Conveyor belt monitoring using fibre optics
Conveyor maintenance is a significant daily problem for the mining industry. Conventional methods of detecting bearing failure in conveyor rollers are unreliable, time-consuming and labour intensive.
Overland conveyors of 5 km are commonplace and 20 km conveyors from a local mine truck dump pocket to the processing plant are becoming increasingly common. A conveyor can have up to 7,000 bearings per kilometre. There have been several attempts to speed up and reduce the cost of monitoring all the bearings along a conveyor, and yet the original method of “walking the belt” observing and listening to the sound is still the most commonly used approach.
Acoustic sensors pre-empting faults
The project aims to install a fibre-optic cable along the length of the conveyor to act as “ears” for belt idler bearing failures. The concept is to receive acoustic signals every metre along the entire belt. Each metre section is treated as an independent microphone.
Interrogator units are placed at certain intervals to interpret the readings and alert operators of faults in the rollers before they occur.
Working with the CBM group of the University of Toronto, it is proposed to develop software to predict the remaining life of belt idlers. There is significant potential to apply the knowledge generated by this project to other non-mining conveyor belt applications.
- Ultimately, an accurate, robust and cost-effective method in temperature detection and in helping prevent conveyor belt failure.
- Real-time data collection and secure data transmission.
- Effective coverage of up to 30km lengths, with detection capability at any point within the coverage area (as opposed to discrete detection points).
- Reduced dependence on manual involvement in the monitoring process, and hence elimination of personnel exposure to operating hazards.
- Unaffected by handicaps that plague conventional temperature measurement methods, such as accessibility restrictions (confined spaces, underground hazardous environments, etc.) and direct line of sight limitations.
Testing on various sites is underway.