sun, speed and spillage

If the midday sun is beating down on your conveyor belt, you’ll need to make sure it is UV’d to prevent unnecessary wear and tear. Without this important protection, the belt will wear sooner than it should, pushing up maintenance costs. This is one of the insights Craig Rouhana, director of sales and marketing at ContiTech South Africa, shares with “Bulk Handling Today”.

Craig passes on a few more pieces of wisdom, including two top tips for selecting the right product, and an honest, optimistic view of the industry.

If you’re looking for a big new innovation, conveying might not be the best place to start. Craig says the conveying industry is a very mature one and innovations are typically incremental, involving carcass design and compound improvements.

“Moving products using conveyor belts has been around forever, and is the most cost-effective means of transporting materials. Of course, cost effectiveness is boosted by product longevity. You want your belt to last several years,” he adds.

Exactly how long it lasts depends on the quality of the belt, how you care for it and what it is used for. When selecting a belt, Craig advises that you need to ensure you have the right belt composition for the materials to be conveyed, and that it’s suitable for the climate in which it operates.

Know what you are conveying

Take some of the most well-known mined materials in Africa – coal, diamonds and copper. “They are very different products,” Craig points out.

“Coal is typically moved on its own because it is the finished product, making it a lot lighter than diamonds and copper, which are still encased in ore. As mined ore is a heavier, more abrasive product, the abuse on the belt is significantly higher, so a more durable, resilient belt is required,” he explains.

We use a wide variety of compounds in the manufacture of their belts, which vary according to specific application requirements. For example, belts that transport light materials need to be less impact- and wear-resistant, but for more abrasive components, higher abrasion-resistant compounds are used.

“Our advantage is that we have the most appropriate product tailored for specific applications and the engineering skills to assist our customers here in South Africa,” he adds.

ContiTech manufactures steel cord, textile reinforced and solid woven conveyor belts at its ISO 9001:2008-, ISO 14000:2004- and OSHAS ISO 18001:2007-certified factory in Uitenhage, Eastern Cape.

Know where you are conveying

Local climatic conditions also need to be factored into the design and manufacture. In Africa, for example, this means paying attention to the effects of the sun and taking preventative measures.

Sun damage is distinguishable from normal wear and tear. “Normal wear and tear reduces belt thickness. If you see cracks in the belt, they are due to UV damage,” Craig says.

He explains that their conveyor belt compound composition includes protection to ensure resistance to UV degradation. “This increases the lifespan of the belt and means there will be fewer cracks in the elastomers due to sun exposure.”

Weakest point

“You want the cover and carcass to wear at the same time,” Craig adds. If the cover wears without the carcass, your overheads increase because you have to replace the entire belt. So you have to look after both the belt and the carcass.

“We specialise in the right product for the client’s application and our guarantee covers a longer time frame than our competitors. Ultimately, that means a lower cost per tonne conveyed,” he claims.

Another tip from Craig is to make sure that splicing is professionally carried out. “The weakest point in the belt is the splice; if this is done correctly the splice will last as long as the belt does.”

As you would expect, belts that are well cared for last longer with some mines putting a lot of focus on conveyor belt maintenance.

Common cause

Craig identifies spillage as the most common cause of wear and tear. Avoid overfilling belts and if spillage does happen – clean it up. Product falling off the edges of a belt results in higher maintenance costs.

Speed can also be a problem. Some conveyors move quickly, 10 metres a second for example but at a certain speed, the products moving along the belt will be affected. A fast-moving belt would also require faster processing, and there are limits to how quickly one can mine.

Growth potential

South African mining, however, is definitely not breaking any speed limits. There could be a lot more business in the mining sector which Craig believes will see an upturn, although ‘when’ is the big unknown.

“We have seen a significant reduction in new projects in South Africa over the last few years, stemming mainly from lack of confidence in our economy and the mining industry. Africa is heavily endowed with many minerals; we’ve just got to get it out the ground.

“2017 has been fairly successful, better than the previous year, but unless there is an upturn in projects for all local manufacturers there will be spare capacity which is never good for business,” Craig comments.

In the heyday, a significant percentage of ContiTech’s business came from new projects. “We are lucky if we are anywhere near that in 2018,” he observes.

“For sound business, we should be less reliant on the mining sector and more reliant on general industry. We don’t do much beneficiation in the country which means there is an imbalance between mining and industry. The rest of the world is the opposite – industry is bigger than mining. Diversification is the way to go,” Craig concludes.

ContiTech, Craig Rouhana,

Tel: (011) 248-9300