Back-breaking manual transportation of raw materials was, until the industrial revolution, the order of mining, agricultural and manufacturing sectors throughout the world.
Men and beasts bent double under the weight of their loads, lugging them from source to manufacturing plant, day in and day out. It was a large and slow labour force, fraught with human error and vulnerable to the weather, illness and accidents. So, when conveyor belt technology started edging its way into production in the early 1900s and bringing with it increased profits and effectiveness, factory, mine and plant owners were quick to implement it.
The conveyor belt is undoubtedly one of the most effective labour saving devices ever invented, says Brendon Cowley, New Business Director of C3 Shared Services, a company that specialises in the design and installation of state-of-the-art thermal technology, intelligent video analytics and fire systems. “It has streamlined inter-building transportation, moving raw materials with ease, speed and high load capacities, and saving incalculable amounts of time and money.”
However, as effective as they are, conveyor belts come with risks, one of the main being fire, he points out. Aside from the obvious threat to human life, fire can slow or bring production to a halt as well as destroy facilities, hence the need for vulnerable sites to have good fire detection systems, he maintains.
“Many fires associated with conveyor belts are the result of mechanical failure. Roller idler sets, bearings and gears seize, pulley bearings collapse, friction results in the brake drives, rollers jam, belts slip – these are all fires just waiting to break out. Additionally, flammable materials such as wood, diesel fuel, mineral oil, hydraulic liquids, and solid or liquid plastics, which can be found around conveyor belt systems, are also highly combustible. Add to this list smouldering coal dust, hot surfaces, burning liquids, welding and fire beads, and one has a potentially highly flammable environment to secure, Cowley notes.
For Cowley, the answer to preventing conveyor belt fires is a holistic solution that incorporates a number of components, including the actual installation of the conveyor belt. “Regardless of how professional the installation, the company cannot guarantee that working parts will not fail at some time for whatever reason,” he says. “The answer then lies in being able to detect failing mechanical parts and replace them in good time, or identify hot surfaces quickly before they have time to ignite.”
C3 has accordingly designed an advanced selective heat sensor capable of early fire detection – no mean feat considering the challenges of detecting failing conditions. “Early fire detection gives workers time to escape. It also allows operational and security managers to shut down the equipment to prevent further damage, which has massive cost saving benefits as only the failing part would then have to be replaced.”
The perfect solution, according to Cowley, is the pneumatic electronic heat detector, which can be installed very close to mechanical parts prone to failure and overheating. Temperature deviations can be recorded so that any rapidly rising temperature will set off alarm bells. “What’s really excited operational and security managers is the fast reaction time of this device, which picks up changes in temperatures in 60 to 100 milliseconds. This gives operators vital reaction time to safeguard the rest of the equipment as well as the materials being transported on the conveyor belt at the time.”
Highly accurate and super-sensitive, the unit detects both direct and indirect fire exposure, while its sensor sensitivity can be calibrated according to specific environmental conditions, he explains further. Fire events, faults and signal peaks are stored in the detector’s NVM (Non-Volatile Memory) and can be downloaded at any time through a USB interface. Internal thresholds can be configured for those values and the detector can drive “pre-alarm” and “fire alarm” relays accordingly.
Lightweight, compact and user-friendly, the unit has a built-in audio-visual indication that provides a complete all-in-one detection, alarm and fire suppressant activation solution. Its pneumatic electronic heat detector analyses the rate of temperature rise as well as measures absolute temperature changes above ambient conditions. It operates on the rapid rise in element temperature over time, irrespective of the starting temperature, so, for example, temperature changes of 10 degrees per second are interpreted differently from the same change rise over three hours.
This robust solution is unaffected by grime, dirt and other materials that tend to gather in conveyor belt systems, offering extremely reliable detection in the most extreme conditions, and with a low risk of false alarms, he adds. Adding to its robustness is that the unit doesn’t require any maintenance and can withstand temperatures of 1100°C for up to 5 minutes.
The pneumatic electronic heat detector can be installed practically anywhere that requires overheating and fire monitoring, regardless of space constraints. This, explains Cowley, is due to its flexible tubing, which can be fitted into very tight spaces which would preclude other monitoring equipment.
Compatible with a variety of market verticals, the detector replaces the need for multiple ordinary detectors. It can be used in a range of applications from industrial, commercial and military to public transportation, off-road vehicles, agriculture, machineries, generator rooms and tunnels. It’s also ideal for single-zone protection for buildings, land vehicles and marine vessels.
For more information on the Fire and Overheating Detector, please call C3 Shared Solutions on 011 312 2040 or email firstname.lastname@example.org