Belts, Bulk Engineering, Conveyors

ESS Engineering makes an impact with the cradle

The conveyor belt is the most crucial component in efficient bulk materials movement and the single most expensive component in the conveyor belt system. 

The conveyor belt is the most crucial component in efficient bulk materials movement and the single most expensive component in the conveyor belt system. 

Damage to the conveyor belt shortens its life and cuts into profits. While all conveyor belts will wear out over time, damage should be avoided where possible to ensure a reasonable return on investment. Bulk solids impacting the conveyor can cause accelerated damage to the idlers, structure and belt. 

An impact bed is located underneath the belt at the impact zone, and it is designed to support the belt and helps absorb the impact of falling material. Impact beds also decrease the tendency of sharp edges of material piercing the belt. 

These cradles usually comprise a set of individual impact-absorbing bars assembled into a steel support framework. The bars are made of durable elastomeric materials that combine a slick top surface, allowing the belt to skim over it, and sponge-like secondary layers to absorb the impact energy.

ESS has a long history of designing, manufacturing, installing, and maintaining ESS GAB Impact Cradles. However, the custom nature of these impact beds has meant that the price point was prohibitive to smaller operations and was generally supplied to heavy-duty applications where they saw the best return on investment for clients. 

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ESS now has a modular design for light-duty and medium-duty applications to make impact beds available to the broader market. 

ESS research and development engineer Alex Adl said that the new impact cradle design would be close to 40 per cent cheaper than the previous module because the design was less labour-intensive and easier to produce.

ESS aimed to streamline the design process by creating a calculator that uses variables including material size, belt speed, belt width and drop height to determine whether the application needs a medium or light-duty impact cradle. 

The company focused on making a design suitable for a wide variety of medium and light-duty applications and reduced production time.

“The result was a design that uses independent modular support frames rather than interconnected and welded support frames to house the impact bars,” Adl said. 

The modular impact beds are manufactured to provide consistent design and quality while ensuring a reduced lead time. 

Adl said there are also on-site benefits to this module design. 

“Scheduled downtime is common across all industries but none more so than those which consistently handle high degrees of bulk material,” he said.

“While inspection and preventative maintenance is always the best practice, many situations can leave companies caught in reactive situations due to unexpected breakdowns in machinery.”

Load zones and transfer points are areas of high impact and throughput critical to the bulk material handling process. If these areas break down unexpectedly, the entire operation grinds to a halt. Therefore, it is essential to minimise downtime without sacrificing safety or quality.

Impact beds are in load zones, and the impact bars or frames inevitably need to be replaced because of the high impact. Traditionally, impact cradles are bolted together, which is beneficial for the product’s overall strength (which is suitable for heavy-duty applications) but can be labour-intensive and costly to repair. ESS’ modular design for medium and light-duty applications means that downtime is reduced as only the parts that need to be repaired need to be removed.

Adl said that the modular design’s ease would allow on-site repairs and faster turnarounds for less downtime.

“If something happens on-site, you can just change the module rather than sending it all away (for repairs),” Adl said. 

“You can just undo the bolt, replace (the module), and it is done.”

This can constitute a significant cost reduction because only damaged modules must be replaced rather than the entire impact bed. This modular design also means that the impact bed can change with the application by adding and subtracting modules based on a site’s needs.  

“You can add or change [the number of modules] depending on what you need, and most importantly, it can be changed on-site,” Adl said. 

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