Stress and Finite Element Analysis in Conveyor Pulleys

August 14, 2018

Conveyor belts may look like they’re doing all the work. In truth, though, it’s the pulleys that shoulder the load. They’re the workhorse system elements that support static items and dynamic loads. Ideally designed conveyor pulleys endure off-centre weights, transitory forces, and all manner of challenges. In order to incorporate such inherently serviceable design features, design engineers use several mathematically governed stress analysis tools, which we’ll now identify.

Stress Analysis

As defined previously, this engineering domain studies the loading factors that impact system performance. They’re the X and Y cartesian actions that tear at pulleys. Shear forces, cylindrical shaft bend moments, system deformation coefficients, and more, the discipline examines the stresses. Thanks to this field of study, new and improved conveyor pulleys can be designed with improved features, including purpose-designed cladding and stiffer shafts. From belt tension to the drive system bearings, every variable is modelled.

Why is Finite Element Analysis Important?

Modelling software is now used to study shaft and cylinder bending effects, plus the belt/drive tensioning influences that tug at the conveyor pulleys. They cause bearing wear and drive misalignments, as well as premature shortening of the equipment’s estimated lifespan. Finite Element Analysis (FEA) takes this force-dissecting discipline to another level entirely. Simulations are run, differential equations applied, and advanced testing methodologies utilized. Remember, component failures have costly financial ramifications here, so the chosen analysis toolkit must be capable of pinpointing these potentially weak points before the equipment is put into full service.

Initiating An FEA Program

The weld points between the various drum segments are built to deliver load-bearing stability. Now, if we’re to formulate our failure prediction model, drive force measurements and stress loading vectors need to be determined. Friction coefficients come next, with their measurements finding their way into the FEA model. The “Finite Elements” are assembling and being plugged into the calculus-based equations. Oftimes, this mathematically intensive operation is left to a software application. It models the forces, measures the mutual interdependence of the elements, and it locates pulley weak points. With this report compiled, with the flaws corrected, the system load distributes uniformly, not as a pulley-wrecking force that bears down on a weak weld joint or cylinder element. 

Conveyor systems are entirely mechanical, but they’re obviously ruled by familiar engineering principles. Stress analysis studies examine those system-fatiguing forces from a mostly mechanically-oriented level. Finite element analysis is a little different. This field of study is mathematically driven. We need the numbers to “plug” into the software, and that job often falls into the hands of a team of knowledgeable maintenance techs.

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