Dear Mr. Reis:
You have raised a three interesting possibilities.
With regard to having individual lubrication reservoirs on idlers, or idler sets, that require lubrication to replace central lubrication systems, it appears that there would be more maintenance problems. An operator would need to inspect, fill,, and repair a reservoir for each idler as opposed to checking one reservoir and pump plus the connecting piping. Currently, most of the systems I've inspected use either sealed-for-life bearings on the idlers or manually lubricated bearings. The latter sounds as if it would be labor intensive, but it isn't since this activity is done while conducting the regularly scheduled preventive maintenance inspections.
The use of training idler sections, equiped with I/O devices, for belt training and load distribution monitoring by the control system is an excellent one. The processors can easily be programmed to handle the information and alert the conveyor operator whenever a problem occurs. The measuring devices are as rugged as the conveyors and should work without problems. Currently such devices are utilized on conveyors for belt mis-tracking. They are placed at strategic points -- such at the lead in sections to the terminal pulleys, loading zones (for multiple load zone conveyors), and weigh scales. Input devices, such as limit switches or photo-eyes can be used to monitor load distribution.
Your third concept of having a means to change out idlers while the conveyor is in motion can be done. Although I am not aware of it being done, I have thought of four different ways to accomplish the task after reading your post yesterday. The major stumbling block is the safety issue. Having maintenance personnel working that close to a high speed belt conveyor that is in motion would be extremely dangerous to both them and the system. One of the methods I thought of would, however, provide protection for both men and equipment. This includes lifting rollers or slider beds to raise the belt off the idlers; a shield to separate the workers from the moving belt; and insertion guides to ensure that the moving belt is not deflected or damaged during the set-up process. Of course, this method is the most expensive and the structural costs may make it too costly for the benefit achieved.
Your ideas suggest that you are willing to take a fresh look at things and I applaud your initiative. Thanks for giving me something to think about that iis out of the ordinary.
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