One of the biggest pain points in the life of a maintenance technician or installer is conveyor belt tracking. In a nutshell, this is the process of aligning and then controlling a belt so that it maintains a desired path. But properly tracking a conveyor belt doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are a few helpful tips to lookout for and an easy, 3-step process to get your belt conveyor running smoothly.
Check that the conveyor frame is level and square
At least 90% of the conveyor belts I’ve observed mis-tracking can be traced back to being out of level and/or square. When a conveyor bed is out of level or square, the end result is the conveyor belt moving toward one side or the other. Checking the accuracy of your conveyor levelness is easy through the utilization of a standard level. Be sure to check both the frame and the pulleys for the correct levelness.
Checking that your conveyor bed is square is also easy to do. Simply snap dimensions from one corner to the opposite corner on each side of the conveyor. The measurements should equal one another. Don’t worry if you’re slightly out of square, as most manufacturers provide what are referred to as squaring rods on the bottom side of the conveyor. These can be used to pull the frame back into alignment.
Ensure the end pulleys are square
Frequently, I find myself on jobsites where an installer or maintenance technician’s first intuition is to track the conveyor belt by steering the end pulley. In most cases, this makes the problem worse as it is just too much adjustment in one place. Most conveyors are manufactured with smaller rollers on the underside of the unit which are commonly referred to as snub rollers or idlers. These rollers should be adjusted to help track the belt. If you find your end pulleys have been adjusted, this might be your problem.
Check for debris
If I’ve seen it happen once, I’ve seen it happen 50 times, tape or other common debris finds its way to one or both of the end pulleys and starts to build up. This debris, if not cleared, can create a crown or raised portion on the pulley which can result in the conveyor belt mis-tracking to one side or the other. It’s very important that conveyors are not only inspected for mechanical issues but also cleanliness.
Double check that your conveyor belt has been cut straight
It’s not uncommon for belts to be cut incorrectly at the factory. Just like ripping a large piece of plywood, conveyor belts are cut into smaller widths during the manufacturing process. If this process is not done properly, the conveyor belt will have an arc or coverture to it, which will result in mis-tracking. If you suspect this, remove the conveyor belt from the unit and lay it out on the floor to ensure it’s straight.
Three Quick and Easy Steps to Track a Conveyor Belt
- With the conveyor running, loosen the set of bolts nearest the tail pulley. This will loosen the snub roller, which is our primary means of steering the conveyor belt.
- With a rubber mallet gently tap the bolts in the direction you need the belt to move. For example, if you need the conveyor belt to move to the left (when standing at the infeed end of the conveyor and facing the discharge end of the conveyor), gently tap the bolts on the left hand side. This will result in the snub roller moving. Once the snub roller has been adjusted, remember to re-tighten the bolts so the snub roller stays in the new, adjusted position. Within 7-10 revelations of the belt you should begin to see the belt tracking towards the center of the conveyor.
- Repeat these steps until the center of the conveyor belt is within a quarter inch of the center of the tail pulley. Just like flying an airplane, small adjustments result in large changes. Take it slow and be careful not to adjust too much at one time. Longer conveyors may require additional snub rollers to be adjusted. Always start with the snub rollers closest to the ends of the conveyor and work towards the center.
If you are still having trouble with your conveyor belt tracking, please give our experts a call. We’re happy to assist you.
*Videos courtesy of Hytrol Conveyor Company and Habasit America.