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Preventing the Top 3 Problems that can Stop a Bucket Elevator

February 8, 2018

You’ve purchased and installed a continuous bucket elevator and everything’s running fine – until Murphy strikes and your elevator and line are halted. What now? Unplanned maintenance interventions, frantic calls to the manufacturer, whatever it takes to get the elevator back up and running. While bucket elevators from reputable OEM’s are dependable machines, such unexpected scenarios can happen, and often they can be avoided. This blog highlights the top three reasons that can bring a continuous bucket elevator down, and offers guidance for avoiding these problems.

Problem #1: Not following the manufacturer’s recommended PM activities and schedule.

In many facilities, continuous bucket elevators are workhorse units. In these settings, it is often easy to overlook performing vital Preventive Maintenance (PM) activities. Failure to perform needed PM activities results in parts and components being pushed beyond their expected life-cycles, with resulting parts failure and attendant unplanned downtime.

In a January 2017 article which appeared in Powder Bulk Engineering magazine, John McDonald, Service Team Leader at UniTrak, highlighted the need to follow an OEM’s recommended PM activities and schedule. In that article, John also discussed particular aspects of a continuous bucket elevator that should be regularly inspected to detect signs of premature wear and tear that could lead to failure. This need becomes even more acute in severe service settings where aggressive materials are being moved or the equipment is being used in extreme conditions and temperatures.

Problem #2: Equipment jamming.

Continuous bucket elevators can jam for a variety of reasons. Some of these include:

  • Moving product that can interlock or catch on equipment frame members.
  • Material blockages or foreign bodies become entrapped within the elevator shell or housing.
  • Worn buckets that fail to overlap or interlock as designed.
  • Drive belt with too much slack, causing buckets to jam.
  • Slipping or mistracking drive belt or chain.
  • Loose, broken, or missing fasteners which secure the buckets to the drive chain or belt.

The risk and incidence of equipment jams can be reduced by vigilant operation and regular equipment inspections designed to detect the above causes.

Problem #3: Material build-up at the elevator infeed.

Material which spills from buckets as it transits the elevator, or which accumulates in the infeed area due to poor material feeding, can build up to the point where machine operation is halted. Accumulated material can cause buckets to be torn loose from their mounting fasteners, or block the progress of buckets through the elevator, resulting in an overload situation and consequent machine shutdown.

To prevent material from accumulating within the elevator sections or infeed area and stopping the equipment, consider the following preventive actions:

  • If you are buying a new continuous bucket elevator, consider a machine which uses a fully interlocking bucket assembly, such as the TipTrak™ line of elevators from UniTrak. Fully interlocking bucket assemblies have no gaps between adjacent buckets through which material can fall.
  • With an existing installation, check the infeed area particularly underneath the bucket assembly and other equipment sections for the presence of any material build-up. Regular checks can identify material accumulation before it reaches the point where machine operation is halted.
  • Pay particular attention to how the unit is fed with material. It is important to ensure that continuous bucket elevators are fed with a regulated flow of material that prevents overfeeding and spillage. This may require the use of a vibratory or rotary valve feeder to regulate the flow of material into the elevator.

As noted above, continuous bucket elevators from reputable manufacturers are dependable units that can offer excellent uptime and availability if certain basic practices are followed. Following the tips above can help ensure you avoid the problems described above and reduce unplanned equipment stoppages.

UniTrak manufactures the TipTrak™ line of continuous bucket elevators. These elevators are available in a range of configurations and capacities. TipTrak™ elevators feature fully interlocking bucket assemblies and a rubber beltchain which never needs tensioning or lubrication. A wide range of options are available to support specific applications. To find out more about TipTrak™ continuous bucket elevators, please contact our sales team directly.

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