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R egularly scheduled maintenance


Copyright, CSC Publishing, Powder and Bulk Engineering

of any feeder is essential in
weighing materials accurately. First
and foremost, cleanliness will affect
weighing accuracy. Dirt or material
buildup will limit scale movement, What kind of maintenance will keep
cause excessive wear of moving parts,
and change the tare setting. Clean your
my feeder accurate?
feeder on a regular schedule.
Outside scale influences will also
cause weighing inaccuracies. Such in-
fluences include portable fans or plant
air conditioning blowing on the feeder;
individuals using the feeder as a stor-
age shelf, workbench, or step; and ma-
The drive train (the gear reducer,
couplings, and motor), the screw it-
self, and the bearings that support the
T o keep your feeder accurate and
operating properly, keep it clean
and free from foreign contaminants
terial buildup on the feeder, which will screw are the most essential parts of a that might get in between the tuning
decrease a feeder’s freedom of move- screw feeder and need the most atten- springs and other body components.
ment. Check your feeder for any out- tion. The drive train’s parts usually Make sure that the vibration isolators
side influences and eliminate them. have grease ports — the maintenance are flexible — old, hard isolators
And finally, calibration is key in manual will advise on greasing fre- change the unit’s tuning and transmit
maintaining weighing accuracy. In- quency. In a normal operation mode more vibration into the surrounding
consistent and inaccurate calibration and environment (this includes run- structure. Make sure that all bolts are
settings will cause the feeder to begin ning 24 hours a day, 7 days a week), torqued to the recommended torque
at an incorrect starting point. To avoid apply grease every 6 months. By values — they can change the unit’s
this, tare the feeder’s scale weight to greasing regularly, you’ll ensure that operating characteristics. If main-
zero; check the feeder’s weight and the motor and reducer will operate tained properly, vibratory feeders are
correction factor; and learn each ma- properly, resulting in maintained and the most trouble-free feeders available.
terial’s specific feedrate. repetitive speeds. If you have a jaw-
type coupling, check the elastomer Jim Mitchell,
Ray Kerswill, spider at the same time you service vibratory products manager,
service technician, AccuRate, the motor and reducer. A worn elas- Eriez,
262-473-2441 tomer could cause shaft slippage. 814-835-6000
Depending on the material you’re
metering, it’s wise to disassemble the
C heck the operation and mainte-
nance manual that accompanies a
new feeder. Keep in mind that all feed-
feeder periodically and clean the
screw of any material that might have M ost feeder accuracy problems
can be attributed to improper
feeder installation, inadequate main-
adhered to the pitches. If you allow
ers are mechanically operated devices, material to build up, the flights won’t tenance, or changes in your bulk ma-
and since they all have moving parts, fill properly, affecting accuracy. If the terial flow properties, operating
it’s essential that an operator maintain material is an oxide, which is both ad- conditions, or process requirements.
those moving parts. Obviously, the hesive and cohesive, you’ll need to Assuming proper installation and
fewer the number of moving parts, the clean the screw more frequently than none of the mentioned changes, rou-
greater the advantage to the operator if the material is lime or flour. tine maintenance should keep your
from a performance, longevity, and feeder running accurately. The main-
maintenance point of view. A feeder has at least one bearing at tenance routine will vary depending
the screw shaft’s rear, and some of the on the type of feeder you use.
better-designed units also have a
Each month, we ask suppliers a bearing at the discharge end. These Most problems relating to a volu-
question of concern to our read- bearings are usually sealed and life- metric feeder’s discharge rate stem
ers. Answers reflect the suppliers’ time-lubricated. Some bearings may from a faulty screw-speed control
general expertise and don’t pro- have grease fittings, but because sensor or motor drive, a change in the
mote the suppliers’ equipment. If screw feeders seldom operate at discharge rate’s volume-per-revolu-
you have a question you’d like to speeds in excess of 165 rpm, you may tion ratio, and material flow problems
have suppliers answer, send it to need to lubricate the bearings only from the hopper. Routine attention to
Jamie Nashban, associate editor, once a year. these three areas is key.
Powder and Bulk Engineering, If the feeder’s discharge rate is a
1155 Northland Drive, St. Paul, Anthony R. Bartello, problem, first check for loose wiring
MN 55120; fax 651-287-5650, vice president sales and marketing, and electrical connections. If the con- Metalfab, nections are sound, you may need to
973-764-2000 clean or replace the screw-speed feed-
back sensor, depending on the sensor problems. Be sure the belt is properly Voltage is another critical area to

Copyright, CSC Publishing, Powder and Bulk Engineering

type and the manufacturer’s recom- tracked and its tension is maintained. watch. Fluctuations in voltage may
mendation. You can easily evaluate Also, correctly setting the weighbelt cause changes in the power generated
the sensor’s performance if the motor feeder’s shear gate, which establishes by the magnetic coil, which, in turn,
speed is stable. and guides the material flow onto the will affect the feedrate. There are two
If the screw-speed feedback sensor belt, is critical to accuracy. ways to control this variable. The first
isn’t the problem, check for material Because the weighbelt feeder weighs option is to hold the voltage constant
buildup in the screw or discharge tube, the material as it passes over the before inputting it in the feeder’s con-
or a blockage in the hopper that may weighbridge’s weight-sensing device, troller. The second option is to incor-
prevent consistent material flow to the you must accurately and periodically porate a voltage regulator to eliminate
screw. Clean the screw, discharge tube, tare the weight-sensing device’s load or minimize voltage irregularities.
or hopper, and if a problem persists, cell. This procedure ensures that only Feeders must be free to vibrate with-
you may have to change to a different the material weight, and not variations out interference. Pay particular atten-
screw or hopper design. in the belt weight, is measured. Some tion to clearance around hoppers,
There are four key areas to check rou- manufacturers offer automatic taring chutes, and other infeed and discharge
tinely in a loss-in-weight feeder. The systems that can eliminate or reduce points. Dust seals at the feeder’s trough
first is the mechanical system itself. the time to execute this step. infeed or discharge point must be very
(See volumetric screw feeder mainte- flexible. Take care to ensure that they
Kathy Hunter, don’t restrict vibration.
nance above.) Note, however, that
global marketing director, and
since a loss-in-weight feeder functions
David Wilson, Robert Yandrick,
as a declining weight system, screw
vice president, major accounts manager,
buildup or partial blockage will be
K-Tron, FMC Technologies Material
compensated for automatically until
856-589-0500 Handling Solutions,
the feeder reaches a flowrate alarm
condition. Monitor for buildup or
The second key is the weight sensor
or scale. Make sure that the weighing P roper torque is one of the most im-
portant maintenance concerns for
vibrating feeders. Vibrating feeders
system is reasonably isolated from
the process’s vibration environment, are tuned, which means there are two
air currents, or mechanical distur- mass-vibrating systems with a set of
bances from nearby equipment. Note springs between the feeder trough and
that some weighing systems provide the drive mechanism. Bolts clamp the
built-in immunity to such vibration springs and ensure that the vibrating
and disturbance. Regularly verify the action is properly transferred to the
weight-sensing device’s calibration to feeder trough. If the bolts aren’t prop-
detect problems such as drift (a grad- erly torqued, material won’t flow
ual deviation from a set adjustment). consistently and may result in feeder
Note that some weighing devices damage.
don’t require periodic recalibration. Trough liners are another important
The third thing to check is the refill maintenance concern for vibratory
device. Make sure that there’s no ma- feeders. Over time, abrasive materials
terial leakage through the refill device wear away at the liner, causing its
at the hopper’s inlet. Continual mater- weight to decrease. This affects the
ial leakage into the hopper after the critical relationship between the feeder
refill process has stopped could pro- drive and the trough’s mass changes,
duce a feedrate error and create a vibration, or amplitude. As a liner
weight-loss rate change. wears, it’s important to replace it with
one of the same thickness and weight.
Finally, check the feeder discharge.
If material discharges into a nonambi- Keep in mind that the tuning rela-
ent-pressure environment, such as a tionship between the feeder drive and
pressurized or vacuum conveying the trough is critical. When a feeder
line, a pressure pulse can cause a trough is modified, not only is the tun-
feedrate error. Check to see that all ing relationship altered, but the bal-
pressure vents and sealing connec- ance between the drive unit and the
tions are proper. trough is also altered. Always consult
the feeder manufacturer before mak-
The mechanical systems that keep the ing any modifications to the feeder
belt clean cause most weighbelt feeder trough.