Portfolio of new technology
What's in a name? More than the branding, Hall and Radding noted.
In 2019, Conti installed the world's strongest conveyor belt, an ST 10000, in the world's largest copper mine in Chuquicamata, Chile.
Europe's longest conveyor belt for a cement factory was built by Conti and Techmi in Montalieu, France. The belt is about eight miles long with twists and turns on the head and tail of the system to run parallel to the loaded belt on the return.
And these record-setting belts—or any previous Legg, Belttrade or Phoenix belt for that matter—require innovative maintenance programs.
Both Conti MultiProtect, a magnetic rip detection system for conveyor belts, and ContiTech's unique drone and sensor inspection system (still in the pilot program stage) are predictive maintenance systems that alert a belt operator before a problem occurs.
"Drone inspection has been released to market place, and we are identifying pilot customers right now," Hall said. "This is designed for long, overland conveyors. We think we have a decided edge here with these smart solutions. It is fair to say our customers are seeking complete conveying health and performance monitoring capabilities."
Using a drone and strategically placed microphones on the ground, the system can identify weak points along a track before a problem occurs. It mainly is focused on a conveyor belt's idlers, since they are the most numerous and damage-prone component. To wit, a conveyor belt measuring about 131,000 feet in length runs over about 120,000 idlers.
The system also permits 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.
The hybrid solution of both air and ground instruments uses a drone that monitors both sides of the conveyor belt through the use of infrared and RGB cameras. After the drone flies over a given section, it returns to a charging station and uploads the data to a cloud space as it recharges. The data then is processed using an algorithm that helps detect defects.
Maintenance that is required in covered sections or underground conveyors is predicted with microphones installed every 65 to 80 feet. They capture frequency variations in the idlers—essentially any acoustic warnings. The audio data on the ground is uploaded twice per day.
Conti said the system, so far, has seen successful field trials. It is scheduled to be operational some time this year.
The Conti MultiProtect system is similarly predictive thanks to magnetized rip inserts that can monitor steel cord damage and splice integrity—essentially monitoring weak points throughout the length of the conveyor belt.
In addition to faster, more agile service from one-stop shopping, Conti noted that the conveying industry is increasingly conscious of environmental protection and sustainability.
The conveying solutions segment has responded with three belt products that address this need.
"We have three primary products that fit in the sustainability category," Radding said. "First are the enclosed conveyor belts, known as pouch or pipe belts. They protect the belting material from UV, water and rain. Numerous customers use this to protect the environment."
Radding also touted ContiTech's Eco Series Pulley Covers, which reduce the energy needed to drive the belt; and ContiClean, a compound that is added to the top cover of a belt to help aggregate materials discharge completely, without sticking.
"Sustainability is very, very important at Conti—from the top down, to people who work in the facilities and who work in field," Hall said. "We have been in a mode of reuse, whether trimming belts or repairing belts, in some cases reconditioning them by changing covers. But a belt does reach end-of-life at some point. We are working on something I cannot get into, but it involves the true recycling of conveyor belts.
"This is the next goal as we continue the sustainability march."
Whether the belt technology is sustainable or new age, the offerings are available to distributors, end users and OEMs thanks to the restructuring at ContiTech.
"Part of the reorganization was on the sales side, with distribution, end user and OEMs being the three sales channels," Radding said. "This was to better service customers in a streamlined format."
Conti then followed up with the rebranding on the service side.
"Depending on the channel, we then provide services and service technology through the belt side," Hall said. "The ultimate vision is providing total conveying solutions. Depending on the channel, there are different needs. We want to have a wide range of solutions to maximize efficiency within their conveying operations."