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2020 / 2021 Edition

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Belt Maintenance Made Easy

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Maintenance & Repair

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Having the right tools on hand and applying basic belt repair safety guidelines can help make belt maintenance faster and easier, ensuring downtime is kept to the minimum

By Kevin Finnegan, market manager – heavy duty, Flexco

When unexpected maintenance or repairs bring conveyor belts to a standstill, the time lost can result in significantly reduced production and profit. Recent product and tool innovations now offer new solutions that can save time without sacrificing the strength, consistency and quality of the repair.

The major benefits of having rapid belt maintenance and effective on-site repair can help keep periods of downtime to the absolute minimum. The following are some of the tools and procedures that all maintenance personnel should regard as indispensable to efficient operation, and should always have on hand and ready for use.

Safety first

Safety is not generally regarded as a product innovation. However, maintenance engineers 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 always be an essential part of any repair operation.

Manufacturers offer a variety of materials and programmes to assist in this effort. Flexco, for example, have developed a comprehensive online training tool called the ‘Safety Task Training Programs’.

With the Flexco website serving as the portal, maintenance personnel can download information on four essential tasks:

  • lockout/tagout measures that help reduce the hazards associated with accidental belt start-up
  • 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
  • skiving procedures that simplify the removal of the conveyor belt top cover for countersinking mechanical splicing flush with the belt surface.

Each of the safety programmes ends with an examination that will help personnel test and identify the level of proficiency achieved. The information, also available on CD, provides instruction and guidance for field personnel and can be printed and used at the job site for quick reference.

Straight, square cuts

Effective belt repairs start with straight, square cuts. Doing the job with a knife is both inexact and potentially unsafe, and the wider the belt, the greater the margin for imprecision and error.

Portable, lightweight belt cutters make it easier to achieve straighter, squarer cuts with more uniformity and improved safety. 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 up to 1in (12–25mm), and for belt widths up to 84in (900–2,130mm). The belt cutting procedure itself is not appreciably faster than alternate methods.

The preliminary steps taken to properly measure and achieve 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.

Successful skiving

Compact and fully portable, belt skivers are another essential tool in the belt repairer’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, prolongs the life of the splice and prevents 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. The impact between cleaner blades and fasteners is virtually eliminated, allowing cleaners to operate more effectively, while adding to the operating life of both the cleaner blades and the fasteners.

Routine maintenance is reduced because there is less material dropping from the belt and, therefore, less clean up. The operation is quieter too, because fastener contact with the cleaner is minimized.

Some skivers, such as Flexco’s FSK, are very compact (11.5in long, 8.25in wide and 6in high), lightweight (under 20lbs) and completely portable. The tool does not require electrical power, so it is easy to use throughout the entire job site. Also, the self-contained design does not require a separate guide track and winch.

Faster Installation

Other tools have been specifically developed to increase the speed and precision of fastener installation. Many of these tools, including power-driven belt repair tools, are fully portable and easy to operate, resulting in faster repairs and less wear and tear on the operator.

Air-operated rivet drivers function similar to a drill or impact wrench, and are designed for easy one-hand operation. They eliminate the potential dangers associated with manual hammering and also simplify repairs in locations with tight clearances.

Collated rivet sets, designed for use with specific air-operated rivet drivers, further speed up 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 5s. When rivets are loaded individually, the process takes approximately 35s.

Versatile belt lifters (1.810kg), which serve as a belt line maintenance tool, safely lift fully loaded belts. When raised they provide ample workspace for safe and easy changing of worn-out rollers, maintaining impact beds or establishing a splicing station. Some of these compact units extend easily in confined areas and are able to achieve vertical lifts up to 16in (400mm).

Having such tools readily available on site will help maintenance personnel safely respond to unanticipated belt downtime more efficiently from a time standpoint, and more effectively in terms of lasting repairs.

Whether purchased individually or as a repair set, they quickly pay for themselves through reductions 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.

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