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Maintenance of Belt Conveyor Systems in Poland – An Overview

Chapter · January 2015

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-12301-1_3


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Maintenance of Belt Conveyor Systems
in Poland – An Overview

Radoslaw Zimroz1,2, Monika Hardygóra1,2, and Ryszard Blazej2

KGHM CUPRUM Ltd CBR Sikorskiego 2-8, 53-659 Wrocław, Poland
Machinery Systems Division, Wroclaw University of Technology,
Na Grobli 15, 50-421 Wroclaw, Poland

Abstract. The tendency to increase efficiency and safety in mining industry leads
to quick development of monitoring, diagnostic and management systems. It can
cover different aspect of mining activities. In this paper recent achievement in
Polish mining industry related to machinery systems will be discussed. Selected
solutions deployed by research teams from Wroclaw University of Technology in
both opencast and underground mining companies in Poland will be briefly pre-
sented and discussed. The purpose of this paper is to provide current state of the
research and practices focused on maintenance of belt conveyors. In particular,
among others, following projects will be overviewed :i) Online monitoring system
for drive units developed for lignite mine, ii) Portable monitoring system for con-
veyor belt with steel cords developed for lignite mine, iii), Diag Manager – main-
tenance system for belt conveyor transport network, iv) Laboratory and in situ
research on belt conveyor technology (belts, joints, idlers resistance to motion,
energy efficiency, etc). The Authors will try to summarize challenges in this field
and point out future work at the end of the paper

Keywords: belt conveyor, condition based maintenance, nondestructive testing,

condition monitoring.

1 Introduction

Nowadays every company should compete with other players on the market in
terms of efficiency, quality of products, production cost etc. Any troubles (break-
downs) with often complicated, unique machinery systems used in the company is
very undesirable due to financial loses as well as safety of the staff and environ-
mental issues. It was reported by Babiarz and Dudek [1] that due to unexpected
breakdowns several heavy duty machines in Polish opencast lignite mining was
destroyed completely and other required significant investment to rehabilitate ma-
chine or used mechanical systems. Similar problem might be find in underground
mining (hard coal, copper). What kind of reasons have been occurred in men-
tioned cases? The most spectacular have been related to basic machines in lignite
mine industry as bucket wheel excavator (planetary gearbox failure – several

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015 21

C. Niemann-Delius. (ed.), Proc. of the 12th Int. Symp Continuous Surface Mining - Aachen 2014,
Lecture Notes in Production Engineering, DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-12301-1_3
22 R. Zimroz, M. Hardygóra, and R. Blazej

month of production breakdown, BWE boom failure, burning of machine due to

belt ignition, etc).
In this paper we would like to be focused on belt conveyors in both opencast
and underground mines. Critical problems for this mechanical system are related
to belt (longitudinal intersection, joint failure), pulleys (damages of coating, bear-
ings, shaft) and other element of drive units (damages of electric motor, coupling,
gearbox). Due to mechanical contact of pulley’ coating and belt, it has sometimes
happen that temperature is increasing and belt ignition might initiate. This is very
dramatic situation for underground mines and usually results in serious conse-
quences in terms of organization of production in the mine, investigation by local
mining authority, financial losses for mine and managers, unfortunately it might
me also affect safety of mining staff.
Any failure of the machines in the mine might be very difficult to repair due to
sparse parts and experienced staff availability, environmental factors etc. To avoid
such situations, to maintain effectively machines and to manage of maintenance
process, many project have been launched in last decade in Polish mining indus-
try. The purpose of this paper is to list and review them as well as to synthesize
current effort to project what would be important in the near future in Poland.
A current state of the research and practices focused on maintenance of belt
conveyors will be discussed, in particular, among others, following projects will
be overviewed: i) Online monitoring system for drive units developed for lignite
mine(2010), ii) Portable monitoring system for conveyor belt with steel cords de-
veloped for lignite mine(2013), iii), Diag Manager – maintenance system for belt
conveyor transport network (2011 and 2013), iv) Laboratory and in situ research
on belt conveyor technology (belts, joints, idlers resistance to motion, energy effi-
ciency, etc). Mentioned industrial project have been deployed by research teams
from Wroclaw University of Technology, to provide whole picture regarding situ-
ation in Poland, other important implementation in both opencast and underground
mining companies in Poland will be recalled as well.

2 Belt Conveyor and Belt Conveyor System

To realize how important problem is discussed in the paper a brief description of

conveyor and example of conveyor based transportation system in the mine will
be presented. Fig 1a presents simplified diagram of a belt conveyor, which con-
sists of: a drive unit(s), a belt loop, idlers and some auxiliary elements. From the
very first view it doesn’t look so complicated. However, the problem with main-
tenance of belts, drive units, idlers etc is related to specificity of mining industry.
Today over 500 km of conveyor belts are installed in 4 lignite surface mines in
Poland, even more conveyor belts are installed in underground mines. In this pa-
per research is focused on belts and drive units. Different loading, harsh environ-
mental conditions, large dimensions and weight of conveyor components, high
power required to transport materials etc require innovative approaches for belt
conveyor maintenance management. It is important to notice, that elements of
Maintenance of Belt Conveyor Systems in Poland – An Overview 23

conveyor-based system are located on large area of mine (so called spatially dis-
tributed system) that requires also specific logistic procedures (Fig2). Taking into
account all these factors and different detailed problems of given conveyor com-
ponent, dedicated systems have to be developed, and finally information from
them should be integrated to make a decision on maintenance action.

Drive pulley Idlers Conveyor belt Loading


Return pulley

Fig. 1 Simplified diagram of a belt conveyor

Fig. 2 Example of belt conveyor based transportation system for one of lignite mine in

3 Belt Conveyor Laboratory

Transportation system in the mine is a key component in production chain in the

mine. There is very undesired by the miners to do any “passive” experiments that
might affect production efficiency. Any “active” experiments (introducing dam-
age) to test efficiency of monitoring system are not possible due to financial, or-
ganizational and safety reasons. In such a case the only possible solution is to play
with test rig. Such a conveyor for testing was built several years ago in our labora-
tory to test diagnostic systems. The belt is 17m length, 40 cm width, conveyor is
24 R. Zimroz, M. Hardygóra, and R. Blazej

equipped with speed control system, unfortunately, there is no load applied to the
conveyor (no material stream). It should be highlighted that it cannot replace final
test in situ, however it significantly decreased cost of testing belt diagnostic sys-
tems, vibration monitoring system, infrared thermography based diagnostic proce-
dures. Other equipments to identify parameters of belts or their joints have been
described in [2]

Fig. 3 A test rig used for monitoring/diagnostic oriented research

4 Monitoring and Diagnostic Systems for Belt Conveyor

In this chapter following subsections will discuss: i) Online monitoring system for
drive units developed for lignite mine (2010), ii) Portable monitoring system for
conveyor belt with steel cords developed for lignite mine (2013), iii), Diag Man-
ager – maintenance system for belt conveyor transport network developed for
underground copper ore mine (2011 and 2013). Again, number of element, their
different importance in the system, motivates us to develop different solution:
portable diagnostic system that has to be installed for each measurement and de-
installed after that and online, stationary system. Reasonable decision making
should be based on many factors, including average lifetime, loading condition,
damage type, importance of monitored component in whole chain and finally cost
of single stationary monitoring system

4.1 Diagnostic System for Conveyor Belts

A key difference between condition evaluation of belts and other object is that
length of the belt could reach several kilometers and the belt is moving with speed
equals approx. several m/s. Moreover, number, size and density (along belt length
and width) of damage could be very different and non-uniformly distributed. It is
due to the fact that belt’ loop consists of sections with different length. So in other
words there is no other option for using automatic monitoring and diagnostic sys-
tem. However, specific practices in belt operation requires dedicated solution that
need to be implemented in the system (“beginning” of the loop, differentiation be-
tween damage and joint, influence of belt speed, etc.). All these issues have been
taken into account in system presented in Fig 4 – hardware and software part are
presented, respectively [3, 4].
Maintenance of Belt Convey
yor Systems in Poland – An Overview 225

Fig. 4 Diagnostic system in operation:

o a) during measurement in the mine, b) view on maiin
window of developed softwaare

Fig5 shows example of results obtained for conveyor operating in lignite minne.
Fig5a shows spatial distrribution of detected damages (along width and length oof
the belt, note that joints are not visualized here), while Fig 5b-d aggregated resullts
describing number of dam mages vs belt width, length and finally sum of amplitudees
of detected damages vs beelt width.

Fig. 5 Visualisation of diaagnostic results: a) spatial distribution of detected damagees,

b) histogram no of damages per channel ,c) distribution of damages vs. belt’ lengtth,
d)distribution of amplitudes of damages per channel,

From Fig 5 one might extract knowledge about size number and distribution oof
damages that should be basis
b for decision making in modern maintenance mann-
agement. More informatio
on about system could be found in [3,4]
26 R. Zimroz, M. Hardygóra, and R. Blazzej

4.2 Maintenance Management

M System for Underground Belt
Conveyor Systeem

Continues belt conveyor based transport system form of complex structure oof
many conveyors. There are a two group of conveyors: low capacity conveyors useed
in several regions of the mine
m and high capacity conveyors used for main materiial
stream transport. It is obvvious that second group is more important and should bbe
equipped with continuouss monitoring systems. Due to financial reasons and loweer
risk, other conveyor coulld be maintain by periodic diagnostic inspection. It waas
common conclusion madee by engineers and researchers. Fig 6 shows how suchh a
measurement is performeed. Installation of the sensors, launching the software annd
data acquisition takes no more than a few minutes. The software installed on thhe
laptop (fulfilling military requirements due to harsh environment in undergrounnd
mine) automatically colleect and process the data (Fig 7) and finally provides inn-
formation on machine con ndition. The portable data acquisition system is also proo-
viding a data package forr data base – kind of maintenance management softwarre
that is used in the office to prepare reports, to plan maintenance action and so oon
(Fig 8). More information n are provided by [5,6]

Fig. 6 Diagnostic data acquuisition: a) view on sensors location (tacho probe and 2 accelle-
rometers), b) laptop with app
propriate software for data acquisition and diagnostics

Fig. 7 Visualisation of measurement and feature extraction: a) raw vibration signal (60s), b)
features extracted after signaal segmentation – 60 features with reference to operating condd

Maintenance of Belt Convey
yor Systems in Poland – An Overview 227

Fig. 8 Diag Manager II – software

s for maintenance management of belt conveyor baseed
transportation system

4.3 Condition Mon

nitoring System for Lignite Belt Conveyor
As it was said, in the sttrategic part of transportation system (i.e. lignite to thhe
power plant or main transsport line directly to mining shaft), there is a serious neeed
to assure very high reliabiility of belt conveyors. Due to tendency to make the conn-
veyor operation automatiic, a dedicated condition monitoring system have beeen
developed and installed inn the mine. Fig 9 show a picture of monitored drive sta-
tion and scheme of belt coonveyor with marked key components to be monitor. Thhe
system collect different type
t of physical variables (temperatures, currents, rota-
tional shaft speed and vibration),
v process them, diagnose condition of enginne,
gearbox and pulleys com mponents. The system follow modular/layer structure annd
consists of sensors, wiree transmission to the Data Acquisition Unit (DAU, Fiig
10a), WiFi transmission from
f DAU to Central Unit (CU), processing layer at CU
(Fig 10b, 11a) and finally
y visualization, reporting and publishing (Web) layer (Fiig
11b). More details about the
t system could be found in [7]


Fig. 9 a)View on monitored drive station, b) scheme of belt conveyor with marked keey
components to be monitor

Fig. 10 Hardware componeents developed for the project:a) data acquisition unit DAUU,
b) central unit CU with comp
puter for control, visualization and web-acces services
28 R. Zimroz, M. Hardygóra, and R. Blazej

Fig. 11 Visualisation of diagnostic results: a) main window of user interface with all chan-
nels providing information about current condition, b) long term trend analysis

5 Trends in Monitoring and Diagnostic Systems for Belt


Development of sensor and measurement technologies as well as data transmis-

sion and processing techniques make possible to apply very advanced, multichan-
nel monitoring systems for maintenance purposes. Moreover, apart from
measurement, it is often require to combine knowledge from measurements with
knowledge about failure analysis, human factors influence, environmental impact
and so on. All these information are nowadays available in modern corporations in
various data bases and information systems. In authors belief, the future of main-
tenance management will be based on data/information and knowledge fusion.
Problem of mining machines is that they operates in very harsh conditions, and
problem of maintenance seems to be very complicated [8]. It is due to number of
factors that should be taken into account. Additional problem that was recently
deeply studied by Bartelmus is influence of varying operating condition [9] and
unique degradation scenarios [10] in mining industry. This problem is partially re-
lated to data fusion concept suggested by Galar [11], because apart from current
diagnostic features values, knowledge about operational condition should be taken
into account Also history of operation (number of startup and shut down events,
repair action etc.) might significantly modify results of condition assessment and
prognosis. Research team lead by Barszcz [12] pointed out that due to harsh con-
ditions, complexity of machines and influence of external factors, data collecting
by automatic systems should be carefully interpreted and validated. It appears that
many data acquired by condition monitoring systems doesn’t contain any diagnos-
tic information due to, for example, damaged sensor. Finally, the last key issue
and in fact serious challenge for diagnostic is problem of decision making based
on collected data. Decision scheme commonly used in monitoring system follow
the “if then else” rule, that basically mean constant thresholds for warning or
alarm [13-15]. It has been proved among others by Bartelmus [9] that in machines
operated in time varying conditions values of thresholds should be load dependent
and might be linear or nonlinear function of load. Mentioned challenges (feature-
Maintenance of Belt Conveyor Systems in Poland – An Overview 29

operating condition dependencies, validation, load dependent threshold, data fu-

sion) seems to be universal problems both for rotating machines as well as belts
condition monitoring. It should be noticed that there are other commercial solu-
tions that also are used in mining companies ([16-18]) as well as other research in-
stitutes. As far as we know, at least in systems operated in mining companies,
mentioned problems were not solved in systematic way. Thresholds are “adapted”
according to engineering experience (what if machine is unique?), data fusion is
not performed, varying load is not taken into account. A final conclusion could be
formulated in optimistic manner: there is a lot of work to do with monitoring and
diagnostic in mining industry from research perspective and fortunately, there
are more and more mining companies that want to invest money in Condition

6 Conclusion

In the paper a review of last developments of condition based maintenance solu-

tions dedicated to belt conveyors is presented. They have been prepared by mem-
bers of Machinery Systems Division and prototypes were installed in opencast and
underground mine. A brief description of basic functions implemented in these
system is provided in appropriate sections. Finally, several challenges for future
work are pointed out. They seem to be complicated task and according to authors
knowledge many research teams work on them. Finally in the paper we point out
several challenges that come out from many years of experience with mining ma-
chines, monitoring and diagnostics. Unfortunately they seem to be classical ones:
experimental data validation, data processing, modeling, analysis, decision mak-
ing, information processing and visualization.

Acknowledgements. This work is partially supported by Applied Research Programme

(PBS): “Intelligent system for automated testing and continuous diagnosis of the conveyor
belt” (2012-2015) – R. Blazej and KGHM Cuprum – M Hardygora and R. Zimroz

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[16] http://famur.com.pl/ - description of FAMAC VIBRO system
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