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Front Page » May 16, 2013 » Focus » Riding the belt, Fenner Dunlop moves mining along
Published 470 days ago

Riding the belt, Fenner Dunlop moves mining along


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

It's hard to imagine modern coal mining, or mining of any kind, without the technology that exists today. For coal mining, without long walls and continuous miners, men would still be picking at the walls of mines with shovels and picks, loading the coal by hand and carting it out with either small vehicles or by horse.

It was a different world before the advent of modern technology. But an even earlier invention has had another great effect on mining. That was the creation of the conveyor belt system.

The idea for it started in the 19th century and by the early 1890s an inventor named Thomas Robins had developed a series of devices that could be used for carrying large heavy amounts of ore, coal or just about anything that would fit on the belt that was used to move material. By 1905, Richard Sutcliffe had devised a system of conveyors for coal mines, which almost turned the industry on its head as these movers of vast material were installed. Since then, in almost every decade, advances have been made in belt construction technology and other parts of the conveyor systems.

One of the leaders in the field of conveyor technology and systems is Fenner Dunlop. Fenner was founded before much of he modern ideas about conveyor systems came onto the scene in 1861. They produced leather belting at the time. In 1921 the company diversified into textile belting and subsequently into polymer belting. In 2006 the Fenner Dunlop initiated a major expansion. And it was in 2008 the company acquired Conveyor Services. Up until that time they were one of the leaders in belt manufacturing; after that they also became a leader in full service conveyor equipment with the ability to not only supply and maintain belting, but provide idlers (the devices the belt rides on) and structures (the towers and base units that the idlers are attached to).

About that same time they also acquired Allison Custom Fabrication which gave the company the ability to also supply the drive systems for mining conveyors. Overall the system is called now Engineered Conveyor Systems.

The company has branches all over the world, with corporate offices in Pittsburgh, Pa. Presently they sell about 70 percent of their systems to mining operations, 25 percent to power generation facilities and about five percent to agriculture, manufacturing, etc.

Today, in the local area, Fenner Dunlop's facility on Airport Road services the Castle Valley for sales, installation and maintenance of conveyor systems. While concentrating in the local area on coal the company builds conveyors for any type of service from farming to coal mines. They work in conjunction with other Fenner Dunlop facilities in Delta and Denver, Colo., Farmington, N.M. and Gillette, Wyo. These outlets work together to supply manpower for large projects in each others areas and to help with emergency work on systems that need it. The day the Sun Advocate visited the local facility a number of the men at the location and working on a project were from out of state.

The local presence includes six field service workers, one sales representative, one administrative assistant, one office manager and the general manager.

At the heart of any conveyor system is the belt itself. The modern technology of having belts that will handle the weight and strain of heavy high speed operations is almost unbelievable. One just has to think of the size and the pressures that are exerted on belts carrying ore or coal.

"The correct belting for the application it is going to be used for is very important," said Bruce Sherman, the Price operations General Manager about conveyor systems that his company manufactures, installs and maintains.

Sherman knows his business. He has been with the company for seven years (at first with Conveyor Services) and worked for Arch Coal for 11 years.

Belts were just once made of basic rubber with some cloth thrown in. Those were adequate, but they stretched, became brittle and broke. Todays technology is very different, and it needs to be considering the use that these system gets in these days of ultimate automation.

Sherman says the life of a belt is determined by a number of factors including the amount of material that is conveyed on them, the weather they are exposed to, what the cover of the belt consists of and its thickness, and what materialo are moved on it. The speed the belt line is operated at can also be a factor. Most run at 600-1000 feet per minute.

Belts are built of two different kinds of materials today. There are steel cord belts and polyester nylon fabric belts.

As could be imagined, to carry thousands of pounds of materials, belts themselves are heavy and weigh a lot. For instance a 42 inch belt that is a 9/16 inch steel cord belt weighs 221 pounds a linear foot. The belting would come in 2200 foot rolls that weigh 45,000 pounds each.

It is a huge undertaking to put a large conveyor in or even to just replace the belt. And putting together belts is an art in itself.

The workers in the shop the day the Sun Advocate was there included Tony Martinez, Daris Lambson, and Buzz Rondinelli. They explained that the belts can be spliced in two ways: with a mechanical splice or using what is called "cooking the belt."

Cooking the belt requires a number of layers applied to a "finger splice" (put your fingers together like you are praying and you will get the idea) and then it is cooked at high temperature with vices holding it together. It is a particular and long process so that the belts hold up for warranty and safety purposes. Belts are built in layers, much like a layer cake. The number of layers used depends on the thickness desired.

At the time of the Sun Advocates visit the company was putting in a new belt at the Deer Creek Mine in Huntington Canyon. Some of the affiliate facilities had sent people to help on the project. That project is now finished.

a number of factors including the amount of material that is conveyed on them, the weather they are exposed to, what the cover of the belt consists of and its thickness, and what materials are moved on it. The speed the belt line is operated at can also be a factor. Most run at 600-1000 feet per minute.

Belts are built of two different kinds of materials today. There are steel cord belts and polyester nylon fabric belts.

As could be imagined, to carry thousands of pounds of materials, belts themselves are heavy and weigh a lot. For instance a 42 inch belt that is a 9/16 inch steel cord belt weighs 221 pounds a linear foot. The belting would come in 2200 foot rolls that weigh 45,000 pounds each.

It is a huge undertaking to put a large conveyor in or even to just replace the belt. And putting together belts is an art in itself.

The workers in the shop the day the Sun Advocate was there included Tony Martinez, Daris Lambson, and Buzz Rondinelli. They explained that the belts can be spliced in two ways: with a mechanical splice or using what is called "cooking the belt."

Cooking the belt requires a number of layers applied to a "finger splice" (put your fingers together like you are praying and you will get the idea) and then it is cooked at high temperature with vices holding it together. It is a particular and long process so that the belts hold up for warranty and safety purposes. Belts are built in layers, much like a layer cake. The number of layers used depends on the thickness desired.

When asked how long the belts last, Rondinelli, who has worked for the company for five years, said he has worked on belts that were 35 years old and still running.

At the time of the Sun Advocate's visit the company was putting in a new belt at the Deer Creek Mine in Huntington Canyon. Some of the affiliate facilities had sent people to help on the project. That project is now finished.

Importantly, the staff at Fenner Dunlop in Price is friendly and expressed great satisfaction for the jobs they do. Jennifer Crisp, the office manager said that she enjoyed working with the crew and the customers that they serve. All the workers talked about the camaraderie of the crews, both from in and out of state. They all said that employee safety was a major concern of the company.

Conveyor systems are a major player in moving coal inside the mines and outside to loading facilities. Without them the large production of mines today could not be sent to market in adequate amounts.

They are 150 year inventions that continue to be reinvented over and over again.



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