HANOVER, Germany—Using a drone and strategically placed microphones on the ground, Continental A.G. has developed a conveyor belt maintenance system that can identify weak points along the track before a problem occurs.
The sensor-based system can reduce down time resulting from unscheduled maintenance, Conti said, and is mainly focused on a conveyor belt's idlers, since they are the most numerous and damage-prone component. The system also can permit the data-assisted planning of maintenance intervals and replaces the conventional, manual inspection process with a more precise one.
The monitoring system was developed by Co-space, a Conti startup.
"Conventional and often manual inspection methods can be very time-consuming, imprecise or even dangerous for service technicians because of the belt length or local circumstances such as underground routing and enclosed sections," said Clemens Panzer, a Conti leader with the system's development team.
Documentation also often is performed manually, Panzer said, with reports having to be entered by hand. To their detriment, maintenance intervals also often follow a fixed rotational schedule, with maintenance required on short notice to avoid failures with the idlers, considered essential for smooth conveyance operations.
To wit, a conveyor belt measuring about 131,000 feet in length runs over about 120,000 idlers.
Conti's hybrid solution of both air and ground instruments uses a drone equipped with infrared and RGB cameras that monitors both sides of the conveyor belt.