The West Virginia-based company is on the hunt for an Australian distributor for its Belt Positioning Unit – technology that establishes a “zero set point” in the conveyor belt by vulcanising a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag into the belt.
Longwall mining conveyor belts are normally inspected on production shifts where an inspector can spend a considerable amount of time watching the full length of the conveyor belt to determine required repairs.
A repair crew must then spend as much, or more, time trying to locate the same places found by the inspector. In some cases, the repair crew may spend hours getting the places “spotted-up” (stopped at a place behind the take-up) for repair.
It is possible the wrong places may be repaired, which could lead to belt breakage. Also, if the conveyor drifts too far past the work area while trying to stop the belt at a damaged place, the belt must be allowed to make another full revolution before another attempt can be made. If the conveyor drifts short of the work area, the belt drive motors may have to be restarted several times to try to position the place.
All these problems can lead to limited production, increased repair time and increased stress on drive motors.
Rock and Coal Equipment’s BPU uses RFID technology to eliminate these problems. A stationary antenna receives a signal when the RFID tag goes by and sets the counter to zero. Length is counted using an inductive pick-up, reading a turning belt roller. This allows the system to track any position along the belt from the position of the “zero set point” (RFID tag). A belt inspector can then use the login push button to log in positions that need to be inspected and/or repaired.
Rock and Coal’s Tonny Travis and Albert Sawyers said the patented BPU saves repair time by eliminating the need for a belt repair crew to relocate faults and actually allows them to stop the conveyor belt right where repairs need to be made. According to the company, it also increases the life of the drive motors by eliminating unnecessary starts.
The BPU allows an inspector to create a map of the locations of every vulcanised and mechanical splice in the belt, so the splices can be checked regularly for damage. This is especially useful for vulcanised splices, which are much harder to find without knowing their location.
The map can also be used to create a history of belt repairs by date and repairer, which allows an approximate determination of the life of a repaired splice. The map also indicates areas of the belt that contain a large number of splices close together. These unnecessary splices can be eliminated by replacing the area with a length of belt determined from the splice locations given on the map.
The BPU allows each logged-in place to be prioritised (restacked) so that the most damaged places can be repaired first, reducing the risk of repairing a less damaged place and possible belt breakage.
The BPU also keeps track of the amount of useable belt in the take-up, allowing the repair crew to know approximately how much belt is available to make repairs.
When initially setting up the BPU, no additional calibration is required, as the system is fully automatic and adjusts for changing belt drift, useable belt in the take-up, an advancing tailpiece, and changing belt length.
Upon a power failure, all places logged into the system will be saved as well as all initialisation settings.
In the US, the unit does not require Mine Safety and Health Administration approval because it is 110 volt, on a Ground Fault Interrupt Circuit (GFIC) and uses intake air. The company is yet to get Australian approvals. The company has a US patent (6,585,108 B2) and other foreign patents are pending.