Nord Drivesystems’ Industrial Gear Units have helped raise the bar for a Western Australian producer’s conveyor drive system.

Drive systems are the beating heart that gives life to conveyors and feeders – so it’s important to keep them in good health.

Operators need to ensure that conveyor drives are sufficiently lubricated, well-ventilated and properly housed to avoid degradation over time.

Understanding this, Germany-based Nord Drivesystems developed its Unicase principle of design in the 1980s to provide a compact, singular housing with no dividing seams between the drive and gear unit. This provides tight-fitting, well-protected drive components, according to Adrian Taglieri, Engineering Manager at Nord Drivesystems.

The invention was a breakthrough at the time, allowing for transmission components to be placed together in a single housing without any forces placed on the housing joints. This not only reduced the risk of leaks and protected output shaft seals, but led to quieter operation and increased lubricant life.

The design has been iterated over the years and remains in the company’s mining-focused product portfolio.

Nord has developed a line of modular industrial gear units (IGUs) with a range of matched individual components, giving conveyor operators the option to choose drive systems that align with operational needs.

“The Nord approach helps to increase flexibility for users, adding component choice, narrowing delivery windows and leading to quicker installation times,” Mr Taglieri says.

“The IGUs are aimed at the mining industry, as they are robust and provide flexible options,” explains Brad Bickford, Application Engineering Manager – Power Transmission at Inenco Group, the distributors of Nord’s products in Australasia.

“Nord has also various other smaller geared motor options, as well, but the high-kilowatt IGU products really prove their mettle in large mining applications.”

The company was last year tasked with supplying several Maxxdrive helical-bevel drive systems for a conveyor-feeder setup at a Western Australian lithium operation.

Nord worked closely on the project with Inenco Group subsidiary CBC, one of Australia’s largest distributors of bearings and power transmission solutions.

The installation required close collaboration with the client to ensure they would receive the best possible outcomes.

“Nord proposed a great package that was in line with what this particular client was looking for. When the opportunity arose for us to supply the client, we looked at numerous options and summarised that the Nord proposal could deliver best to spec,” Mr Bickford says.

“We supplied the units in March 2018 and it then took some time for installation and commissioning, so they have been in operation for over 12 months now.”

The installation of the right-angled, close-coupled drives would prove to be one of the company’s most ambitious Australian projects yet. It required six large drive systems to be implemented across four conveyors and two feeders.

The job involved the installation of Nord helical-bevel Maxxdrive units with close coupled motors. The products were attractive to the client due to the combination of a modular design, ability to output up to 250,000 newton metres of torque, and use of Nord’s Unicase housing design.

Inenco was given a specification that included several engineering parameters. In correlation with Nord, the company worked through the client’s individual points to come up with drives that were satisfactory for the project.

Specific additions to the drives, tailored for the project, included the addition of a keyless shrink disc to the output side of the Maxxdrive. The implementation of this frictional locking assembly expedites both the commissioning and decommissioning process of the IGU Maxxdrive through a high-capacity interference fitting. This significantly cuts down the time needed to loosen the IGU out of position and eliminates difficulties associated with the installation and removal of press-fit hubs.

The Nord design team also implemented an extra measure in the form of upgraded taconite seals to reduce the risks of dust ingress and leakages aligning with the harsh conditions associated with Western Australian mining. TECO MaxE3 high-efficiency premium severe duty motors fit and drive Nord’s IGUs.

For safety and efficiency purposes, the four IGU systems destined for use on the conveyors were also installed with backstops to prevent roll-back on inclines. Additionally, where required, high-speed mechanical fans are also installed to assist with cooling in a hot climate.

“All has gone well so far, following conversations with the client. Compared to rival brands, it stacks up very competitively, with quality German backing,  features and benefits,” Mr Bickford says. “It’s a quality product that ticks all the boxes.”

Nord and Inenco also offer post-installation maintenance options down the line to ensure the units remain in top condition.

The client has purchased rotable spares that can be efficiently swapped out for future servicing periods for this purpose.

Overall, Bickford concludes, the relationship between Nord and Inenco has “gone from strength to strength” since the completion of the installation last year.

“The IGUs really came into their own on this project,” Mr Bickford says.