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How to keep your conveyor running smoothly

Friction and grit can kill conveyors – especially in harsh environments like mines and mineral processing plants.

Aggressive atmospheres laden with dust, waste and water can speedily despatch the seals in traditional cylinders that actuate the conveyor equipment involved.

This includes belt scrapers, belt tensioners and brakes, conveyor guides and hinged actuator gates.

Eliminating this weak link is especially critical in environments where pneumatic and hydraulic cylinders can clog up and wear prematurely over the millions of cycles for which they must operate.

One simple way to avoid this potential problem is to employ cylinders that totally lack such seals, says pneumatic actuation and isolation specialist Simon Agar.

Mr Agar, the general manager of Air Springs Supply, has more than 20 years’ experience with Firestone air spring actuators known as Airstrokes.

Airstrokes are identical in construction and durability to the Firestone airbags used every day in the suspensions of heavy trucks and semis, including big mining vehicles.

Their reliability and suitability for the conditions has been proved over several decades.

The highly engineered rubber and fabric Airstrokes are flexible-wall, bellows-type air
cylinders, which are ideally suited to engineering of assemblies for high-repetition tasks.

“Traditional cylinder designs contain a piston sliding within a housing of circular cross-section connected to the work by a rod passing through one end of the device,” says Mr Agar.

“This design necessitates several guides and seals, which align and seal the sliding surfaces to allow a pressurised, contained column of fluid to apply force to the piston.

“An Airstroke air spring uses none of these wear-vulnerable components to contain and channel its column of fluid. An air spring contains its column of air in a fabric-reinforced rubber envelope, or bellows. The ends are sealed by bead plates, which are crimped around the bead of the bellows. These plates contain the attachment hardware for the part, normally a blind tapped hole called a blind nut. An air fitting, generally in one bead plate, allows fluid (air) to be introduced into the chamber. The fabric in the side wall of the bellows restricts radial expansion, so pressure is built up, causing axial extension.

“Each style is, in essence, a heavy-duty balloon. Air springs are available in a variety of styles, sporting differing components that control the shape and path of axial extension, but their basic design is the same.”

Air springs can be used instead of more expensive hydraulic systems when applying large forces. Sizes are available from fewer than 80mm to more than nearly 1000mm (3in to 38in) in diameter. The larger sizes allow force up to 40,000kg each using only 7 bar (100psi) air pressure. The capital cost of an air spring is normally less than half that of a pneumatic cylinder with equivalent capabilities.

Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd
Ph: 02 9807 4077
www.airsprings.com.au