There is no effective approach to ensuring conveyor uptime than investing in a reliable belt rip detection device.
As long as conveyor belts are working, there is always some point where a belt component or a rock being conveyed can slice through the belt longitudinally and produce a major or minor rip. And this could occur at the tail, loading point or somewhere along the conveyor. In most cases, an unnoticed minor rip can snowball into a huge problem which is could be very costly to address. Of course, the questions which springs to mind is: Are mine operators well equipped enough or even trust their techniques to identify a conveyor rip timeously?
With technology Mines are Better Placed
These days industries – mines in this context – are better placed to mitigate the risks their conveyor systems face from rips than they were years ago. In the most part, this is due to advances in technology which have simplified conveyor belt rip detection in ways previously deemed impossible. This places the onus on mines to make informed decisions when cherry-picking the best conveyor belt rip detection technology to suit their respective needs.
It must be highlighted from the outset that the relevance and role of conveyor belt rip detection technology in ensuring high conveyor belt uptime becomes clear after the impact of rip on a conveyor system is analysed.
How a conveyor rip impacts on productivity
Every equipment in the mining process should be in an excellent condition to be able to ensure increased uptime and reduced downtime as far as possible. Arguably, the conveyor is the most important in the materials and handling section.
As far as recent events go, sometimes a conveyor belt rip detection can fail to detect a rip, resulting in damage to the conveyor belt and components. At times, it may even result in fatalities.
From a productivity perspective, long duration of downtime can affect the bottom line. Typically, when a conveyor system is down, processing plants lie idle as there is no feed coming to them. The longer the problem takes without being addressed, the higher is the loss in tens – if not hundreds – of thousands of dollars.
An event which occurred in South Africa in 2019 is a classic case of what can happen when a conveyor rip detector malfunctions and fails to detect a rip and stop the conveyor system. A review carried out after the event indicated that the accident was due to a blocked chute and belt rip detectors that were not working.
As regards the failure of the rip detector on in, the main conveyor from Grootegeluk mine, which feeds coal to Medupi Power Station, did not trip as it was supposed to in order to protect the system. This caused damage to some 700 m of belt, as well as damage to the conveyor structures.
At the time, the conveyor was the only way to transfer the coal to the plant as the loaders and stackers, which were alternative means, were down.
The event had a huge impact on the economy. Incredibly, a ‘simple’ problem cost the entire economy billions in irretrievable loss of productivity as businesses were forced to stop their operations.
Indeed, the moral of this event is that there is no effective approach to ensuring conveyor uptime than investing in a reliable belt rip detection device. With the benefit of hindsight, an investment in a belt rip detection technology could have prevented damage to Eskom’s main conveyor belt.
Latest belt rip detection technology
With advances in technology, mine operators and power utilities have a host of options to explore. There is no question that one of the innovations that have proven to prevent conveyor damage amongst the lot is Almex’s rip detection technology. the EMSYS LSRS (Loop Sensing Receiver with Smartwire) has uniquely identified Smartwires at intervals along the belt. These Smartwires are able t detect any rips along the belt.
Besides the SmartWires, the LSRS receivers are able to read more common loops in the market from some of the reputable suppliers in the conveyor game. Specifically, what sets the SmartWires apart from what is available in the market is that they are available to be put directly into a belt as it is manufactured, or pre-laminated with gum and cover to be quickly put into an existing belt.
Almex’s other option is the EMSYS WSR (Width Sensing Receiver). The WSR monitors the width of the belt for its entire length to detect any shearing or spreading or edge damage changes from its baseline. The system is able to bring the belt to a stop when a rip is detected. The WSR can work stand-alone or together with the LSRS.
Almex’s technical team can also retrofit existing rip detectors installed in conveyor belts. A retrofit includes an almex press, SmartWire channel skiver, control box and winch.
In contrast with traditional loops (old analogue systems) that are still being used in mines and other industries, the EMSYS LSRS is an intelligent RFID-based “SmartWire” rip detection and monitoring solution. While traditional loops expect a signal every set distance, SmartWires are able to hold data such as a unique identifier, position in the belt, serial number, and manufacture and install dates. On the other hand, to detect a rip in a conveyor belt, analogue systems use copper wire loops or antenna, which when being cut or torn, would send a signal to stop the conveyor belt and prevent a further rip. Additionally, they have no intelligence and are prone to broken loops.
The LSRS monitoring unit can also read most belt manufacture loops or antennae. This feature provides a cost-effective and long-lasting solution for both new conveyor belt installations and retrofitting of old belt with broken loops.
When using Almex rip detection technology, end-users can rest assured that they have a quality product that meets standards of products used in harsh environments. For instance, the LSRS has an IP-65 rating, and UL and CE approved.
Mining companies should be able to engage a supplier who can not only supply a product, but also offer value added services that ensure as high time as possible for the equipment.