Recently, while doing a project for a pharmaceutical distribution center, we ran into an issue with belt breakage. This customer’s pharmaceutical operation uses Styrofoam coolers to pack and ship products, and we had installed a series of timing belt style transfers to move them.
As a standard practice, we are always very careful to review product details for any new material handling application. Weight, size, rate, barcodes etc. are identified early to determine the right equipment and ensure proper flow. Because these coolers varied in size and represented a large portion of their shipping containers, we decided to use belt transfers over other options. Timing belt style transfers are normally very reliable and have a good wear life, so based on our knowledge, it seemed like the best solution.
Diagnosing Belt Failure
Over the course of one year, however, belts began to unexpectedly fail. A clay-like residue was found building up in the belt sheaves which seemed to be causing strain and wear on the belts.
This residue material was sent to a lab for chemical analysis:
As it turns out, the Styrofoam from the coolers was clinging to the timing belts and they were combining or reacting to create a residue. As the residue built up, it would increase stress on the belts and cause them to fail. The resolution for now is to keep the belts and pulleys cleaned off and replace them as necessary.
Unfortunately, the product characteristics for this application led us to using the belt transfer. In this customer’s other locations, we have traditional O-Ring style transfers installed and have not experienced this issue. Replacing the timing belt style transfer with an O-Ring style may be the ultimate resolution.
While most of our projects are successful, there is always the occasional project that didn’t go as planned. Our commitment to our customers means if something isn’t working right, we’ll do everything we can to diagnose and solve the problem. These challenges and lessons learned give us a better understanding of the nuances in handling different materials, so we can provide more reliable solutions in the future.
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