Idlers for Belt Conveyors: The Importance of Durability Testing

September 10, 2018

Before going any further, what are belt idlers? Granted, they support the belt, which, in turn, supports a moving load, but their capabilities don’t stop there, not just at supporting some random stream of moving merchandise. In addition to this key feature, belt idlers also shape the belt. They shape it, support it, and even help guide the conveyed materials so that they don’t go rolling off the belt.

Idlers for Belt Conveyors 

When a system is first commissioned, the equipment is properly tensioned and properly shaped. The load doesn’t vibrate or gyrate, nor does it create strange lateral fluttering motions. Every item on that conveyor belt is moving relentlessly and smoothly in one direction, thanks to the idler pulleys. One day, way in the future, hopefully, the idlers will encounter stress. They’ll wear down, aging to the point of failure. What happens next?

Incremental Idler Fatigue 

The idlers are squealing when they’re placed under load. It’s a tooth-rattling sound. Looking down at the products on the belt ribbon, they’re shifting, almost as if they’re restless. The idlers are experiencing visible wear and tear, and that visibility is being carried over to the long, flat belt, where the items are rolling and shifting. In a production environment, a place where item orientation is critical, that behaviour just isn’t going to cut it, not when there are other process steps to complete.

What’s Durability Testing? 

Computer modelling is one thing, but it’s hard to beat a real simulation, a place where mechanical items are tested under extreme conditions. For belt idlers, we’re talking about subjecting the pulleys to different levels of stress. The loads are static and dynamic, moving from side to side or hitting the simulation zone with impact. Pressurized dust and water testing lines are also spraying the test station, so the seals receive a thorough workout. This is a laboratory environment, but it’s essentially designed to simulate the conditions found inside a harsh operational environment. Production or packaging, mining or quarrying, the test stands imitate any work environment. 

Using this applied research methodology, system designers push idler pulleys to their limits. Without this test, expect conveyor system parts to last a year. A superior maintenance program will double that length of time. Durability testing programs further extend that period with new revisions to the design. Superior lubricants, labyrinth-sealed bearings, tougher alloys, and more, every simulation run further improves pulley performance. Without this R&D phase (Research and Development), poor product handling is likely, as is a premature end to the equipment’s lifespan.

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