Prolonging the shelf-life of a conveyor belt is of utmost importance, not just to allow a materials handling system to function better — it reduces operational running costs in the long term.
An unconventional new German invention enables this, simply by approaching the situation from a slightly different angle.
Conveyor belts are continuously subject to wear and tear no matter what industry they're operating in — be it mining, construction, or general materials handling applications.
In order to alleviate the effect rough materials can have on conveyor belts, engineers have tended towards the use of conveyor belt scrapers.
Conveyor belt scrapers are typically installed parallel to the opposite direction of the material flow, and are pressed against the drum in front of the conveyor pulley in order to perform their 'scraping' cleaning function below the discharge zone.
"The main idea behind the use of conveyor belt scrapers is to keep a belt clean, smooth and damage-free, for as long as possible and to avoid excessive clean-up cost around the pulley because this saves a lot of money," Richard Hodey, managing director of Australia Belt Cleaning Systems, told IndustrySearch.
A German-engineering device, the CleanScrape, has taken prime position in the European market and is now available in Australia and New Zealand, Hodey said, whose company is the exclusive distributor.
"It's different from conventional conveyor cleaning systems available on the market because is it works diagonally," Hodey said.
Conventional systems have to get pressed against the drum in front of the pulley, spare parts are needed frequently to perform the cleaning results, adjustments needs to be done on regular basis as well.
"The CleanScrape is tensioned onto the drum," Hodey said.
"Because it's diagonal, it hugs around the drum, below the discharge zone. In this way, there is not so much pressure in front of the pulley against the belt."
So how does the CleanScrape's diagonal positioning enable it to clean the conveyor belt more effectively?
"Its diagonal positioning allows it to be in contact with all parts of the drum in front of the pulley — it goes from the left site 'three o'clock' position to the right bottom 'six o'clock' position below the discharge zone. You have it strapped around a quarter of the drum's diameter," Hodey said.
"There are hardened metal brackets which are vulcanised into the scraper, each 5cm wide next to each other, so we are able to bend and tension a hardened metal edge around the drum using a gas spring tensioner. It cleans the belt evenly.
"For example, with the parallel system, the scraper is getting pressed onto the drum, therefore they have higher wear and tear; they require spare parts and adjustments on a regular base which is costly in the long run.
"CleanScrape doesn't require any spare parts for its life time, is nearly maintenance free, self adjusting and can cope with any belt joiners which are currently on the market without getting damaged."
Hodey stresses, however, having a conveyor belt scraper isn't the only part of a well-engineered conveyor belt system.
"It's not only the conveyor belt scraper that contributes to the longer life of a conveyor belt — the principle lies behind how you divert the material off or onto the belt," he said.
Australian Belt Cleaning Company also supplies a pipe segment piece, the Chute. With the Chute, made in Germany by IBS, pipe segment pieces and pipe pieces will be mounted on the transfer piece of a connection head (angular to circular) at the transfer curve.
At the end of the transfer station is a so-called discharge piece with a discharge joint in order to lead the material stream onto the belt in an optimum way (symmetrical belt load) which diverts the material from one belt to the next with, in most cases, no need of a dump station.
"This head pulley has an integrated primary diagonal scraper, the CleanScrape PDC, our secondary scraper, the CleanScrape SDC, and a screw conveyor under the pulley to avoid any material loss which goes straight back into the conveyor stream, where no clean-up cost is required, Hodey said
"How you avoid damage to the surface of the belt is by using a proper chute to divert the material into the direction of the material flow.
"For example, in the mining industry, you might have a 200-300kg rock — if it drops onto the belt, it's going to cause damage and the conveyor belt surface is going to become rougher.
"If you have a chute, it diverts the material onto the next belt in the direction of the material flow — smoothly."
With this setup, according to Hodey, you have less belt damage, and, using the CleanScraper, the material flow is much smoother, and it cleans up the sticky material off the belt.
"All of this together will enable a longer belt life for your production, where you won't have as much downtime," Hodey said.
"The belt (and roller) costs are therefore lower, as are the energy costs."
Another thing that sets the CleanScrape apart from conventional conveyor cleaning systems, is the fact it is nearly maintenance free — a sure-fire sign you're going to get a clear-cut investment, according to Hodey.
"You don't have to maintain the CleanScrape; there is no need to adjust anything. You don't have carry out maintenance as frequently to replace spare parts," Hodey said.
"Where dust and sand can normally wear out a conveyor belt relatively soon under normal conditions, the CleanScrape takes 95 per cent of material off the belt; with the secondary CleanScrape SDC it is close to 100 per cent, so there is next to no downtime.
"You therefore save on running costs in the long-term. For the initial price you pay, you're looking at a return on your investment in less than a year."
So can most industries benefit from this materials handling innovation?
"The CleanScrape can be applied to almost any conveyor belt system, without a pattern (such as Chevron belts)," Hodey said.
"It can be used for mining, building, quarries, salt, copper and iron ore and much more. Each belt, with a smooth surface, has to be cleaned somehow — this is where our target market is. As long as the belt has a smooth surface, you can clean it using the CleanScrape."