbers to another’s.

Fortunately, it’s still not all that difficult — many providers have or can custom-build a hydraulic manifold that can ensure that, as long as your HPU is capable of producing adequate flow and pressure to handle all of the jobs you want to simultaneously accomplish, each tool gets the right amount of fluid at the right pressure. Such a manifold will have pressure-reducing valves and both automatic and controllable switches that will ensure no machine gets too much pressure or fluid for it’s own operation, but all machines get enough of each.

Those aren’t the only details — there are other considerations that range from the possible need to move your HPU to different areas at different times, or matching the power consumption of your HPU to the type of power provided by your shop’s outlets — but those should mostly be intuitive for your typical shop manager.

A Word On Laboratory Air Compressor Systems

medical air compressor system does not necessarily make a good laboratory compressor system.  Medical air compressor systems are designed to deliver clean, 50 psi, breathing air as specified by a CSA Standard.  Laboratories may not be best served by a medical air compressor.  Here are some things to think about when procuring a laboratory compressor system

OIL-LESS VERSUS LUBRICATED

Oil-less air compressors are expensive relative to lubricated compressors.  Today’s tight budgeting has required the installation of lubricated compressors in laboratories where the low risk of compressor lubricant in the compressed air is acceptable.

PRESSURE

The 50 psi pressure supplied by a medical air compressor is often not enough for a laboratory.  Laboratory equipment may require 80 to 120 psi pressure.  Determine from the user what pressure is required.  A compressor running start/stop will need to shut off at a pressure 20 to 40 psi above the required pressure to allow for pressure switch  differential, purification pressure loss, pressure regulation and pipeline pressure drop.

CUBIC FEET FREE AIR PER MINUTE VS. CUBIC FEET COMPRESSED AIR PER MINUTE

Compressors are usually rated in CFM free air.  This should be the quantity of air delivered referenced to the compressor inlet conditions.  Cubic feet compressed air equates to free air as follows

Hence, at 80 PSIG, 35 CFM free air equals 5.4 CFM compressed air.

Years ago Peerless Engineering was requested by a consultant to supply a 10 HP, 35 cubic feet free air per minute compressor to a laboratory facility.  It was determined after installation that 35 cubic feet compressed air per minute was required.  To quote Homer Simpson “Do’h!”

The solution was to install a second 50 HP, 175 cubic feet free air per minute compressor.  However, the building was plumbed with only ½ inch compressed air lines.  To quote Homer Simpson again “Do’h!”.

DELIVERED CUBIC FEET VS. INLET CUBIC FEET

Some compressor manufacturers rate their compressor by inlet cubic feet per minute which equals delivered air divided by the volumetric efficiency.   Given that the volumetric efficiency of a compressor can be 70%, rating a compressor by inlet cubic feet per minute makes that compressor look much better to the naïve.

DEW POINT

Compressed air dried to a pressure dew point of -40°C by a desiccant air dryer costs more to make than compressed air dried to a pressure dew point of +4°C by a refrigerated air dryer.  Many laboratories only require compressed air with an acceptable relative humidity at maximum pipeline pressure and minimum pipeline temperature.  This can often be accomplished by a refrigerated air dryer at a lower cost.

Follow Ron Magnolo on Twitter @ronm_peerlesse.