What would most people consider to be the single most expensive mechanical component when designing and building a conveyor? Of course, the belt!

Of all equipment required to build a conveyor, the cost of the belt can easily outweigh the cost of the rest of the mechanical components put together. It is therefore imperative that once the system is up and running, the belt receives the most attention when maintaining conveyor systems.

In accordance with our philosophy of minimising reactive maintenance, ie, something is repaired only once it has failed, and maximising sensor based predictive maintenance and preventative maintenance, a large platinum producer north of the South African border recently requested the installation of a belt rip detection system as supplied by Rema Tip Top Technology.

Spurious alarms

The conveyor in question was already equipped with a traditional sensor loop system, which the mine was not using due to spurious alarms, stopping the belt when indeed all was intact. The mine considered this to be nothing more than a nuisance and set the system to bypass mode, leaving the entire steel cord reinforced belt of the overland conveyor at risk. This implies that should there be a belt rip, damage would be significant, and potential losses crippling.

The mine identified this risk and approached Rema Tip Top to install and re-commission a reliable rip detection system to protect the conveyor, thereby limiting potential losses should a belt rip occur.


Rema Tip Top installed a RFID system, consisting of a master unit, installed near the head of the conveyor, as this is where the mine perceived the risk to be. Normally rip detection systems are installed just after the loading points. This unit replaced the decommissioned sensor loop reader as, even if such were fully operational, it would be unable to detect the RFID tags.

However, the RFID reader unit replacing the older sensor loop reader, was quite capable of reading the sensor loops already installed into the existing belt. Naturally this suited the client as it enabled Rema Tip Top to effectively utilise belting that was already installed on the conveyor.

It did however require that some transmitting and receiving pads be installed to effectively transmit a signal through to the RFID master unit.

During the life of the conveyor, some belting had been replaced, a large length of which was not equipped with sensor loops or RFID tags. It was therefore necessary to retrofit the existing belt with tags, and programme them to have an identity in order for the reader to recognise them.

Tags on all existing belt

This presented Rema Tip Top with an ideal opportunity to experiment with different compounds and also produce a formal working instruction on how to install tags into an existing belt. Armed with this information, Rema Tip Top descended upon the site and successfully retrofitted a number of tags, typically at around 25m centres, installed a tag reader, a proximity speed sensor and also pads to read the sensor loops.

The entire system was successfully commissioned and now offers belt rip detection for the entire belt. There was also a portion of belting installed, where the tags were built in during the manufacturing stage. This is indeed the preferred method as retrofitting takes a little longer and is more labour intensive.

Absolute satisfaction

The mine has expressed absolute satisfaction with the system and has indicated that especially since the system is relatively inexpensive, they will install the system on some of their other conveyors, including some conveyors operating with textile reinforced belting.

Sensor loop systems have proven not to work well with textile reinforced belts in the past, whereas the RFID tag used by Rema Tip Top is completely reliable on plied belting, steel cord reinforced belting and also solid woven nitrile belting.

After commissioning of the rip detection system at the mine, Rema Tip Top provided the mine personnel with adequate training to be able to manage the system autonomously.

It is the philosophy of Rema Tip Top to assist mines with as many predictive and preventative maintenance methods as possible in order to ensure longevity of equipment, to reduce downtime, and to increase profits.

Rema Tip Top, established in 1923 is a global entity, operating in over 150 countries delivering sustainable solutions in the Industrial Sector.

Dunlop Industrial Products has been manufacturing high quality conveyor belting in South Africa for the world since 1929.

The partnership of Rema Tip Top and Dunlop was developed to strategically optimise your plant availability.

Rema Tip Top Holding Africa

Dunlop Industrial Products

Dr Paul Nel,