PureSteel® metal belts provide a custom, cleanroom-compliant solution
Two of the most important factors in a medical manufacturing space are accuracy and cleanroom capability. When a U.S. based medical equipment manufacturer required a metal belt with a pitch profile that didn’t currently exist, they turned to Belt Technologies. We were able to solve the issue and begin a successful partnership that has lasted more than two decades.
Arthur G. Russell Company Inc., based in Bristol, Connecticut, is a preferred turnkey automation system manufacturer with a team that delivers effective results. As the world’s premier provider of custom assembly systems for high-volume disposable medical device production—from syringes to pen needles and pipettes—AGR prides themselves on creating the machines that make it all.
With such a wide array of offerings, the customer is unique in the sense that they build custom automation machinery, much of which requires belts with very specific pitches (the space between individual perforations, timing pins or other such features). In 1998, the client began their search for a company that could provide a conveying solution for a new medical device assembly machine. The machine needed to move small needles for automated assembly of a medical device, so a very precisely designed custom belt was necessary. The required solution needed to excel in a cleanroom environment, while offering repeatability and the personalization of a custom pitch.
During the search for a suitable manufacturer, the customer initially reached out to a different company, but were disappointed to learn they could only offer a belt with a standard pitch. Undeterred, AGR continued their search and struck the right chord with Belt Technologies.
Belt Technologies provides several advantages over other manufacturers, including a focus on accuracy, cleanroom compatibility and customization, while offering non-stretch products that do not require lubrication. As customization was the most important aspect for Arthur G. Russell, we were able to work alongside them to create a personalized solution which met their exact specifications. And it’s not just about custom perforation pitches; our customization options also include a broad array of metal alloys, belt width and thickness combinations, perforation patterns, coatings and attachments. Our engineering team was heavily involved in the conversations with AGR’s customer, ensuring they reached a solution that would last.
Repeatable accuracy was also critical to AGR’s design, which meant we had to supply a product capable of holding tight tolerance on the pitch. This was possible due to the fact that metal belts do not exhibit pulsation—enabling precise transmission of the control system’s motion profile. To ensure the most accurate and reliable motion possible, PureSteel® metal belts are manufactured to dimensions with very tight tolerances. This detail-oriented focus allows us to fabricate metal belts with a pitch accuracy of ±0.0005”, which is valuable in designing, indexing, positioning or processing bulk medical devices.
The final stipulation was cleanroom compatibility. Unlike polyurethane, nylon, rubber or fabric belts, metal belts can withstand vacuum conditions and caustic environments. Additionally, metal belts do not require lubrication and do not generate particulates, making them cleanroom compatible and ideal for the customer’s exact specifications.
The customer reports that the belts last an exceptionally long time. In fact, this solution, which was created for the machine in 1998, is still in use today, and AGR’s customers are pleased with the results.
Following this original order, Belt has held a longstanding, trusted partnership with Arthur G. Russell for more than two decades. They remain the client’s only supplier of precision, thin steel belts, creating a variety of custom belts for new machines over the years.
The Company: A turnkey automation system manufacturer with a team that delivers effective results. As the world’s premier provider of custom assembly systems for high-volume disposable medical device production—from syringes to pen needles to pipettes AGR prides themselves on creating the machines that make it all.
“You can call them [Belt Technologies] and speak to an actual engineer and get design support and advice on their systems. They are dependable, reliable and we like to work with them on custom projects. They are always willing to help us out.”
Arthur G. Russell Company Inc.
Managing sloping production lines – 3 possibilities
Height differences between machines can become a problem in production – especially if you have to disrupt the production line, for this costs money and requires resources. Luckily, there are several ways to manage height differences.
Disturbances in a production line are a nightmare for any manufacturer, for if the line does not run smoothly, this costs time and money and requires work. Interruptions due to height differences must therefore be eliminated. There are various ways to manage this. An inclined belt conveyor with belt studs is especially suited for the transport of small plastic or metal parts. With very tight spaces and parts that have to be processed, a lift is a good solution. And a small load carrier buffer system can handle product transport from A to B.
Solution 1: Inclined belt conveyors
An inclined belt conveyor is a simple and cost-effective solution. Because it automates manual tasks, it’s an economical investment for the long term. Procurement costs are recouped quickly, and you save time and money and conserve resources. Inclined belt conveyors also make space. Thanks to their slope, you can use the height and not just the width and length of a room. The machines can be set up closer together, so there is more space for other things. Another benefit is the flexibility of an inclined belt conveyor. If you want to change your production line around, you can remove the inclined belt conveyor from the production line very easily. No conversion is required, so you can use the inclined belt conveyor elsewhere if necessary.
Solution 2: Lift
If there’s a little more money available, a lift is a smart solution. With a pneumatic lift, workpieces move from one level to the next by themselves for seamless processing. In addition to flexibility and variability on the main assembly and production line, a lift also offers easy, direct access to production cells. Furthermore, it allows you to make optimal use of production space; a lift is elegant and it also saves space.
Solution 3: Small load carrier buffer system
If an electric drive will not solve the problem, a buffer system with roller conveyors can help connect different levels. This space-saving system minimizes errors and reduces time lost in production. And if automation is what you want, this is also possible: The small load carrier buffer system is also available with driven belt conveyors and can be automated with lifts.
NSK bearings save costs when maintaining ship loading conveyor
When the need arose to replace the bearings supporting a bend pulley on a ship loading conveyor at an iron ore port in Australia, NSK designed a solution using spherical roller bearings that were not only made from its proprietary HTF tough steel, but also featured a detachable nitrile seal. The result was an extension in service life leading to significant savings in downtime costs.
Due to the operating environment, the mining and quarrying industry requires highly reliable equipment that can withstand harsh conditions. So when the bearings on a bend pulley serving a ship loading conveyor had only six months of operating life remaining, the iron ore port called upon the expertise of NSK to devise a better solution.
NSK’s team of experts investigated the bearing failure, discovering that heavy iron ore particle ingress and water contamination in the failed bearing’s lubricant had compromised the service life of the bend pulley. Any conveyor components exhibiting curtailed operating life will incur costs for maintenance hours and lost production.
To address the issue, NSK’s engineering specialists set about designing a new solution based on the company’s proven line of spherical roller bearings. In the first instance, NSK decided to manufacture the bearings from its unique HTF tough steel. Tough Steel is an effective countermeasure to the wear commonly found on the outer ring raceway, where the fixed load zone material is prone to wear when experiencing fine particle ingress.
NSK’s long-life HTF series bearings utilise advanced material engineering and heat treatment technology, thus facilitating superior resistance to wear, seizure and elevated temperatures. The outcome is dramatically longer service life and reduced costs for maintenance and unplanned downtime. Indeed, HTF series bearings can offer as much as 10 times the service life in contaminated lubrication conditions, such as those experienced at the iron ore port facility.
Another key design feature of the NSK proposal was removable nitrile seal (HNBR) garter sprung seals, which compensate for seal wear to further extend operating life. The lip contact maintains pressure even under misalignment.
As well as the extension to service life – the NSK sealed spherical roller bearings achieved 12 months of trouble-free operation – the detachable seal provided the iron ore port facility with the ability to check radial internal clearances using feeler gauges during the fitting process.
In short, this notable design feature enables accurate management of the proper clearance as part of bearing assembly procedures. The concept centres on a seal mounted to a ring/holder that is fully detachable (via bolts), providing sufficient access for feeler gauges to perform clearance measurements. Furthermore, this unique design offers complete interchangeability with existing solutions.
Powder and Bulk Engineering
Mini Case History
Chantland MHS has built a variety of belt tripper designs over the past seventy years, most all of which have been motor driven, however a few years ago we began receiving requests to replace trippers for belt conveyors powered by the main conveyor belt. Almost all of these trippers had been installed in the 1940’s and 50’s and though very ruggedly built, were finally deemed beyond repair by maintenance groups.
We provided replacement trippers utilizing electric drives until we were contacted by a Missouri based aggregate processor. This client wanted their decades old belt trippers replaced with the same design which they had, that being manually operated and powered by the main conveyor belt. Electric drives were not an acceptable alternative.
The Chantland team was invited to visit the site and after reviewing with the plant engineer and operations personnel, determined we could design and build what they wanted. The end user’s group expressed an extraordinary willingness to work closely with Chantland’s team to develop a user friendly manual tripper drive system.
Sitting atop a storage complex are two belt conveyors, each with a tripper discharging to either side filling four rows of silos. The concrete deck is covered by a corrugated steel structural housing protecting the equipment and silo inlets from the environment. By the time product arrives at our trippers it has been reduced into small granules and colored for use in making shingles. Still slightly tacky and well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, these granules are very abrasive so all contact surfaces are lined with ceramic tiles to withstand wear. Personnel control the trippers by engaging one of the control levers when they are standing on the operator platform. One lever is pushed forward or backward to engage the drive system with the main conveyor belt and allow the tripper to travel in forward or reverse direction. This lever must be held in place by the operator and when released goes to a neutral position to disengage the drive motion. Approximate travel speed is 35 feet per minute and personnel can operate the tripper at slower speeds to align the discharge chutes with the small inlet hatches of the silos quite easily. The second lever engages a spring tensioned brake assembly which clamps directly onto the rails to prevent creeping during operation. A secondary clamp is locked to the rail as a double safety. The trippers also include a cross-over platform with stairs to allow personnel to access either side of the main conveyor at the tripper rather than walking to the end of the conveyor system.
The new trippers mirror the originals in structural integrity yet offer new design features that are not readily visible. User friendly operation and maintenance will hopefully give these trippers an even longer lifespan than their predecessors.
Since 1943 that is what each of our customers has come to expect. Call us for solutions and put our experience to work for you!
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