Effective Idlers = 
Belt Protection

Protecting Conveyor Belts In Your Plant Is Essential To Overall Profitability.

By Carol Wasson

Most aggregate operations run effectively under a variety of abrasive conditions and equipment configurations – but none operate effectively without a reliable conveyor system. Protecting the belt is essential to overall profitability. Period.

What’s the biggest factor behind belt protection? Bottom line, if the idlers last longer, the belt lasts longer. All components within a conveyor system must work together to protect the belt, and to ensure safe, cost-effective material handling.

“Idlers last the longest if you can prevent premature fugitive material contamination within the bearing,” said Chris Mullen, territory manager for the Superior Industries Components Division. “Bearings don’t like the dust and water in the toughest aggregate applications. That’s why bearing seal design is so important. At Superior, we see the bearing seal as the heart of the idler,” he said.

Mullen explained that a contaminated bearing causes friction that slows down the idler’s rolling action, leading to excessive wear. Eventually the idler will lock up, which can lead to flat-spotting, or sharp edges on the idler cans that can damage the belt. “Idlers are there to support the belt, and if they are locking up, premature belt failure is not far behind,” he said.

Consider that if operations are frequently changing out idlers – that means they are also frequently rebuilding their entire conveyor system. “That’s an unbelievable undertaking, and a major drain on the maintenance crew and the profit margin,” said Mullen.

New Standard Seal Design
While the typical standard seal on the market may seem suitable for most applications, Mullen quickly reiterated that the idler bearing seal is the last line of defense in preventing contamination and premature failure – especially in abrasive applications.

“A good seal just isn’t good enough,” said Mullen. “Our solutions must be industry-leading and that’s why Superior took on the challenge of redesigning the idler seal,” he said.

Superior’s newly designed standard seal is the result of trial-and-error testing, both in the lab, and in the field where Superior partnered with a major Southeast U.S.-based aggregate producer to improve idler performance during periods of heavy rain. Engineers assessed more than 15 idler bearing seal variations while collecting performance data and making alterations to the seal designs. After several years of testing, the spring rains came and left without any idler failures at the site.

“At that point we knew we had nailed the next-level in bearing seal design – and as good stewards in our industry, we shifted to the new seal design as our standard product line,” said Mullen.

Application-Specific Seal Technologies
Following the launch of the new standard seal design, Mullen said that Superior pushed forward to design and test additional new seal technologies addressing each of the “toughest of the toughest” applications in bulk processing.

To accelerate the process, a skilled group of industrial engineers gathered to brainstorm solutions and evaluate each potential in the lab. They created test stands to mimic slurry or dusty environments that would force idlers toward an accelerated failure. As an example, the slurry test involved pumping 1,500 gal.-per-min. of slurry (solid particles, like sand or clay, mixed with water) directly onto the idler as it rotated – each day until fugitive material eventually entered the roll.

“These engineers made it as hard as possible for the various idlers to pass the test, giving us precisely what we needed to know,” said Mullen. “The results were nearly the same as our previous field data – showing us that these newly-designed idlers last substantially longer, while keeping contaminants away from the seal.”

This rigorous second phase of testing led to the development of Superior’s Application-Specific SpinGuard Seal Technology which provides unique seal configurations for the most extreme environments.

A wet seal targets applications with excessive idler wear due to high moisture, frequent washdowns, and dredging. A dust seal tackles dusty locations near crushing or screening equipment, while an eco-friendly low drag seal addresses horsepower concerns in overland and long-distance conveying.

Mullen noted that these application-specific seal technologies combine improved contact seals that result in less seal drag; triple labyrinth seals that increase the distance contaminants must travel; and grease fills that easily trap contaminants.

Next-Generation Titanium Seals
Always forward thinking – and after a near-decade of seal design testing and development – Superior launched its next-generation SpinGuard TitaniumSeals, which are available in CEMA C, D and E idler classes.

“They’re designed for the ‘extremes of everything’ applications – top gallons per minute with tons of fines, or wet one day and dry the next,” said Mullen. “We combined the best of the wet and dry seal technologies with additional contact seals to create the most contaminant-resistant seal on the market – and we can fine tune it to deliver exactly what the customer needs,” he added.

Mullen stressed that new Titanium Seal technology is giving big benefits back to the end user. “Some operations are more than tripling the life of their idlers by using the upgraded Titanium Seal. If producers can exceed a year or more before rebuilding conveyors – that really changes the profitability picture – even if their use is conveyor-specific rather than plantwide,” he said.

Maximum Wear Life and Plant Uptime
Even in the most extreme environments, the latest bearing seal technologies extend idler life, while delivering bearing and belt protection – all of which leads to increased plant uptime and reduced maintenance costs.

Idlers aren’t just idlers, often forgotten until a costly failure. With new, cost-efficient seal technologies, next-generation idlers are a critical part of protecting your belt – and your profitability.

Carol Wasson is a freelance writer for the aggregate, mining, construction and heavy equipment manufacturing industries.

Titanium Seal Technology Takes Hold Plantwide
Belt protection is a major focus at the Rogers Group Gallatin Quarry. After experiencing frequent costly idler failures within the extreme wet, dry, and high impact areas of the plant, the quarry’s management team consulted with local Superior Industries dealer, Belt Tech Industrial. Its Lebanon, Tenn.-based branch assists area producers with ways to significantly increase material handling efficiencies.

From the primary to the tertiary circuit, and on to the wash plant, the Gallatin Quarry is gradually replacing its former idler inventory with Superior’s SpinGuard Titanium Seals, which extend idler life in the most extreme applications. Since their installation, more than one year prior, they’ve found that the new idler bearing seals deliver reliable performance and belt protection, reduced maintenance costs, and greater plant uptime.

The operation had always had an issue with material buildup around the idlers. Even after cleaning out the buildup between the roll, the can, and the frame, the bearing was likely contaminated, and the rollers had locked up for too long, and were not able to run – causing maintenance downtime and potential belt damage.

“Once we switched over to the Superior rollers, and saw how robust they are, we decided to stick with them,” said Chad Daigle, plant foreman for the Gallatin Quarry.

”They really work well, and we’re getting great results,” he added.

To start with, Daigle said they needed a better idler alternative for the primary circuit. “The rubber impact rollers with Titanium Seals do the job – even though the idlers take ‘a pretty good beating’ in that high-impact area. It’s not too wet or dry in that circuit – but we do have a dust suppression spray on the belt and the rollers stay fairly clean,” he said. However, the tertiary circuit, enclosed within a tower, is more challenging due to dust – but Daigle said, “As long as we keep up with our scheduled maintenance and cleaning in that area, we have no problems with idler performance.”

Daigle stressed that the wash plant is the biggest challenge. “Those idlers get drenched in water, and they have lasted well through it all,” he said. As to preventive maintenance practices at the wash circuit, Daigle said they are upgrading their belt cleaners and skirt rubbers, while working to prevent any leaks that could land on rollers and tail pulleys.

Since the installation of the new idlers more than a year ago, Daigle and his crew continue to tweak and upgrade their material handling systems. Overall, Daigle said their operation is far more cost-efficient when they combine the right idlers with the right maintenance practices.

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