The optimum performance of any power transmission system relies on getting the belt drive installation right, followed by maintenance best practices. As industry expert Steve Hittmann points out, optimum belt drive performance cannot be achieved with guess work.

“You need the right tools for the job,” says Steve, CBC’s National Product Manager for Mechanical Drive Systems and Belt Drives.

Gates is globally recognised as a leader in providing safe and accurate maintenance tools for belts and pulleys. The Gates Power Transmission Maintenance Kits, available in different configurations, combine the tools every technician needs for safe and accurate installation of belts drives.

Tools such as the Gates 508C Sonic Tension Meter and the Gates EZ Align® help technicians with accurate belt drive installation, while a tool such as the Gates Belt Installation and Rotation Device (BIRD) improves safety in belt installation.

Moreover, Gates is also actively involved in providing after-sale support and training to maintenance professionals, as Iain Street, Business Development Manager – NSW for Power Transmission at Gates, points out.

“Having the right tools is important, but it’s not enough. The key is to fully understand how those tools work. This is what Gates provides. In conjunction with CBC, we often organise training programs for various industries, wherein we cover everything from belt selection, design of drive systems and using the right tools for maintenance. The sessions often last between two to four hours, depending on the client’s needs,” says Iain.

“Pulley alignment and belt tensioning are among the most important parameters during the initial installation of belt drive systems. 

“The Gates EZ Align® laser alignment tool makes it very quick and easy to check alignment of shafts, sheaves and sprockets. The new EZ Align® model is available with a green laser instead of the red laser, which is better suited to outdoor or brighter environments,” says Iain.

Once the pulley is aligned correctly, the next step is to install the belt with correct tension. Gates provides tools such as plunger barrels, used in the more traditional methods of belt tensioning. But the Gates 508C Sonic Tension Meter is the most accurate device for measuring belt tension, according to Iain. 

The Gates 508C Sonic Tension Meter works by measuring the vibration of the belt span and instantly converting the vibration frequency into belt static tension. 

“When you use the Gates Design Flex® Prosoftware to design any belt drive system, the output document includes the optimum static tension and the best belt frequency for the Sonic Tension Meter. A good practice is to note down this optimum tension on a Gates Aluminium Tension Plate and attach it to the drive to refer back to when re-installing the belts,” says Iain.

The Gates 508C Sonic Tension Meter also comes with an optional Inductive Sensor, which Iain says is better suited to noisy environments.

“There are two types of attachments when you use the Sonic Tension Meter. One is a microphone sensor, which is good in quiet environments. The other, which is an optional Inductive Sensor, is more effective at very low frequencies than the conventional microphone sensors, and may provide better results in noisy environments,” Iain adds.

Keeping an eye on the wear in pulley grooves is a critical step in pulley maintenance – something that, Iain says, is often overlooked.

“It’s not just the v-belts that wear. Pulley’s wear too. The Gates Belt and Pulley Gauge in the Gates Power Transmission Maintenance Kits is quite a handy tool to check the wear of the pulleys,” says Iain.

Both Iain and Steve emphasise the importance of preventive maintenance to achieve optimised performance of drive systems.

“Whenever we conduct the Gates training programs, even for experienced technicians, the feedback we receive is generally very positive. Many CBC customers have already seen the benefits of maintaining their belt drives correctly through reduced breakdowns,” says Steve.

“No matter what they knew already, people always come out of the training sessions saying they learned something new. I encourage everyone to take part in the programs and see the benefits of preventive maintenance for their plants, knowing that Gates has the right tools to get you there,” Iain adds.  

Hot Tip 

• Wear proper clothing. Don’t wear loose or bulky clothes such as neckties, loose sleeves or loose lab coats around belt drives. 

• Power should be shut off and controls locked before inspecting.

• Keep area around drives free of clutter, debris and other obstructions.

• Always keep drives properly guarded.