May 22nd, 2018
Even the slightest movement or change in your conveyor operation can produce some of the largest consequences if a belt becomes mistracked. There are multiple causes of belt mistracking, including misalignment of rollers or pulleys, an incorrectly installed splice, or material buildup. During peak order fulfillment times when your operation needs to work at full speed and full capacity, these glitches can have a significant impact on your productivity. And, if the belts are not adjusted quickly and correctly, it can cause subsequent, difficult-to-fix damage to the conveyor.
Flexco always recommends keeping a keen eye on belt mistracking causes, and taking appropriate steps to quickly assess and address the damage. Without careful attention, a mistracked belt can lead to any of these six potential problems:
- Battered Belt
If a belt is off track and continually running into a structure, damage to the belt is inevitable. This can shave layers off the belt until there is little left, and/or begin to degrade the overall width of the belt. Over time, this will reduce the amount of material the belt can carry, affecting production output.
- Suffering Structures
Not only can this friction damage the belt, it can also lead to significant damage to the structure where the mistracked belt is contacting it.
- Missing Materials
A mistracked belt not only runs the risk of losing width and reducing the amount of material it can carry; it also poses a threat to spill material onto the area around it. This can result in lost productivity and profitability.
- Sacrificing Safety
Spilling material is not just costly, it can be dangerous. Employees can be at risk of falling material and the hazards presented by unexpected pileups. In extreme scenarios, the friction of a mistracked belt rubbing against the structure can even become a source of ignition.
- Facing Fines
Because of the inherent safety and structural risks of a mistracked belt, there are regulations in place to avoid such situations. In the U.S., for example, MSHA enacted code 30CFR 75.1731, specifically citing that “conveyor belts must be properly aligned to prevent the moving belt from rubbing against the structure or components.” Failure to comply with these regulations may lead to costly fines and/or work stoppages.
- Do It Yourself Disasters
For most operations, it’s not realistic to totally overhaul or replace the conveyor, so many turn to homemade solutions or temporary fixes that could actually make the problem worse. Attaching side rollers to the conveyor isn’t effective because belts prefer to pull, not push, so forces of physics are working against the belt. A solution that involves friction —skewing the roller in comparison to the direction of belt can be an effective fix – along with affecting the tension profile on one edge to make the belt naturally “walk away” from the higher tension.
The Ideal Solution
Of the viable solutions, field testing has demonstrated that a combination of both friction and tension is the best way to put a belt back on track when the structure can’t be aligned. Many equipment manufacturers offer a steel return roller with an edge roller next to it that causes it to pivot or skew relative to the travel of the belt. The problem with this method? The belt edge strikes the roller with heavy force without much effect, exerting heavy pressure to the belt edge. This approach can generate high force into the roller, potentially damaging the belt.
To avoid heavy pressure exertion, Flexco recommends choosing a tracker with a “pivot and tilt” design that provides friction and changes the tension profile of the belt. When both the pivoting and tilting mechanisms work in tandem, they are more than three times as effective at restoring belts back to the center of the conveyor.
Operations that are experiencing belt mistracking issues have a number of solutions at their fingertips, but just need to ensure that the solution they implement takes into consideration protecting the belts from further long-term damage.
Authored By: Kevin Fales, Product Manager
Fales manages the belt conveyor product (BCP) line, providing product development and engineering with guidance on market requirements for both new product concepts and existing products. He also leads the development of technical and promotional literature supporting BCP line. Fales graduated from Grand Valley State University with a bachelor’s degree in Marketing and is currently working toward his master’s degree in business administration from Western Michigan University.