Correctly maintaining conveyor belts at manufacturing and mining facilities can be challenging, but a local lubrication company has developed a decision-making tool to help facilitate the correct lubrication to keep these critical assets performing optimally. The LETS strategy, established by Lubrication Engineers (LE) South Africa, refers to load, environment, temperature and speed, and includes questions that maintenance teams can use to find the best lubrication solution from the original equipment manufacturer’s recommended range for their particular operating conditions.
LE South Africa developed the comprehensive LETS lubrication strategy to help its customers proactively maintain conveyor belts and prevent the risks of wear with the right grease and gear oil selection, and by facilitating correct grease application, contamination exclusion, and visual monitoring and contamination removal.
LE National Marketing Manager Gavin Ford says, “Our technical teams have put together and refined the set of questions in the LETS strategy to help guide our clients, so that they can be confident that the solution they invest in will work as its meant to and will help extend the life and improve the performance of their conveyor-belt systems, which are such a key part of any manufacturing or mining operation.”
Several common challenges have been identified by LE through its partnerships with clients and through the use of the LETS tool. Across conveyor belt applications, these include problems with grease application and incorrect selection of gear oil and greases for different components.
Other challenges that conveyor belts regularly face are extreme temperatures, water, vibration and heavy loads, all of which can be exacerbated when the equipment is outdoors.
The right grease.
Using the incorrect grease on a piece of equipment can have a detrimental impact on its reliability and lifespan. In most cases, for conveyor belts, an extreme pressure grease that can withstand heavy loads, maintain performance in a broad range of operating temperatures, seal out water, protect from corrosion and wear, and will not emulsify when water is present, is the ideal solution.
However, even with the right grease, performance can be hampered by incorrect grease application. Ford says that issues LE often helps customers resolve include under greasing and over greasing, both of which can cause issues.
Many technicians end up manually greasing lubrication points in hard-to-reach or unsafe areas and these areas can end up being neglected because of these difficulties. However, there are a number of useful single- or multi-point lubrication systems available that can help with automating lubrication applications so that the right amount of the right grease is applied to the right place at the right intervals.
These automatic systems are precision lubrication tools that can also be used to improve the accuracy of greasing application, as well as reducing labour time, enhancing safety, reducing equipment failures, and keeping out contaminants.
Gear oils for conveyor belts
As with grease, using inferior or incorrect gear oil can also lead to equipment problems and subsequent unplanned downtime.
For example, problems can occur when extreme pressure gear oil is used in gearboxes with internal backstops. In these cases, the extreme pressure prevents the clutch or sprag mechanisms from properly engaging, which causes the mechanism to slip.
In other cases, some gear oils, for instance, lose performance and become foamy when there is moisture in a system, so knowing this is important before the oil is applied to a particular component of the equipment.
Ford says, “A helpful solution to these challenges can be to use the answers from the LETS process to select the gear oil best suited to an application – ideally one designed to combat the effects of high temperatures, water, contaminants and heavy loads. A long-lasting, nonfoaming, high-quality oil with anti-wear additives will ensure that the conveyor belt equipment works without interruption.”
The essential nature of conveyor belt operations means that their effective functioning needs to be a key focus for plant management, and using the correct lubrication solutions with the right application can have far-reaching benefits for maintenance and productivity.