Tungsten carbide tips used in conveyor belt cleaning systems are one of the best materials to create a long-term cleaning option for conveyors. Flexco explains how to find the perfect balance between durability and usability when manufacturing its tungsten carbide tips for hard rock mines.
Tungsten carbide tips are one of the smallest and most inexpensive parts of a mine conveyor but removing them from the process can cause huge problems down the track.
Flexco introduced its tungsten carbide tips for cleaning conveyor belts more than 30 years ago and as managing director Mark Colbourn explains, the company has been working constantly to develop them further since.
He says the tips continue to clean to the best of their ability, while Flexco aspires to develop stronger models that last longer and keep up with market demands.
“The job of these tungsten carbide tips is to clean the belt and over the years we have worked to find the best formulation of low wearing tungsten that profiles into the belt to clean it best,” Colbourn tells Australian Mining.
“Over time, mines have increased tonnages and moved up to bigger and faster belts. As a supplier we need to keep up with this, with the research and development we put into every single part of our belt cleaners to help our customers get their belts to last longer and perform efficiently.”
Flexco has perfected the fine art of getting the right thickness of tungsten. If the tips are too thin, they wear out quicker, but if they are too thick then the cleaning efficiency decreases.
“Conveyor belts look flat, but they actually have a jagged edge, so you need the tungsten to be flexible enough that it profiles into the belt,” Colbourn explains.
Extending belt life is particularly important in iron ore and other hard rock operations due to the harsh nature of the processing.
Iron ore and other hard rock commodities are far more abrasive on conveyor belts than coal, which means more wear and tear to the conveyor belt, so finding a long-term solution is vital to an efficient operation.
With the Australian iron ore industry looking to grow its production by 10 to 20 per cent in the next decade, Colbourn says positioning Flexco to continue servicing the industry with its products is the company’s top priority.
“The thing with mining operations is that most are 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Colbourn says.
“If iron ore operations lose an hour or two to maintenance, that is time they can never get back and it can quickly add up to millions of dollars in lost productivity.”
Flexco’s long-lasting tungsten carbide tips help reduce unscheduled maintenance shutdowns necessary to replace cleaner parts, which can save about an hour for each cleaner on the belt when replacing existing tips.
With productivity as a key goal, Flexco has been purchasing the same tungsten carbide for more than three decades.
While there are less expensive alternatives out there, Colbourn says the company will never compromise on the quality of its product.
“Our focus is to ensure we can help our clients to clean their belts at the highest possible efficiency while continuing to develop tips that can help belts to last longer,” he says. “There is no trade off on keeping efficiency at an absolute maximum.”
If there is something more important to Flexco as a company than delivering operational efficiency, it is safety.
Flexco’s tungsten carbide tips not only guard the conveyor belts from extensive damage, but also the people working on mine sites, removing them from frequent shutdowns and maintenance exercises.
“The longer equipment lasts and longer between maintenance, the less people there are walking around the site and the better it is for safety,” Colbourn says.
“Safer operations for people often end up being more productive. Safety and productivity in mining often go hand in hand.”
This article also appears in the August issue of Australian Mining.