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Key considerations for selecting optimal conveyor drive components for bulk material conveyor systems


Selecting proper drive components for a bulk material conveyance system can go a long way toward maintaining optimal performance and extending the lifetime of equipment. The severity of an application as determined by factors such as hours of operation, shock loading and cycles are some of the criteria designers must consider when making conveyor drive component choices. Appropriate ancillary components can significantly reduce the stress of long-term wear and tear on drive transmission equipment. Predictive and preventive maintenance programs are another key factor in ensuring that conveyor equipment operates at maximum efficiency. This article discusses the factors to consider when selecting conveyor drive components for bulk material handling systems, and how to ensure that conveyor systems run at their maximum productivity.

Several criteria affect the selection of power transmission components. The number of hours a drive system normally runs per day and the number of starts and stops it makes per hour help define the stress level on the motor and its ancillary components. The level of shock loading that a conveyor system will experience is another critical factor, as sudden imbalances in weight distribution can lead to wear and tear. Ambient temperature also affects wear and tear, since some equipment requires a specific temperature range for optimal performance. All of these affect the severity of the application and its service factor, or class of service, as defined by the American Gear Manufacturer’s Association (AGMA). Accurate, conservative determinations of these key factors will help in the selection of properly sized gear reducers and other components, thereby extending equipment lifetimes and avoiding costly downtime for maintenance.

A variety of ancillary components can help to maintain and extend the lifetimes of the motors and drive systems used for bulk material conveyance. System shocks are a main source of mechanical wear and tear on gears, belts and pulleys and a leading cause of line down events. Soft-start motor starters gradually move a motor at rest to full speed without accelerating too fast and shocking the system, while also conserving energy. Variable frequency drives (VFDs) can also be used to gradually control motor speed and torque by adjusting motor input frequency and voltage, extending motor life and further reducing system wear and tear. Using mechanical components like fluid couplings can also extend equipment life.

Modern material handling systems can provide dramatic improvements in productivity, significant cost savings and increases in profitability. By using advanced sensors and intelligent software systems, bulk material handling can further improve these systems’ benefits. Real-time system monitoring using heat, vibration and other advanced sensors can generate data that advanced software algorithms use to improve system efficiency. For example, these algorithms can predict maintenance requirements by comparing previously collected data to current measurements. These predictions can be much more accurate than recommended maintenance schedules, potentially reducing planned down time and significantly reducing unplanned down time — which can be a very expensive proposition. These algorithms can also more precisely identify the right time to order replacement parts and when adjustment or tuning of the conveyor is necessary.

In summary, the three-step process for creating an optimal bulk material conveyance system includes the following:

  1. Making a fully informed selection of the initial components
  2. Identifying opportunities to add ancillary components that prolong system life and save energy;
  3. Taking care of the system using advanced sensors and software algorithms to optimize conveyor tuning, device maintenance, repair and replacement to protect the investment.

Worldwide Electric Corporation is at the forefront of systemic and technological innovations that will help conveyor drive systems last longer and avoid downtime for maintenance. Keeping systems running smoothly and for as long as possible is the name of the game, and Worldwide Electric Corporation can help customers do just that.