Like any other piece of machinery, maintenance is essential to a conveyor belt system. If you do not maintain a conveyor system or any other rotary machine for that matter, you will contribute to greatly decreasing their life, meaning that they will start to wear down sooner than you would expect.
The Importance of Bearing Lubrication
Much of the conveyor system consists of bearings that are constantly in motion. Moreover, much of the machinery in industries is constantly in motion, moving and sliding against each other at high speeds, along with the bearings.
Under these conditions, the metals that are rubbing against each other can create an incredible amount of friction. This friction in some instances can also cause industrial machines to overheat and self-destruct.
Fortunately, these metal components have a thick layer of oil between them that keeps them from touching each other. When machine parts, such as the bearings inside a conveyor belt have optimum lubrication, they can run smoothly and effortlessly for years.
Therefore, operators have a huge role in keeping a conveyor belt properly lubricated. To understand the importance of lubrication further, you must come to terms with lubricants, and they do. To understand why lubricants are essential, you have to understand the concept of friction.
When you try to rub two surfaces against each other, you face resistance to motion if the surfaces are rugged. This resistance of motion is what you can describe as friction. Therefore, you can produce friction from scraping two surfaces against each other.
The microscopic scratches that develop after the constant scraping of two surfaces can be detrimental to industrial machines such as conveyor systems. This scraping can eventually add up to severe wear, and compromise the quality of the metallic components that make up the conveyor systems.
The Purpose of Lubricants
The purpose of lubricants is to make the two surfaces slide smoothly against each other rather than scrape harshly. Lubricants such as oil and grease can greatly reduce friction to a significant level. When you observe microscopically, you will notice how the lubricant separates the two metallic surfaces and creates another layer that sits between them.
For the lubricant to be effective, it must be clean. If it contains dirt or other contaminants, these particles will bridge the gap between the surfaces and scrape against the metallic components. This will increases friction and will eventually result in damages.
How to Lubricate a Conveyor System
A conveyor system, of any kind, is a series of bearings, pins, and linkages that are running in motion and moving a conveyor belt across. Since they are running on a track with the help of electrical motors, they require lubrication.
Proper lubrication over the life of the equipment will help conveyor systems last about 10 to 20 years easily. Quite often, you can find that systems tend to wear out quicker than that, and upon inspection, lubrication is usually the primary culprit.
Each pin in the conveyor system chains requires some form of lubrication, along with the bearings. Oftentimes, the bearings are sloppy and do not work properly, due to overloading, or lack of lubrication.
Therefore, adequate lubrication is essential for a conveyor system. The techniques involving lubrication can vary depending on the type of conveyor system.
To lubricate the components of the conveyor belt, you will need two important tools.
While oil is the obvious lubricating agent, there are a few others. You can find different types of lubricators for conveyor belts. The best way to lubricate a conveyor system is to use different lubricator tools for each component of the system.
For example, for the pins inside the chain, a brush-style lubricator works the best. A brush-style lubricator has a reservoir on the top, and a brush on the bottom. When using the brush, you can open the reservoir, the oil will flow to the brush, and this way, you can brush adequate oil on the pins, bearings, or chain linkages.
However, there are other ways that you can brush oil as well, but with the help of the lubricator, you can precisely control the transfer of oil into the system. This helps you balance the flow of the oil so that you do not over-lubricate.
You can find many variations of brush-style lubricators. Some have more amounts of brushes, while others are also high-pressure lubricators that shoot the oil into the chain linkages.
The oil that you use for conveyor belt machines should suit your application and conveyor belt. Usually, oils that you use for industrial machinery such as conveyor belts have a certain viscosity that you have to be aware of.
Viscosity is the measure of a liquid’s resistance to flowing on a surface. This measure is an important consideration when it comes to application. It determines whether certain oil will be suitable for any particular application, in this case, conveyor belts.
The thinner oil will have penetrating qualities and will flow easily, whereas, a thicker liquid such as gear oil has a higher viscosity. You can find several different grading systems that determine the viscosity of particular oil.
The classification of lubricating oils for industrial machinery uses the ISO grading system to classify the oil. The higher the ISO number, the higher the viscosity. It is also a property that temperature influences, meaning, as the temperature increases, the viscosity of the oil decreases and vice versa.
Therefore, when picking the type of oil for the conveyor belt, you will have to consider the temperature of your surroundings. The oil has to be thick enough to maintain a film over the metallic components that it is supposed to protect.
Many oils today are multifunctional for all temperatures. Moreover, they also have multiple purposes. When you apply lubricating oils in some of the key components of a conveyor belt system, it will not only lubricate them but it will also prevent them from overheating.
Oil is essential as both, a coolant and lubricant for the bearings of a conveyor system. These bearings support the weight of large and heavy rollers on the conveyor belt. Thus, if you do not lubricate properly, then run the risk of damages due to overheating.
Another lubricant is grease. Many people use grease whenever they want a lubricant that does not flow and stays in one place. However, grease is somewhat of a dangerous option when it comes to conveyor belts. Users should generally stay away from applying grease to the chains, or any internal parts of the conveyor belt.
This is mainly because grease is too thick to allow the flow of components, and may not even penetrate down to the bearings.
Lubricating Chain Drives
The preferable method of applying lubrication to chain drives is evident in the catalogs of particular conveyor systems. The methods that normally come up in them involve manual, oil bath, oil stream, drip, and slinger disk.
All of these methods prioritize the application of oil in the upper edges of the link plate and the lower span of the chain. These methods are most effective because when you lubricate on these specific parts, gravity helps the flow of the oil into the crucial bearing area.
As discussed earlier, this is one of the most common and useful ways of lubricating a conveyor belt, involving the use of a brush or spout. The preferable frequency of doing this is after every eight-hour interval. In this, you have to keep a close eye and make sure that there is no discoloration of the components.
In this method, the oil drips between the sidebar edges and the link plates. The frequency should be adequate to prevent the formation of rust on the integral parts.
In this method, the chain runs through an oil reservoir. This method exempts you from any efforts and uses the movements of the chain to self lubricate. However, it carries certain risks if you exceed the oil levels.
Oil Stream Lubrication
In this method, a pump or a nozzle sprays the oil equally into the lower channels of the chain. The access oil collects on the reservoir and returns to the pump. In this method, you have to use an oil cooler to maintain the temperatures of the oil.
As you can see, the methods of cleaning and lubricating conveyor systems are plenty. However, the primary objective of lubrication is the same, and achievable using all the methods. The objective being, to supply adequate oil to the integral areas of a belt, and to maintain the same level of oil throughout its functionality.