A good belt

FENNER Dunlop has cast open the roller door on its $A70 million state-of-the-art steel cord conveyor belt facility in the Perth industrial enclave of Kwinana.
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Noel Dyson

The first impression of the 15,000 square metre manufacturing facility is that it is very large and surprisingly empty. There is a reason for that.

What has been installed can turn out 3.2m wide steel cord belt in one-kilometre lengths and beyond. That results in a 70-tonne roll coming off the end of the press.

If Fenner feels the need, it has the space to add another two press lines.

The extra space also has given it room to place cooling racks. These hold the belt under tension while it cools after being through the press. That ensures the belt remains straight.

The cord produced at the factory will mainly go into the iron ore industry in the Pilbara, where conveyors are an integral part of ore handling.

However, the belts will also be produced for the coal industry which is why Fenner opted for producing belts at widths of 3.2m, dimensions not required by the iron ore industry.

Fenner Dunlop executive director David Landgren said there was plenty of demand from the local market to keep the plant busy.

The plant also has the ability to manufacture fabric belts if necessary.

Fenner, which settled on Perth after considering building in China and India, also is chasing export opportunities.

Integrated production

Every part of the production process from the calender line through to the press is integrated. This means only 12 people are needed to run the 160m press line.

The press itself is the world’s largest. It is 18.5m long and 3.5m wide.

It boasts 156 cylinders delivering a total curing force of 25,000t. This provides a more even distribution of force over the belt being cured.

It takes an hour for a section of belt to be properly cured. A back of the envelope calculation shows it would take about 2.25 days to produce a 1km long belt.

Each piece of steel cord run into the press is kept under equal tension. Pull any cable down and the tensioner automatically tightens it back up to the preset tension.

The calender line, which feeds the press line, dwarfs most of those recently built.

Besides the manufacturing plant, the Fenner development also will play host to a training facility and its service division.