Steve Hittmann remembers the days when v-belt drive maintenance involved manually pulling on the belt to turn the drive.
“It was an inherently dangerous process that resulted in way too many hand or finger injuries due to getting caught in a pinch point,” explains the CBC National Product Manager for Mechanical Drive Systems. “The Gates® revolutionary BIRD™ (Belt Installation + Rotation Device) technology has changed this. Rather than manually rotating the belt, the BIRD™ does the work for you. It is used to hold the pulleys during their installation and removal process, thus eliminating the risk of getting your fingers jammed between the belt and pulley.”
The BIRD™ safely facilitates the rotational inspection of a drive when it is shut down and locked out.
“Prior to the BIRD™, no product existed to address the risks associated with drive inspection and installation,” adds Steve. “The occupational health and safety implications of this technology is significant. Besides maintenance staff being injured there would be additional costs because of the injury – medical costs, legal fees, insurance premium increases, and then the actual downtime of the drive and subsequent production losses.”
Gates’ BIRD™ technology consists of two powerful, permanent magnets that are applied directly to the shiv or sprocket and are activated by an easy on/off switch. These same magnets have aluminium grips built on to them for safe handling.
“With the magnets fully engaged, you can use the BIRD™ to slowly and safely rotate the drive to inspect the shiv, the sprocket and the belts,” expands Steve. “When you’ve finished the inspection, you simply pull up slightly on the switch, flip it to the opposition, and put the BIRD™ back in its case. It’s easy, practical and above all, safe!”
While the safety benefits of the BIRD™ are clear, Steve also points out that it improves equipment uptime.
“The BIRD™ enables preventative maintenance, which in turn increases uptime, output and performance,” says the power transmission expert. “The ROI on this type of technology is swift, because preventative maintenance is an easy way to see efficiency gains and productivity improvements.”
Another Gates® product that significantly improves power transmission safety is the Draftguard™ anti-rotation device for air-cooled heat exchanger (ACHE) belt drive systems.
“Draftguard™ stops the fan from moving while maintenance is being performed, also protecting technicians from serious injury,” explains Steve. “ACHE drives can spin backwards when fans are off, but the blades are still subjected to air movement. This is known as back-drafting or wind-milling. Draftguard prevents the fan drives from rotating in the reverse direction.”
Back-drafting or wind-milling is dangerous for two reasons.
“Firstly, it can lead to unnecessary wear – when the drive is restarted the entire system experiences extreme shock load. This causes componentry wear and belt damage,” Steve expands. “Secondly, when it’s maintenance time, the drive has to be wrangled to a stop and then locked so that it doesn’t move while the crew is in close contact. Without a safe measure for either of these, a technician can get hurt, and the drive can get harmed too.”
At the core of Draftguard™, is high torque, one-way clutch. Furthermore, the flange plate is engineered to mount to either Gates® Taper-Lock™ or QD™ bushings used in ACHE belt drive systems. The torque arm enables mounting to the frame for additional protection. Because the Draftguard™ anti-rotation device is flat, it can fit within most fan guards.
“At the end of the day, the Gates® Draftguard™ anti-rotation device is a small investment that has big dividends in terms of improving drive performance,” concludes Steve. “Whether it’s using Gates’ BIRD™ for v-belts or the Draftguard™ for ACHE systems, these safety measures can significantly mitigate the risks to employees and damage to your equipment. If readers are interested to learn more about improving the safety of their drive systems, I encourage you to get in touch with your local CBC branch and we’ll assist you.”