SOME of the toughest maintenance challenges at manufacturing facilities are presented by large belt-driven conveyor systems. These critical assets require gear oil for their gearboxes, electric motor grease for the motors, and grease for multiple lubrication points – particularly bearings. Improper lubrication and contamination can cause premature wear, or even worse, create unplanned downtime.
That’s according to Lubrication Engineers (LE) South Africa National Marketing Manager Callum Ford, who said recurring challenges include dirt, water, heavy loads, vibration and extreme temperatures – and these are even more severe when the system is located outside.
He added that some of the common lubrication challenges that maintenance teams face in trying to keep conveyors properly lubricated are multiple lubrication points, long walking distances, and difficulties accessing some key machinery points. All of this means that compliance with manufacturer-recommended relubrication intervals can be difficult to achieve.
To combat these challenges, the company has developed a comprehensive lubrication strategy to help its customers manage the risks of conveyor belt wear through correct gear oil selection, grease selection, grease application, contamination exclusion, and visual monitoring and contamination removal.
The strategy is called LETS (for load, environment, temperature and speed) and includes a set of questions to help maintenance teams identify what lubrication solutions from within the original equipment manufacturer’s recommended range will best suit their particular operating conditions.
“We work through these questions with our clients and help them identify the right lubricant and reliability solutions to properly care for their equipment,” said Ford.
While implementing the LETS approach with its clients, LE has seen a number of common problems emerging across conveyor belt applications, including incorrect gear oil and greases selection, and problems with grease application.
Inferior or incorrect gear oil can lead to equipment problems and unplanned downtime. For example, some gear oils become foamy and lose performance in the presence of moisture. Another problem occurs when extreme pressure gear oil is used in gearboxes with internal backstops. Extreme pressure prevents the clutch or sprag mechanisms from properly engage, resulting in the mechanism slipping.
A helpful solution 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, turbine-quality oil with anti-wear additives will ensure that the conveyor belt equipment works without interruption.
If the wrong grease is used, the reliability and lifespan of equipment may suffer. In most cases, to solve this requires 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.
Incorrect grease application can be a problem, even if the correct grease for the application has been selected. Over greasing, under greasing or not greasing can all cause problems. Many operators have to manually grease lubrication points in hard-to-reach or unsafe areas and end up neglecting to grease those spots.
Ford said an experienced lubrication consultant can help determine correct lubrication amounts and intervals, and then help with choosing which single- or multi-point lubrication system will work best in a particular application.