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Rulmeca pulls its weight

MANY factors bring suppliers into the coal industry – profit potential, proximity to a significant mining area, family connections – but Rulmeca Corporation president Mike Gawinski said a “desire to serve to the coal industry” was what drove his company. Its motorized pulley systems are no exception to that credo.

Donna Schmidt
Rulmeca pulls its weight

Published in the December 2005 American Longwall Magazine

Rulmeca Group, through Italian idler producer Rulli Rulmeca SpA., got rolling with conveyor belt idlers in the 1960. Rulmeca Corporation was established as a subsidiary in 2003 amid the dawning of the coal boom. Headquartered in Wilmington, North Carolina, the subsidiary handles sales and manufacturing for the group’s bulk handling components for the United States and Mexico, and Rulmeca’s total workforce now tops 550 – seven of whom work at the Wilmington complex.

While motorized pulleys aren’t new, Rulmeca’s product line offering is not only more powerful, but also safe for users because it is self contained.

Pony drives, said Gawinski, often consist of two pulleys, two motors, two gearboxes, as well as couplings, guards, pillow blocks and other associated items. In the case of Rulmeca’s motorized pulley, the parts are compact and, according to Gawinski, “everything is on the inside ... it’s a natural solution.”

“We know there’s a need there [and] we’re wanting to meet a need,” Gawinski said.

Currently, Rulmeca’s motorized pulleys can handle 380-volt/3-phase, 460V/3-phase and 575V/3-phase. Plus, Gawinski said, the company is always thinking of methods to offer customers higher voltages and more cost-effective construction.

Another advantage is the cooling technique Rulmeca uses to maintain safe temperatures, as occurrences of overheating are obviously dangerous and can halt production. Although it is self-contained, heat sink technology is used – the belt actually acts as a cooling entity.

“Because our pulley is hermetically sealed, there’s no way to blow air over the motor. So the oil circulates [around it], picks the heat up off the motor, and spreads it out since the oil is circulating over the whole pulley face. We throw the heat into the belt, using it as a cooling unit, or heat sink.”

One obstacle Rulmeca addressed early on but appears to have defeated is offering all this and a long life span, too.

“We have pulleys in continuing service in Europe in excess of 30 and 40 years,” said Gawinski, a feat he refers to as the “Maytag rate”

Gawinski notes that motorized pulleys account for just a small percentage of mining industry equipment, but he feels there’s a significant segment of the industry that has yet to discover it.

“There are a variety of different motivators that would prompt someone to get a motorized pulley, and there’s a certain fraction of people that have problems that can be solved [with] it,” he said.

“Our message to the market is that there’s a technology that’s been around for a while. You might not know about it, and you might want to think about it.”

Whether the goal is reduced maintenance, higher standards of safety or efficient use of limited space, Rulmeca’s pulleys are there to meet operations’ goals. Their customers attest to this.

“We sell to two groups – one group would consist of mines and prep plants through our network of distributors. We mostly sell to OEMs on a direct basis who then, of course, sell equipment to [operations].”

Gawinski refers to Rulmeca’s distributor network as “special” because it makes the option of retrofitting possible.

“Our strategic plan calls for us to work with exclusive generally regional distributors as opposed to nationwide distributors so as to get specialized knowledge; we have some distributors who are 50% service oriented,” said Gawinski.

Maintenance, however, is easily conducted on-site by maintenance staff and the main concern is oil changes with either standard or synthetic oil – every 10,000 operating hours for standard, every 30,000 operating hours for synthetic. Oil seals, he said, should also be maintained, with replacements every 20,000 hours.

Rulmeca is so confident in the future of its motorized pulley technology that it has recently made a significant investment in research and development. In addition to a new plant in Wilmington, where the subsidiary can now perform US-based assembly of 8.5-inch, 12.5-inch and 16-inch diameter pulleys (12.5-inch is the company’s most popular), the parent Rulmeca Group has invested a significant amount for their facility in Aschersleben, Germany, that will allow the organization to test its entire product line under full load.

Gawinski was enthusiastic about the R&D announcement and how it will affect the company as well as its customers. Not only can it now quote exact load handling specifications to its customers but “we have high hopes that we will soon be adding higher powers to our portfolio”

“Nobody in the world makes motorized pulleys as powerful as we do,” said Gawinski confidently.

“There are other manufacturers, but we make the largest and most powerful and our idea is to strengthen that, primarily fueled by a desire to serve the mining industry.”

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