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Causes of conveyor belt downtime

05 December 2016

All conveyor belts have a finite life, even metal belts. However, the majority of conveyor belts actually fail during use in a production environment owing to factors that are unrelated to their robustness or strength. We list the main reasons for this. 

Conveyor belt failure usually results in process line downtime, which equates to lost production and lost profits. Wire Belt Company has identified the most common issues that it has found to be the reason for belting breakdowns. These include:

1. Poor or incomplete splicing: This is the most common cause of belt breakdown. Getting the splice right is a difficult and time-consuming task, but many splices are made in haste, often being put together ‘on-the-fly’ following a breakdown. Almost 90% of conveyor belt breakages during production occur at the splice. Wire Belt Company can offer the EZSplice strand to aid belt splicing and improve belt life.

2. Accidents to the conveyor machinery and belt: Accidents can be minimised through the establishment of standardised maintenance checklists and the proper training of maintenance personnel.

3. Too much tension on the belt: Over tensioning a belt can literally pull it apart. Wire Belt Company has overcome this problem with its Flat-Flex low-tension belt which requires only enough tension to engage the drive sprockets correctly. 

4. Improper clearance between belt joints (Z-bends) and drive sprockets, blanks, grooved end rollers and/or wear strip: The Z-bends should never make contact with any conveyor component. Wire Belt Company advises a minimum 5mm clearance. There also needs to be sufficient clearance between the Z-bends on the underside of the belt and the bottom of the grooves in the transfer rollers. The belt joints on the underside of the belt running over any portion of the wear strips will produce wear and fatigue failure.

5. Worn out or damaged drive components: Worn drive sprockets, idler sprockets, or blanks, can cause a belt to skip, drift side to side or slip on a conveyor circuit. All of these conditions will cause either premature wear or induce work hardening in the individual wire strands leading to broken wires and downtime.

6. Transfer or reverse bend radii too small: This causes unnecessary stress in the z-bends.

7. Drive sprockets out of alignment: The drive sprocket teeth must be perfectly aligned so that they all pull together smoothly to avoid ‘stress overload’ on individual wire strands. Using a ‘keyed’ drive shaft eliminates the need to manually align the sprocket teeth.

8. Using the wrong mesh belt for the current application: Products and processes change over the years. The conveyor and belt that were designed for a specific product and process several years ago may no longer be appropriate or heavy duty enough for the demands of the current application. The impact of product loading and belt speed on belt life needs to be re-evaluated on an on-going basis.

9. Belt installed and run upside down: There is a smooth ‘top’ side to Flat-Flex belts and an ‘underside’ where the Z-bends form a distinct ‘ridge’. The smooth side should always be ‘up’ for the belt to run properly.

10. Installing the belt backwards: The single or double loop edges on the belt should curve back and away from the direction of belt travel. If the belt is installed backwards, the loops can catch clothing of staff, for example, causing accidents.

11. No spare belt: It is important to always have a spare belt available, close to the point of use, in order to be prepared for the unexpected. It is a false economy not to carry spare belting or to make arrangements for rapid availability. 

12. Maintenance teams: Hygiene and maintenance teams need to be properly trained to ensure that the correct conveyor belt clearances are still in place after cleaning or servicing of equipment.

The factors that can have an effect on the life of a metal conveyor belt are many and varied. The Wire Belt Company can offer a number of solutions to the causes of downtime and is also able to offer advice about maximising belt life.


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