Canadian Biomass Magazine

Keeping Clean

August 22, 2011
By Ryan Grevenstuk

When you buy a product, you expect it to perform as well on day 365 as it did on the first day you installed it.

Maintaining the cleaners enhances the performance of the actual cleaners as well as that of the other components in the system.

When you buy a product, you expect it to perform as well on day 365 as it did on the first day you installed it. You don’t have time to spend wondering if or when it will break, and you certainly don’t have time to buy a new one. The truth is that maintenance can make all the difference with equipment, and this is especially true with belt conveyor cleaners.
When it comes to the biomass business, where equipment is subjected to dust and weather, belt cleaners are an important part of keeping systems clear and running. Downtime is simply not an option. But while the cleaners are busy maintaining your belt, what are you doing to keep your cleaners running smoothly?

Why maintain belt cleaners?
Over the years, advances in belt cleaner technology have made them not only easier to use, but also easier to maintain. Maintaining cleaners enhances the performance of the actual cleaner as well as that of the other components in your system. Keeping an eye on the cleaners also extends the life of the cleaners, the belt, and splices. Properly maintained cleaners are less likely to cause damage to belts and fasteners in comparison to cleaners that are installed and ignored until it is time to replace them.

Your cleaners and your budget
You would be hard-pressed to find a business in the world that isn’t trying to cut costs in this economy. That’s why it’s more important than ever to maintain the systems you already have. There simply isn’t money in the budget to replace something if it breaks, or time to withstand a major shutdown that could have been prevented.


The costs of material carryback, for example, can affect your overall budget multiple times. Maintenance costs, along with safety costs, top the list, but the cost of the material wasted and the housekeeping costs to remove the material can also be high.

The Conveyor Equipment Manufacturers’ Association conservatively estimates carryback to be as high as 3 tons/week, given a 60 inch wide belt travelling at 800 feet/minute. Over the course of a full year, that adds up to 150 tons of material for only one belt.

Poor belt cleaning also contributes to after-the-fact maintenance costs related to belting, pulleys, idlers, and other components. Although good maintenance and quality replacement parts cost a little more up front, they can be worth it in the long run.

Maintaining your cleaners
When approaching cleaner maintenance, there are three simple principles to remember: Clean it, inspect it, tension it.

Clean it: This may sound obvious, but the first rule of thumb with cleaners is to remove any debris from the blade and tension springs. Tensioners can’t do their jobs with debris stuck in them, and removing material build-up from blades will make them much more effective. Plus, a dirt-free cleaner is much easier to inspect.

Inspect it: A simple visual inspection can do wonders for a cleaner. You can check to see that everything is in working order and replace any damaged components. When it comes to your blades, inspect the visual wear lines to ensure that the blades have not reached the end of their life. As you inspect the blades, make a note of how close they are to complete wear and the approximate amount of time it took to get to that point.

Tension it: Tension the blade to accommodate the blade wear. This is done quickly and easily by referencing the tension check decal and measuring the tension spring to ensure the blade is properly tensioned.

A complete maintenance plan
It’s important to think of cleaner maintenance as a plan, instead of a specific task. In addition to regular maintenance, there are two other aspects that can enhance the performance of your belt conveyor system: quality of products and quality of replacement parts.

Choosing the right products and replacement parts is integral not only to your cleaning system, but to your entire conveyor operation. Taking the time to consider factors like blade life, the material path of your product, and the ease of a tension check will save you time and money.

Look for a blade with a long wear life. Oftentimes, this is determined by taking note of the material from which the blade is made. In the case of urethane, the quality of the urethane and the volume of urethane found on the blade are key to long wear life. Keeping an eye on the path the material actually takes on the belt can also save the cleaner. A blade that follows the material path is the most efficient because it wears evenly, instead of wearing in the centre. Using a blade that covers only the material path boosts cleaning performance and extends the life of the blade.

When it comes to visual tension checks, the philosophy is simple. The easier it is to check the tension, the more the crew will inspect it. Over- or under-tensioning the blade can shorten the blade life by as much as 20%. Improperly tensioned blades compromise cleaning efficiency and blade life, putting a dent in the budget.

A complete system
In a belt conveyor system, a myriad of products are working together towards a common goal: keeping things moving and getting the job done. Though belt cleaners are a small part of a much larger system, a healthy conveyor system begins and ends with cleaning and maintenance.

Consider your entire system when putting your belt cleaner maintenance plan into effect. It’s a good general rule to inspect and perform maintenance on all of your conveyor system components as part of an overall maintenance plan. After all, being proactive can save you time, money, and a headache down the road.

Ryan Grevenstuk is product manager for Flexco. To find out how to turn maintenance challenges into cost savings, visit the Flexco Trade-In Trade-Up website at and download the belt maintenance brochure.

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