Get the conveyor right

Feed conveyors are frequently an afterthought, especially where balers are concerned, cautions Mark Smith of Middleton Engineering. There are a number of important factors to consider and careful planning is needed to ensure productivity isn’t compromised

You’ve chosen the right baler, thought about your tying options, and negotiated a great price. Job done? Not necessarily. If you haven’t considered the right feed conveyor at this stage you might be jeopardizing your productivity and wasting some of your investment.

A shiny new baler won’t deliver uniform, well compacted and consistent bales of material unless the feed conveyor is up to the job. It must be robust enough for your environment, and designed to deliver a smooth and consistent flow of material to feed your production process. Reliability is also important. The last thing you want is constant shut downs as this inevitably stops everything.

So, planning for your conveyor from the outset is crucial. A proper assessment of your site should cover the type and range of materials you will be processing, the weight and volume you expect to handle, as well as the available working space and electrical supply. All of these will impact upon the design and type of conveyor used. A reputable firm should be able to provide expert advice, and an essential site visit.

Your options could include slider-bed, steel slat or rubber belt, chain driven, inclined, swan neck, fully enclosed, or in floor designs. It might need to be curved or straight, automatic, computer or operator controlled, fully integrated or stand-alone. Achieving a continuous and even flow of material will also depend on factors like belt width, motor sizes - powerful enough to handle the weight of the material to be conveyed - and control systems used.

The temptation to fit a low cost standard option might provide initial savings but it’s unlikely to deliver the overall performance you expect and is more likely to result in frustration and downtime. Bespoke solutions designed and tuned for your specific environment are nearly always superior, and in the long run guarantee to be more cost effective and safer to use.

With the right design, a conveyor will feed material at the optimal rate for your process at a volume and speed that matches other machines or processes. The right conveyor ensures material is loaded efficiently each time - with the highest bale quality and an efficient production environment.

Haphazard intermittent filling by contrast, using a grab bucket or manual method, will cause jams and downtime. Filling in this way will never keep up with the capacity of a modern baler and rarely makes sense.

Generally control systems and telemetry should link each piece of machinery so that they work smoothly and harmoniously as one. It is important, therefore, that your supplier is equally competent with both the mechanical and software aspects of your chosen solution. Do check that commissioning, testing and tuning are all provided as part of the service.

Safety systems are also important and designs that include operator detection features offer the best peace of mind. That way if an operative falls into the conveyor, a detector will rapidly shut the machine down.

Safe access to clean and clear debris, and for inspection and maintenance, should also be considered. And it should be quick and easy to clear jams. Other design options might cover dust control, incline angle, loading pit requirements, chain oilers to prolong life as well as safety guards and emergency stop systems.

The humble conveyor is actually more complex than you think and there’s certainly a lot more to consider when selecting the right options for your waste environment. Choosing the right partner can make all the difference.

Mark Smith is technical director at Middleton Engineering

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