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Keeping the running costs down

Keeping the running costs down Look beyond purchase price to see the true cost of en-masse chain conveyors, and how "Bolt 'n' Go" chains keep running costs down

Chain Conveyors are an essential part of many bulk handling systems, where they are used to convey bulk materials such as powders, grains, flakes and pellets. Many of these conveyors use drop forged chains with flights as a means of conveying the material being handled. This 'en-masse' conveying system is very popular as it is a simple but highly efficient system of moving material.

When it comes to purchasing a chain conveyor, it is easy to look just at the one-time purchasing cost and the quality of the components. The problem with conveyors is that they are exposed to a lot of wear and tear, and even the best chains can fail after a certain period of time. But this can be many years depending on the conveyor use and maintenance.

If we look at the lifetime cost of an en-masse chain conveyor, we'll find that a big part of this is the maintenance: the cost of replacement chains and links, the cost of the labour and finally the cost of the downtime. For each and every user of chain conveyors, it is of vital importance to have the conveyor running to full capacity for as long as the equipment can allow it. Maintenance and repair can cost a lot of money and time, usually requiring the services of a team of engineers and considerable amount of resources. So how does the en-masse conveying system work, and where does the chain failure occur? In en-masse conveying, the flight height can be as low as 12.5% of the material being transported in the chain conveyor. The material is fed into the conveyor from the top and falls through the moving chain to the bottom of the box. Because the particles interlock, the material moves as a single stream at the same speed as the chain. This highly efficient conveying process allows nearly the entire conveyor cross section to move as bulk.

Traditionally, the flights are made of steel and welded onto the links. The links with flights are then assembled in many different arrangements using pins and circlips, headed pins and circlips or headed pins with collars and a roll pins. The whole assembly is very robust and works well until general wear, operational errors, material build up and many other reasons can cause maintenance shut down.

In the case of a minor incident, such as the flights breaking, although the chain does not require to be changed, it is still necessary to order new chain links with flights welded or grind the sides of the failing links and weld new flights onsite. In both cases, a lot of resources and time are needed to complete the maintenance procedure. Having new links with flights welded is only the first step of the maintenance process: the chain needs to be slackened, the circlips must be broken in order to take out the links where the flights have failed, new links with welded flights need to be put in, and finally the chain has to be tensioned again before the conveyor is at last operational or the whole chain removed from the conveyor.

One of the other major causes for concern with this traditional assembly is the fact that the circlips can sometimes come loose due to poor installation, not only causing the chain to collapse therefore again stopping the conveyor, but also contaminating the product that was being conveyed and risking pollution and obstructions in the plant process. Engineers have been working hard at suppressing and minimising the different problems encountered within a chain conveyor as much as possible with solutions such as more frequent maintenance checks, metal detectors, etc. Whilst this has helped to reduce the number of unexpected break-downs, it hasn't removed the need for conveyor shut downs when the chains or flights need to be replaced. Now the engineers at 4B have come up with a revolutionary and simple solution that minimises conveyor maintenance downtimes and overcomes a lot of the problems encountered when using drag chain conveyors. 4B's Bolt 'N' Go system is a new flight assembly system that gets rid of the need for welded flights and pins and circlips assemblies which are quite costly and time consuming in terms of manufacturing.

Key components in this new system include a set of Nylon flights, which can be cut to accurate lengths depending on the desired overall width, and which are very strong and wear resistant but remain light- weight, therefore reducing the amount of power required to drive the chain. A strong hollow pin made of alloy steel takes the load in the assembly. Bolts, nuts and washers are used to hold the flights onto the link and assemble the links together. Lock nuts are used to secure the whole system. At no point does the bolt take the load or is in contact with the pin. It merely holds and secures the flights. Drop forged chain links, that have special lugs on the sides onto which the flights are fastened, give the assembly extra stability.

The Bolt 'N' Go system is extremely easy to install, yet very robust and has a long lifespan. It has many advantages in comparison to the traditional pins and circlips assembly. With the Bolt 'n' Go system, it is no longer required to take the tension out of the chain and take the chain out of the conveyor before changing the flights; the old flights can be taken out and new ones fitted while the chain is still tensioned inside the conveyor.
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