For Mark Breasley, whose business MB Engineering works closely with coal handling and preparation plants in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales, helping extend component life on the mining equipment to improve maintenance cycles for his clients is the number one priority.

It was as part of one of these troubleshooting tasks for a coal washing plant that he first used the Gates’ Poly Chain® GT™ Carbon belts to replace a troublesome chain drive on a roller screen – used for separating fine, coarse and sticky coal in coal washeries.

“My clients were facing a serious problem where the roller chains in the chain drives would either chew up the sprockets or the chains themselves would fail frequently despite running them through oil baths. The site managers had to rely on piecemeal maintenance throughout the year to keep their roller screen running, which of course wasn’t ideal and cost them in downtime,” says Mark.

Mark sought the advice of his long-term business partners at CBC to find the best way to resolve the issue and it was through the conversation with Paul McIntyre from CBC Beresfield that he finally decided on replacing the chain drive system with the belts and sprocket system using Gates Poly Chain® synchronous carbon fibre belts.

“We had already discussed the Poly Chain® option with Paul many times and I had also used them in some of my pump upgrades for clients. But I was still not 100 per cent sure that the belts would work best in this scenario, because the application was not a high-tension one. Where I had used these belts in water pumps, the Poly Chain® belts were almost always under a high tension,” says Mark.

Despite those initial concerns, the application proved to be an absolute success, with MB Engineering seeing significant extension of their equipment’s service life.

“The upgrade has enabled the plant to change their maintenance strategy from piecemeal maintenance to only replacing the worn components once every 12 months. Of course, being made of Polyurethane with carbon fibre cords the Poly Chain® belts can often last a lot longer but replacing them every 12 months ties in with the plant’s maintenance cycle,” says Mark.

For Paul, whose CBC branch at Beresfield has worked with MB Engineering for over 30 years, the relationship with Mark is more of a friendship than just a business relation.

“Mark is a mechanical engineer himself so we enjoy our conversations about the latest industrial products in the market or applications where we could potentially be of assistance to Mark and his business. The way our partnership works is that he troubleshoots for his customers and we support and troubleshoot for him with our products and services,” says Paul.

Having used many of the Gates products in his projects, Mark is impressed with the level of technical support offered by CBC and the Gates specialists when the need arises.

“I have worked with CBC for a very long time and I have always sourced the Gates products through them. Of course, if I’m working on a re-design for a piece of equipment that involves highly technical conversations, the CBC engineering team might reach out to the Gates engineering team and they come back to me with definite answers.”

Iain Street, Sales Manager at Gates Australia, explains why replacing roller chain drives with Gates Poly Chain® belts is becoming increasingly common practice across multiple industries.

“Many original equipment manufacturers prefer to put in a competitively priced drive system when building their machines and because the initial cost of chains and sprockets is often lower than belt systems, chain drives are still used extensively in mining equipment such as crushers, coal wash plants, inclined conveyors and bucket elevators,” he says. “In all of those applications, a chain-to-belt upgrade can offer efficiencies in the long term that far outweigh the higher initial investment.”

Among the many benefits of changing from roller chains to Poly Chain® belts, Iain says the reduced wear on sprockets is probably the most important one, as it helps extend the sprocket life by up to ten times.

“When you have chain on chain contact, the environment around it usually becomes very aggressive and the chain needs lubrication. When you lubricate the chain, it attracts contaminants and once these contaminants get into your drive system, sprocket wear increases. The Poly Chain® belt runs dry and needs no lubrication, so it doesn’t attract any contaminants and is user friendly to the environment.”

The reduced weight of the drive system is another key benefit, Iain explains.

“Replacing Poly Chain® from roller chain also lowers the weight of the drive which reduces the overhung load. Which is a real plus if you are looking for longevity and reliability in your drives.

Further efficiencies can be achieved as the drive systems become more compact with Poly Chain®; Iain explains.

“Poly Chain® Carbon™ synchronous belts have 400 per cent greater capacity than HTD (High Torque Drive) timing belts, which allows you to reduce the width of the belt. Being a synchronised belt, it can also offer up to 5% energy saving over a v-belt drive since there is no slippage.

“The Gates Poly Chain® is available in three pitch lengths, 8mm, 14mm and 19mm, but Iain says Gates also offers customised belt lengths where specific applications, such as linear systems, call for longer belts.”

“The best thing about the Poly Chain® belts is that they are truly set-and-forget. Where other rubber belts require re-tensioning throughout their service life, the Poly Chain® belts do not require any re-tensioning or re-lubrication, which means they are completely maintenance free,” he concludes.

“Gates has multiple case studies on how upgrading to Poly Chain® belts has reduced slippage issues or sprocket wear related issues. These case studies are available on the Gates Australia website and can help further demonstrate the benefits for each specific sector.”