Belt Maintenance: Successful Conveying for Maximum Efficiency

Conveyor belt breakdowns can be damaging to customer confidence, as well as to the reputations of airports and airlines alike. Plus, repair times can be lengthy and costly. Proper selection and preventive maintenance practices form the best combination...


Conveyor belt breakdowns can be damaging to customer confidence, as well as to the reputations of airports and airlines alike. Plus, repair times can be lengthy and costly. Proper selection and preventive maintenance practices form the best combination for productive, effective, and economical baggage handling operations. This involves a careful analysis of belt splicing methods, proper selection of fasteners, and the use of several portable installation tools.

Belt splicing practices
Proper belt splicing is often the most critical aspect of conveyor system maintenance. The conveyor belt is one of the few components that receive regular, heavy wear.

There are two basic methods — vulcanization and mechanical fasteners — to connect conveyor belt ends together. Vulcanization is the process of fabricating two belt ends together, using heat or chemical activation, to make the belt a continuous, endless length. Mechanical fasteners, on the other hand, physically attach a row of fasteners to each belt end. The fasteners are then meshed together and connected with a hinge pin. An increasing number of large international airports, including Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, the Dubai International Airport in Bangkok, and Sydney International Airports, have selected and relied upon mechanical fasteners for efficient conveyor belt operation.

Mechanical Fasteners vs. Vulcanization
Mechanical fasteners offer distinct advantages when it comes to fast, reliable repairs. They are easy to install and require only basic mechanical skills for maintenance personnel. Unlike vulcanized splices, the wear on the splice is visually apparent, allowing maintenance crews to complete a repair during scheduled downtime. Because the splices are hinged or separable, they can be installed or replaced quickly and economically without having to disassemble the conveyor system or remove the belt from the conveyor structure.

Vulcanized splices operate quietly, do not mark the conveyed product, and provide a strong, long lasting splice. At the same time, they take considerably longer and cost substantially more than mechanical fasteners to install and repair. Often, contracted, skilled installation personnel and expensive equipment are needed. Even if spare belts are kept on hand for emergency use, repairs require additional downtime while the conveyor structure is partially disassembled during belt installation. A vulcanized splice can take from six to eight hours to complete, once an installation crew arrives. The process involves cutting, trimming and fitting belt ends as well as applying appropriate compounds, cooking the belt under heat and pressure, and allowing the belt to cool. Mechanical splices, on the other hand, involve only a few inches of the belt. Typically, a reliable mechanical splice can be installed by one person in approximately 20 minutes, start to finish.

Fastener Selection
Suitable mechanical fasteners come in a broad variety of shapes and sizes. Each is designed with a common purpose — to maintain top productivity. Different compositions and styled fasteners make selection an important overall consideration. The specific application and working environment generally dictate which fastener is best.

For baggage belt loading systems, generally 24" (600 mm) wide, wire hooks offer a low-profile, yet strong splice with minimal wear on conveyor components and the baggage being conveyed. They are also compatible with conveyor components and compliant with the need to reduce operating noise. They are available in a variety of wire diameters, leg and point lengths, strip lengths and styles. When used with specially designed lacers they provide a precise, strong and smooth splice. Clipper® Wire Hooks, for example, are designed for belt thicknesses ranging from 3/64" to 25/64" (1.2 mm to 10 mm). The recommended maximum operating tension is up to 200 P.I.W. (35 kN/m) and minimum pulley diameter is 5/16" to 7" (24 mm to 175 mm).

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