Designing Better Conveyors for Bulk Material Handling

Designing Better Conveyors for Bulk Material Handling

The conveyor system is an integral part of any bulk material handling. But as simple as they may seem at times, they are often complex pieces of equipment that need to be designed the right way for maximum efficiency.

The purpose of a bulk material handling system is, on the surface, simple: take bulk materials like raw coal or biomass pellets and move them in a continuous fashion from the intake point to the ultimate destination: the boiler. Along the way, materials might be blended or stored.

How efficiently the system accomplishes this purpose goes a long way to determine the overall cost and efficiency of the system as a whole. Thus, paying particular attention to the conveyor system pays off.

The Types of Conveyor Systems

There are a few main types of conveyor systems:

  • Belt
  • Screw
  • Chain

Each has their own advantages. Those coming from other industries are perhaps more familiar with belt conveyors (they’re the ones the general public sees far more often in places like the grocery store).

The method of conveying the material isn’t the only component, though; you also have hoppers, feeders, chutes, separators, reclaimers, and stackers. But the conveyor is the linchpin that determines the rate and efficiency at which the bulk material is moved through the system.

Belt conveyors can be the simplest form of a conveyor system. Often comprised of just a belt, the platform, and a basic pulley system, belt conveyors work best with dry materials. You don’t want to use a belt conveyor with anything that is wet, damp, sticky, hot, or corrosive, though, because it’ll degrade the belt and foul the system.

For those materials, a screw or drag chain conveyor may be more applicable. Also, these systems tend to use more of the available housing space for transport. A belt conveyor, on average, uses about 20% of the space within the housing for material movement. This number can be as high as 50% on average for something like a drag chain conveyor. The benefit is that you can move more material at slower speeds, in a small housing enclosure, with less horsepower – which ultimately means lower energy costs and less wear-and-tear.

Talk to your engineer to determine which of the main conveyor types is best for your bulk material handling needs.

Choosing the Right Drive Unit

The drive unit is what powers the conveyor system and makes it work.

Most often, the drive unit consists of a direct-coupled motor gearbox that operates the drum. It may also have a parallel-shaft or direct-shaft drive. Another variant is a motorized drum that consists of a self-contained electric motor, bearings, and gear unit. This configuration is found in newer systems because it is less complex than an external drive gearbox.

One major consideration is startup capability. The drive unit needs to be powerful enough to start up under a full load from a stop. Variable speed drives are also major considerations if you have a larger conveyor system.

Access to the unit for maintenance, as well as ease of maintenance, are additional considerations, along with size and weight. A motorized drum may be more compact and weigh less, but they can also be more difficult to access for maintenance.

Creating a Custom Conveyor System Design

No two bulk material handling systems are exactly the same. Each facility is different, so it makes sense that your conveyor system is different, too, being tailored to your facility via a custom configuration.

An engineering team can assess the environment and your operational requirements and create  a custom system that can handle your bulk materials from intake to final use in a seamless and cost-efficient manner.

The right conveyor system can make your process more efficient – or can add serious cost vulnerabilities. Choose wisely and talk to a professional engineer for guidance.

ProcessBarron engineers, constructs, and installs bulk material handling systems for a variety of plants and industries. Contact the team for more information.