A conveyor system is often the lifeline to a company’s ability to effectively move its product in a timely fashion. The steps that a company can take to ensure that it performs at peak capacity, include regular inspections, close monitoring of motors and reducers, keeping key parts in stock, and proper training of personnel.

Increasing the service life of your conveyor system involves: choosing the right conveyor type, the right system design and paying attention to regular maintenance practices.

A conveyor system that is designed properly will last a long time with proper maintenance. Here are six of the biggest problems to watch for in overhead type conveyor systems including I-beam monorails, enclosed track conveyors and power and free conveyors.

Poor take-up adjustment: This is a simple adjustment on most systems yet it is often it is overlooked. The chain take-up device ensures that the chain is pulled tight as it leaves the drive unit. As wear occurs and the chain lengthens, the take-up extends under the force of its springs. As they extend, the spring force becomes less and the take-up has less effect. Simply compress the take-up springs and your problem goes away. Failure to do this can result in chain surging, jamming, and extreme wear on the track and chain. Take-up adjustment is also important for any conveyor using belts as a means to power rollers, or belts themselves being the mover. With poor-take up on belt-driven rollers, the belt may twist into the drive unit and cause damage, or at the least a noticeable decrease or complete loss of performance may occur. In the case of belt conveyors, a poor take-up may cause drive unit damage or may let the belt slip off of the side of the chassis.

Lack of lubrication: Chain bearings require lubrication in order to reduce friction. The chain pull that the drive experiences can double if the bearings are not lubricated. This can cause the system to overload by either its mechanical or electrical overload protection. On conveyors that go through hot ovens, lubricators can be left on constantly or set to turn on every few cycles.

Contamination: Paint, powder, acid or alkaline fluids, abrasives, glass bead, steel shot, etc. can all lead to rapid deterioration of track and chain. Ask any bearing company about the leading cause of bearing failure and they will point to contamination. Once a foreign substance lands on the raceway of a bearing or on the track, pitting of the surface will occur, and once the surface is compromised, wear will accelerate. Building shrouds around your conveyors can help prevent the ingress of contaminants. Or, pressurize the contained area using a simple fan and duct arrangement. Contamination can also apply to belts (causing slippage, or in the case of some materials premature wear), and of the motors themselves. Since the motors can generate a considerable amount of heat, keeping the surface clean is an almost-free maintenance procedure that can keep heat from getting trapped by dust and grime, which may lead to motor burnout.

Product Handling: In conveyor systems that may be suited for a wide variety of products, such as those in distribution centers, it is important that each new product be deemed acceptable for conveying before being run through the materials handling equipment. Boxes that are too small, too large, too heavy, too light, or too awkwardly shaped may not convey, or may cause many problems including jams, excess wear on conveying equipment, motor overloads, belt breakage, or other damage, and may also consume extra man-hours in terms of picking up cases that slipped between rollers, or damaged product that was not meant for materials handling. If a product such as this manages to make it through most of the system, the sortation system will most likely be the affected, causing jams and failing to properly place items where they are assigned. It should also be noted that any and all cartons handled on any conveyor should be in good shape or spills, jams, downtime, and possible accidents and injuries may result.

Drive Train: Notwithstanding the above, involving take-up adjustment, other parts of the drive train should be kept in proper shape. Broken O-rings on a Lineshaft, pneumatic parts in disrepair, and motor reducers should also be inspected. Loss of power to even one or a few rollers on a conveyor can mean the difference between effective and timely delivery, and repetitive nuances that can continually cost downtime.

Bad Belt Tracking or Timing: In a system that uses precisely controlled belts, such as a sorter system, regular inspections should be made that all belts are traveling at the proper speeds at all times. While usually a computer controls this with Pulse Position Indicators, any belt not controlled must be monitored to ensure accuracy and reduce the likelihood of problems. Timing is also important for any equipment that is instructed to precisely meter out items, such as a merge where one box pulls from all lines at one time. If one were to be mistimed, product would collide and disrupt operation. Timing is also important wherever a conveyor must "keep track" of where a box is, or improper operation will result.

Since a conveyor system is a critical link in a company’s ability to move its products in a timely fashion, any disruption of its operation can be costly. Most “downtime” can be avoided by taking steps to ensure a system operates at peak performance, including regular inspections, close monitoring of motors and reducers, keeping key parts in stock, and proper training of personnel.

2010-04-09

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Care and Maintenance of Conveyor Systems

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