The Australian cotton industry is one of the last bastions of true-blue Aussie family owned and operated farms, employing around 12,000 people in regional communities—many of whom have lived and worked in the communities for generations.
Ninety per cent of Australian cotton gins are family farms in New South Wales and Queensland where the industry provides considerable economic value to the regions where it is grown, generating about $2 billion per year in export earnings for the local economy.1
Central and South Queensland is the region for cotton production, and at the heart of the industry there is CBC Toowoomba, where CBC Technical Representative for Power Transmission Mick Locke has been working for more than 22 years.
“Cotton is a natural fibre plant that grows in warm climate conditions to tall shrubs with flower buds that drop after several weeks,” says Mick.
“The buds leave behind ripe cotton balls that contain fluffy white lint and seeds. The seed cotton balls are then picked from the field and transferred to a cotton gin. From there, the lint is parsed out from the seeds and pressed into cotton bales.”
In preparation for the annual cotton harvest during the summer months, Mick regularly visits cotton gins to ensure their ginning equipment is adequately serviced for processing the fibre. He is the CBC Toowoomba resident expert on Power Transmission products for cotton gin equipment and works with local cotton producers to keep their operations running smoothly.
“The most important part of the ginning process is the cotton bale press because it creates the final product that will be shipped to customers,” he explains. “During a cotton harvest, cotton gins run continuously to ensure the product is pressed in peak condition.”
“The gins run on power transmission belt drives with up to a dozen belts at a time,” Mick explains. “Downtime on equipment isn’t an option and the gins need to be in operation for the entire season without requiring belt replacements.”
Part of Mick’s job is to keep ahead of the latest and most advanced belt technology and working closely with suppliers like Gates® makes this possible.
Gates® have a wide range of belt products suitable to agricultural applications such as the cotton industry. The belts are famed for their high quality and performance. These include v-belts such as the Predator, Quad-Power, Super HC, Double-Sided, Tri-Power and Wrapped V-Belt, as well as synchronous belts including the Poly Chain GT Carbon, Special, Twin Power Belt, Powergrip GT4, HTD, and the metal Poly Chain GT Sprockets.
“One of our key suppliers is Gates® Australia and they recently released an interesting case study for troubleshooting V-belts in a cotton gin which I use as a reference,” he explains.
“At the cotton gin in question, the double-sided V-belts on site were underperforming. Replacing the belts multiple times during the season was slowly down production and extending the ginning season at huge cost to the farmer.”
The solution Gates® suggested were Hi-Power™ II Dubl-V belts, which proved to be very successful on the application.
“The Hi-Power™ II Dubl-V belts are designed to make full contact with the grooves of a pulley for uniform loading,” explains Mick. “The core of each belt is made from Flex-Bonded polyester cords that reduce stress and the Flex-Weave ™ woven cover serves as a protective exterior shielding the belt core from oil, dirt and heat.”
Often, Mick will need to advise cotton growers on how to correctly implement their belts and when they can make an upgrade. “I can assist with achieving the correct belt alignment and tensioning for greater reliability during peak harvest season.”
“Ideally, the only repairs and maintenance at a cotton gin would only occur during the off-season,” he concludes. “But when an issue arises, CBC is there to provide guidance and technical support with getting things up and running again.”
- Cotton Australia https://cottonaustralia.com.au/industry-overview