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Estimation of Conveyor Belts Thickness using


Ultrasound Transducers
NEVES J.C. LUCENA D.C. VILLANUEVA J.M.M
Dpto. Engenharia Elétrica Dpto. Engenharia Elétrica Dpto. Engenharia Elétrica
Univ. Federal da Paraíba Univ. Federal de Campina Grande Univ. Federal da Paraíba
João Pessoa, Brasil Campina Grande, Brasil João Pessoa, Brasil
neves@cear.ufpb.br daiana.correia@cear.ufpb.br jmauricio@cear.ufpb.br

MACEDO E.C.T
Dpto. Engenharia Elétrica
Univ. Federal da Paraíba
João Pessoa, Brasil
euler@cear.ufpb.br

Abstract — In many industrial applications the conveyor moment when it reaches the critical state, being anticipated
belts thickness monitoring became important. The transport to avoid unexpected stops and production losses.
of materials wears out the conveyor belt, that according to the
use frequency and material type lead it to reach critical
thicknesses and latter its rupture. This work has as main
contribution the development of a measurement system of the
conveyor belt thickness, using ultrasonic transducers for
distance measurement according to time-of-flight principle,
without necessity of contact and stop a process in execution by
conveyor belt. The experimental results was obtained through
a measuring setup with a conveyor belt driven by a motor with
speed control, ultrasonic transducers with frequency
operation of 40 kHz, conditioning circuits and a data
45 pt acquisition unit. 45 pt
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15.9 mm Keywords—conveyor belt monitoring, ultrasonic transducer, Fig. 1. Conveyor belt wear trends. Font: Data provided by Compahia 15.9 mm
time-of-flight. Vale do Rio Doce.

I. INTRODUCTION Inspection of wear on conveyor belts can be done using


In material transport machines in industrial processes measurement technologies based on thermographic cameras,
conveyor belts are used for providing a continuous materials laser and ultrasound transducers, among others.
flow. However, unscheduled stops process due to conveyor A thickness monitoring system with thermographic
belts breaking and non-homogeneous wear, lead to analysis is based on mapping of heat waves in different
considerable energy and production losses [1]. locations of the conveyor belt, using the thermal image
In order to determine the replacement instant of the provided by infrared sensor that is processed in order to
conveyor belts, is important in industrial process the obtain thermal characteristics of the element [2]. By means
continuous inspection and / or monitoring of conveyor belts of this procedure the points of greater temperature can be
wear. In order to exemplify this process, Fig. 1 shows the related to greater mechanical effort in relation to the other
thickness measurement points of a conveyor belt for a points in the belt.
mining process in the time domain, beginning the The principle of the laser monitoring system has
monitoring in March 2014 and ending in August 2016, limitations in critical industrial operations such as rainfall,
provided by a brazilian mining company. In this figure, the ferrous materials splashing, dust, high temperatures, etc.
conveyor belt has an initial thickness of 12 mm (blue line) These operating features limit the applicability of laser
and reached a thickness of 4 mm (February 2016) in 24 technology for the measurement of conveyor belt thickness
months, close to the critical condition of the belt that is 2 in ore abrasive materials transport applications.
mm (red line). From the history of thickness measurements a
straight line (green line) is determined whose extension in An ultrasonic thickness monitoring system uses
the time domain indicates the tendency of future wear, and transducers, transmitter and receiver, based on echo pulse
therefore indicating the instant at which the conveyor belt analysis. In Fig. 2, the thickness measurement procedure is
will reach a thickness equivalent to the critical condition. In shown for a test material in which transducer and material
this case, the wear tendency shows that in June 2016 the coupling is required. In this figure it is observed that pulses-
conveyor belt will reach the critical state (thickness of 2 echoes (surfaces: S1, S2 and S3) are generated and
mm). However, the replacement of the belt is not done at the determine the ultrasound time of flight (ToF). The time
difference between these pulses and the knowledge of sound

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velocity in the test material is used to estimate the material  Detecion method using ultrasound sensors:
thickness. For this procedure is required stop the process Several equipment based on ultrasonic transducers,
operation, to carry out the tests and therefore to determine with coupling, monitor the thickness of conveyor
the belt thickness. This procedure causes production losses belts used in mining environment. The principle of
due to programmed stops of the process. measurement uses the ultrasound signal that
overtake the rubber material and reflect on textile
canvas. Although this technique is quite accurate, it
is required to stop conveyor belt operations, and
discrete points is inspected, increasing then the
uncertainty in determining the average wear of
conveyor belt.
III. TIME OF FLIGHT ESTIMATION
The time of flight estimation is based on measurement of
signal propagation time between a transmitter and receiver
ultrasound transducer, TA and TB, as shown in Fig. 3. This
Fig. 2. Ultrasound test for thickness measurement. time is defined as the time of flight and is used to determine
the distance by means of expressions relating the
In this scenario, in order to introduce improvements in propagation time of ultrasound signals with the sound
thickness measurement process for conveyor belts that velocity in which the ultrasound wave propagates, in this
decreases / eliminates the stop times to perform case free air [7]:
measurements, in this work a system was developed to
×
estimate the conveyor belt thickness, using ultrasound  𝐿=  
transducers, without coupling. For this purpose, a test setup
was constructed with a conveyor belt prototype composed of where: L is the distance between ultrasound transducer and
a 4 mm thick belt. The measurement technique is performed reflective surface, ToF is the Time of Flight, and C is the
using the time of flight principle to estimate the thickness of velocity of sound in the air given by (2), where TK is the
the conveyor belt. temperature in Kelvin [8]:
II. RELATED WORKS
 𝐶 = 20.074 𝑇  
The breaking of conveyor belts used in mining
applications brings serious problems in production safety, in
addition to the stop production and financial losses on the
part of the company. In this way monitoring systems of
45 pt 45 pt
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conveyor belts operational condition become excellent tools 0.625 in
15.9 mm of decision-making for the maintenance and/or planning of 15.9 mm
change of belts in the productive processes [3].
Among the belt conveyor monitoring systems for the
wear detection are:
 Detection method using electromagnetic sensors [4]:
It uses an array of magnetic elements incorporated
in the conveyor belt housing and external sensors to
detect and monitor the conveyor belt parameters.
The sensor element is hold down against the belt
surface by a spring. Wear detection is performed Fig. 3. Configuration of ultrasonic transducers for distance measurement
based on time of flight.
according to the spring and sensor displacement.
 Detection method based on radio frequency For the purpose of measuring ToF, the main techniques
identification (RFID) [5]: When there are tears in found in references [9], [10], [11] and [12] are briefly
the conveyor belt this will damage the antennas presented in this section: A. Threshold Detection; B. Phase
positioned along the belt and thus will be realized Difference; C. Cross-correlation.
the detection of the position in which the failure A. Threshold Detection
happened.
Threshold Detection technique consists of transmitting a
 Detection method based on X-rays [6]: The X-ray sine wave train and measuring the time required for its
has different attenuations for each material, and then detection (ToF) in the receiver transducer, through threshold
it is possible to detect different shapes, sizes and detection, as shown in Fig. 4. The measured time value until
objects with various physical and chemical the detection of the ultrasonic wave (tM) does not correspond
characteristics. However, several factors affect the directly to the reception time due to the delay imposed by
accuracy of detection, such as origin, frequency the dynamics of the transducers. The measured time can be
spectrum of X-rays and the distance between the expressed as the sum of the transmission time (ToF) with the
object examined and the origin of X-rays. detection time (tE), given by (3):

 𝑡 = 𝑇𝑜𝐹 + 𝑡  

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A calibration can be performed in order to determine the  𝑦(𝑛) = 𝐴𝑥(𝑛 − 𝜏) + 𝑤(𝑛) 
detection time (tE) for a given distance.
where: A is the attenuation factor due to the trajectory of
B. Phase Difference
transmitted signal x(n) through the propagation medium, τ is
In phase difference technique, the phase difference the delay due to the path from the transmitter to the receiver
between the transmitted and received ultrasonic waves is (ToF) and w(n) represents the additive noise captured for
measured, as shown in Fig. 5. The phase difference verified receiver transducer and any other noise components
between transmitted and received signal is limited from 0 to generated by the electronics components and amplifiers. In
2π, and the number of wavelengths to be detected at the Fig. 6 the electrical signals of the transmitted and received
receiver must be calculated. The instantaneous phase at the ultrasound echo are shown.
transmitter and receiver is =2.f.ToF, where ToF is the
time of flight and f operation frequency of transducers. That Considering the transmission and reception sequences,
is, the ToF can be estimated indirectly from the phase the problem is to determine the time delay (τ) and, from this
difference measurement. result, the distance estimation (L). For this purpose,
correlation operation between the signals x(n) and y(n) is
used, where the position index of the maximum value from
result of the correlation operation is related to the time of
flight (ToF) measurement, as if illustrated in Fig. 7 [12]. The
correlation of two sequences is defined by (5):

 𝑅(𝑥, 𝑦) = ∑ 𝑥(𝑘)𝑦(𝑛 − 𝑘) 

1
x y = x(n-)

Fig. 4. ToF measurement using the Threshold Detection (TH) technique.

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0
0 0.5 1 1.5
t (s) -3
x 10
-1
Fig. 6. Ultrasound signal: transmitted x and rceived y.
2 3 4 5 6
t (s) x 10
-4 200

150
1

100

0
50
R(x,y)

 AB 0
-1
2 3 4 5 6 -50
t (s) x 10
-4

-100
Fig. 5. ToF measurement using the Phase Difference (PD) technique.
-150
C. Cross-correlation
Cross-correlation is an operation between two discrete -200
0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500 3000 3500 4000
signals in order to evaluate the similarity between them, by k
extracting information from them. In this case, the Fig. 7. Correlation operation R(x,y).
information of interest is estimation of the time of flight
(ToF). For this purpose, we consider two digital sequences IV. MEASUREMENT CONFIGURATION: STUDY OF CASE
x(n) and y(n) to compare, where x(n) represents the samples
of the transmitted signal and y(n) the samples of the signal at In this section a conveyor belt thickness measurement
receiver. The received signal has a time delay relative to the will be displayed. Ultrasonic ToF estimation will be used to
transmitted signal like (4): measure the thickness using cross-correlation technique.

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A. Setup Measurement
In order to develop a belt conveyor monitoring system
from the construction of a laboratory setup, it was first
constructed a running machine with industrial
characteristics. Then, the mechanical adjustments were
made to all moving parts, the design and installation of a
three-phase motor and inverter used for its activation and
control, with installation of a local control to change rotation
direction and for speed control of the motor. Fig. 8 shows
the structure of the conveyor belt with some of its
components installed.
Fig. 9. Diagram of the conveyor belt drive setup.

Fig. 10. Block diagram for the acquisition and processing.

B. Estimation Thechnique
Fig. 11 shows the configuration of the conveyor belt
Fig. 8. Setup measurement for thickness conveyor belt estimation.
wear measuring system, in which the conveyor belt with
Fig. 9 shows details for construction of the measurement wear L is shown.
45 pt setup, represented in a block diagram with follow 45 pt
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Initially, the system is calibrated by determining a initial 0.625 in
15.9 mm
characteristics: i) Running machine: stainless steel wire distance (L0) between the ultrasonic transducers and base on 15.9 mm
conveyor; ii) Motor: WEG three-phase induction motor, 220 which is the conveyor belt (running machine), which was
/ 380V, 6-pole, 1 HP; iii) Inverter: Manufacturer Santerno, measured with a caliper.
model: LE 100; iv) Control: buttons for control rotation
direction and speed of conveyor belt, and potentiometer for Thereafter, the distance measurement (L) between the
linear velocity control; v) conveyor belt with a reference ultrasonic transducers and conveyor belt surface is
thickness of 4.5 mm. performed using Eq. (1). It is observed that the distance L
will depend on the estimation of the ToF and temperature
The Fig. 10 shows a functional diagram for acquisition for compensation of the sound velocity in free air given in
and measurement of the ultrasound signals, as well as the Eq. (2). In this work, the cross-correlation technique
ToF estimation. TR40-10 ultrasonic transducers whose presented in section III was chosen, mainly due to its
operating frequency is 40 kHz with 6 kHz bandwidth were robustness in ToF estimation, even in environments with
used, with a push-pull amplifier for the transmitter and an low SNR (Signal to Noise Ratio) levels.
inverter mode amplifier with variable gain for the receiver.
For signals acquisition, a multichannel data acquisition Then, during the operation or use of the distance belt, the
system (DAQ) AGILENT U2331A, configured with a wear of the conveyor belt L =L0 - L is monitored by the
sample rate of 400000 samples/s was used. The excitation of developed system, thus obtaining the estimation of belt
transmitter ultrasound transducer has done by a signal wear, measured in millimeters, L.
generator with operating frequency at 40 kHz (Agilent
33220A). The estimation ToF and thickness was performed
in offline mode on computer, after data collection.

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Fig. 13. Measurement of conveyor belt thickness.

Table I contains the results of ToF and distance


measurement for reference points 22 and 24. For each
Fig. 11. Conveyor belt wear measuring system.
reference point, 100 measurements has taken to estimate the
mean value and standard deviation of ToF (µToF), and then
V. RESULTS
the value of distance L (with standard deviation µL) and
In this section will be presented the experimental results wear L.
realized in the setup showed in previously. In this
experimental setup, we have a conveyor belt and an initial TABLE I. THICKNESS MONITORING FOR 22 AND 24 REFERENCE POINTS.
calibration distance L0 = 82.5 mm, which is the distance
ToF µToF L µL T L
between transducers and the ending of conveyor belt. Reference (s) (s) (mm) (mm) (°C) (mm)
Experimental results will be presented by reporting the wear point
estimates (L) using mean value and standard deviation of
each measurement point. The wears of conveyor belt was 22 454.45 8.33 78.82 1.44 25.5 3.68
made manually. 455.24 8.95 78.87 1.55 24.8 3.63
24
A. Signal Generation in Transmitter Transducer
In order to start the system operation, a signal generator
was set up for sine wave generation with a frequency of 40 C. Situation 2: Thickness Measuring of Conveyor belt with
kHz and a 10 volts amplitude, with generation of burst type, Motion
sending 40 packets of waves with periods of 10 ms, as In Fig. 14 the monitoring measurement of reference
shown in Fig. 12. point 22 is shown, where the conveyor belt drives with
variable speed. In this case, the motor speed variation was
45 pt controlled by means of a frequency inverter, relating 45 pt
0.625 in frequency with revolutions per minute (rpm), through (6): 0.625 in
15.9 mm 15.9 mm
×
 𝑣= 𝑟𝑝𝑚 

where: p is the number of motor poles (in this case, p = 6), f


is the frequency of inverter in Hz, and v is the motor speed
in rpm.

Fig. 12. Transmitter and receiver transducer signals.

B. Situation 1: Thickness Measuring of Conveyor belt Fig. 14. Measurement of conveyor belt thickness in motion.
The first measurement was to measure the distance
between the ultrasonic transducers and the smooth surface of Table II contains the results of thickness monitoring in
conveyor belt, as shown in Fig. 13. This figure shows the reference point 22 ( ∆𝐿 = 𝐿 − 𝐿 ), considering the
displacement of the data acquisition system, which allows movement of conveyor belt with two different motor speeds,
performing a transverse measurement of various reference 15.1 Hz and 20 Hz. With the increase of conveyor rotation
points on the conveyor belt without motion. speed, vibrations appears in the structure of conveyor and
harm the operation of ultrasonic transducers and accuracy in
estimating the thickness of conveyor belt. To minimize this
effect, digital signal processing techniques can be used for
signal filtering as a step before the ToF estimation is
performed.

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TABLE II. THICKNESS MONITORING FOR 22 REFERENCE POINT. Conference on Ubiquitous Robots and Ambient Intelligence (URAI),
2016.
ToF Lo T L
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(Hz) conveyor belts inspection based on machine vision,”. Optik -
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VI. CONCLUSIONS [5] T. Nicolay, A. Treib and A. Blum, “RF identification in the use of
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[7] R. Pallas-Areny, “Sensors and Signal Conditioning,” 2nd Edition,
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approximately 1.5 mm, on the conveyor belt without Anemometer-Thermometer,” Journal of Applied Meteorology, 1963,
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