How Arkhola, Arcosa are extending idler wear life

By |  October 22, 2021
A pair of producers came across a new solution that’s extending idler life – even in their extreme operating conditions. (Photo: Superior Industries)

A pair of producers came across a new solution that’s extending idler life – even in their extreme operating conditions. (Photo: Superior Industries)

When choosing conveyor idlers for extended life in the toughest applications, producers typically look at load ratings, belt weight, material weight and drop height, bearing and shaft size, and much more.

What’s often ignored, though, is bearing seal design.

“Consider that idler bearings may fail due to load, due to premature fugitive material contamination or due to a combination of both,” says Paul Schmidgall, chief engineer of conveyor components at Superior Industries. “That’s why seal design is so important – and it’s a game-changer when operations can target specific seals to specific applications – either extremely abrasive, wet or dry applications, or long-distance overland conveying.”

Superior has tested dozens of seal design iterations for nearly a decade, Schmidgall says. The result is a new series of application-specific technologies that extend idler life, even in the most extreme operating conditions.

Titanium tough

Superior’s SpinGuard Titanium seals, designed for challenging wet slurry applications, are installed at the APAC/Arkhola Sand & Gravel Plant in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

The site is a dredging operation that’s tough on idlers, especially those on the operation’s three mainline conveyor belts coming out of the pit.

“When Superior initially developed its new Titanium seals, they were tested at this plant,” says Wayne Cooper, sales engineer at GW Van Keppel Co., a regional conveyor parts distributor for Superior Industries. “After a six-month period, the operation switched to the new idler seals going forward.

“In this abrasive sand dredging application, the standard idler seal is not the optimal choice,” he adds.

Cooper works closely with the maintenance team at the plant, helping them properly inventory critical wear parts.

“I’m a problem solver, and I help plants find ways to increase efficiency,” he says. “Their previous idlers were wearing too quickly, with excessive wear to both the seals and cans. The Titanium seal has given them the longevity they need within the wet, high-impact areas of the plant.”

Arkhola Sand & Gravel, which is located near the Arkansas River, produces up to 4,000 tpd.

“The dredge itself is capable of higher tonnage, so it’s important to do everything we can to debottleneck the plant and become more efficient,” says James Brewer, plant manager.

According to Brewer, the operation pumps from the dredge into the water wheel.

“When more water goes into the wheel than sand, some of that water ends up on the belt, and that just eats away at those idler rollers,” he says. “The constant rubbing acts like sandpaper on the metal. Material can get into the bearings pretty easily – but with the Titanium rollers, we no longer have that issue.”

The three belts coming from the pit add up to a half-mile of conveyor combined. Since testing the Titanium idler seals at various impact points, the operation has replaced the entire system with them.

“It’s a great value, especially since the price of the Titanium seal really isn’t that much more than what we paid for standard idlers,” Brewer says. “I get twice the wear life over the standard idlers, and we rarely replace an idler for bearing failure anymore. It’s one of the better moves I’ve made at this plant.”

The Titanium seal is application specific and designed for extreme conditions. (Photo: Superior Industries)

The Titanium seal is application specific and designed for extreme conditions. (Photo: Superior Industries)

Wear life increase

An Arcosa Aggregates operation has some experience with the Titanium seal, as well.

At the Rye Pit, an Arcosa site northeast of Houston, the facility operates a 500-ft.-long transfer conveyor for concrete sand.

“At an impact point on the belt where excess water is being relieved, we were experiencing premature roller failure due to materials getting into the bearings,” says John Worrell, an industry veteran and plant manager for two Arcosa sites. “We had been using standard CEMA C idlers on that section of the belt and getting only up to three months of life out of them – before having to shut everything down, change out the roller and crank it back up.”

Worrell turned to GW Van Keppel, his local Superior distributor, and sales engineer Dave Bolerjack for solutions.

“His team came right out to us and took a close look at our application,” Worrell says. “With their recommendation, we installed the new Titanium seals at that wet point on the belt, and we haven’t had a bearing failure since.”

Worrell says the Rye Pit started with one new Titanium seal roll and gradually added others as the time came to change out a roll. He says they’re up to four idlers with Titanium seals, with the first one installed still running.

“The most important issue is life expectancy,” Worrell says. “I’m forecasting at least a year of operation for the new rolls, which would be four times the wear life we got from standard idlers. The Titanium seals give us both bearing and belt protection. Paying a little more for them is well worth it.”

Carol Wasson is a veteran freelance writer for the aggregate and construction equipment industries.

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