The reason for this new development arose from an optimisation of the belt conveyor technology. With the “PrimeTracker” guide roller, ScrapeTec GmbH had developed a conveyor roller that detects belt misalignment and automatically compensates for it (Fig. 1). Even slight misalignment is immediately detected due to uneven forces that then act on the roller. The cylinder body then automatically swivels so that the belt is steered back to the centre.
In contrast to similar systems, the guide roller can move completely freely in a 360° radius during operation and always maintain 100 % contact with the belt (Fig. 2). Other advantages of the PrimeTracker include its extremely simple installation, low maintenance and protection of the belt edges or the conveyor belt.
The PrimeTracker works equally well with low and high skew – and it works so well that users are quickly moving to significantly reduce the number of times they check along the belt.
Further development into an “intelligent” guide roller
This is basically good – as long as no irregularities other than misalignment occur. However, this is exactly what happened from time to time in some applications, and this gave rise to the wish: Firstly, can’t the system do more? And secondly, can it not transmit the detected irregularities to control rooms or CM systems in the sense of condition monitoring? Then the user would be completely on the safe side – without control rounds.
The ScrapeTec developers have implemented precisely this wish – with the e-PrimeTracker, which was presented for the first time at bauma 2022 (Fig. 3). The steering roller and the principle of belt misalignment detection remain the same. But robust sensors are installed in the roller, which can be easily integrated in the lower run of existing conveyor systems thanks to its compact design. In addition to the misalignment, they can detect other central and meaningful parameters – for example, the belt position, the belt speed and the condition of the belt splice.
On-site evaluation, data transmission by radio
The necessary evaluation of the data is carried out by a compact industrial computer, which is mounted directly on the belt in a robust housing that is protected against dust and splash water. An external power supply is not necessary. Instead, a generator, which is integrated into the steering roller, generates the required energy. Thus, the system works completely self-sufficiently. The data collected by the sensors and processed by the computer are sent wirelessly, via mobile radio or WLAN, to a control room or to the laptop or mobile phone of the service personnel, as desired.
An on-site status display, e.g. with different types of warning or signal lights, can also and additionally be realised. In addition, there is an app that gives the service technicians on site or the maintenance planners mobile remote access to every E-PrimeTracker in the company’s operating sites.
Continuous and comprehensive recording of the operating condition of conveyor belts
This world premiere thus creates the prerequisite for continuously and comprehensively detecting and documenting the “state of health” of a belt conveyor (cracks, irregularities at the joints ...) in the sense of condition monitoring and predictive maintenance – with the aim of reporting irregularities and eliminating them as quickly as possible. This kind of transparency significantly increases operational safety and reduces the risk of unplanned downtime. At the same time, the e-PrimeTracker takes over the automatic correction of a possible belt misalignment.
The processed sensor data can be integrated into standard preventive maintenance systems. The user can derive the need for service from the transmitted data because the sensors reliably detect changes and issue a warning message at an early stage – before major damage or belt stoppage occurs. In addition, the e-PrimeTracker collects the recorded data and documents it. Based on this data, the user can, for example, optimise the operation of the belt and thus extend its service life.
Additional sensors or evaluation of sensor data with AI
From ScrapeTec’s point of view, the concept of the integrated CMS of belt conveyors can be adapted and expanded in many ways to individual tasks – for example, by integrating additional sensors, such as for monitoring the condition of the roller bearings.
Furthermore, the evaluation of sensor data could be improved with the help of artificial intelligence. In the first step, however, experience will first be gathered with the first generation of the E-PrimeTracker – together with the pilot users. In test series, the ScrapeTec engineers have tested different load situations and positions on the conveyor belt as well as various operating conditions, thus proving the practical suitability of the e-PrimeTracker. Now it is the turn of the “real” practice.
Wilfried Dünnwald, Managing Director, ScrapeTec Trading GmbH, Kamp-Lintfort/Germany