Moving earth, rock and other excavated materials for hours on end is the challenge that materials conveyors have to meet daily. Providing rollers and pulleys that operate at top efficiency is the job of Precismeca of Wallaceburg, Ontario. “There’s challenges to move more product for less money and less downtime,” President and CEO Joe Hartney concedes. “Downtime is a killer. It always has been a problem, but now it has become a primary focus.”
Precismeca reduces that downtime by providing onsite quality product training. That service also differentiates the company from its competitors, points out Todd Mason, sales manager for North America. Training and technical support is being requested more often by Precismeca’s customers, Mason reports.
“Many of the senior people with experience are retiring, and the new people are struggling and asking for help,” Hartney adds. Demands for additional production are complicating this situation. “Most facilities are exceeding the design of their original conveyors.”
“Many of our customers’ existing systems in place now were designed to travel at certain speeds with these tonnages,” Mason explains. “Now with the demand for raw materials, many are looking to rebuild their existing systems or build new. Our customers are faced with certain economic factors where many are led to facilitate an increased tonnage and speed, while taking an existing piece of equipment designed for one thing and over time trying to do something different.” This puts a strain on expertise, cost and the ability to service and properly maintain the equipment.
Proper size and speed
Precismeca manufactures and supplies a diverse range of rollers, motorized pulleys and components for the global bulk materials handling market. “We go from the smallest to the biggest,” Mason declares. “We make the largest roller and frames in the industry. We manufacture rollers and frames up to the 4-meter width.” The smallest rollers and frames the company manufactures are 18 inches.
The size of a conveyor depends on what is being mined. “Copper ore is very heavy,” Hartney explains. “You can run that on a 54-inch belt. You also can run potash on a 54-inch belt. The belt size and speed is directly proportional to how much product you want to move in tons per hours. They tell us what they want to do, and we tell them what rolls they need.”
Precismeca’s application and design engineers can field customer questions and build systems in response to their unique needs.
“[Customers] are expecting longer-life rollers, and we can provide that, as long as they tell us what they’re trying to do,” Hartney notes. “Some people order a roller way oversize or way undersize. Unless they get us involved, we can’t help them in that regard.”
Precismeca moved into its 50,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Wallaceburg in April 2010. It is located in a building with LEED certification that has computer numerical control and automated welding and assembly equipment. “We’re highly automated in this industry,” Hartney asserts. “We really enjoy people coming to see our facility because they always walk away impressed.”
The company moved the manufacturing operation from its plant in Nisku, Alberta, which is now decommissioned. “We really didn’t lose any production time during the move,” Hartney insists. The new plant – which is ISO 9001:2008-accredited – manufactures conveyor rollers, motorized pulleys and the frames that hold the rollers. “We don’t manufacture the conveyors – that’s a common misconception,” Hartney explains. “We only make the frames that sit on the conveyor structure and the rollers that sit in the frames.”
Precismeca’s customers are responsible for the construction of their conveyors onsite. At its factory, Precismeca cuts, bends and welds products. The rollers – which can be high-density polypropylene, aluminum or steel – are machined on two main production lines, and some are covered with rubber or urethane.
The thermoplastic rollers are lighter and quieter than steel ones and better suited to areas with noise limitations or corrosion, such as locations near saltwater. For the frames, the factory has many welding bays and a powder coat painting system.
Hartney lists the company’s design expertise and automated production as competitive advantages along with its ability to meet all demands. “We’ll build a roller for any application,” he emphasizes. “Many of our competitors build good rollers, but for narrow applications.” Precismeca builds products for all applications. “In fact, our products have been and continue to be readily available in sizes and strengths that far exceed any Conveyor Equipment Manufacturers Association classification,” Mason adds.
Another product Precismeca offers is a motorized pulley with a hermetically sealed, squirrel-cage induction motor and gearbox within an oil-filled pulley shell. The completely sealed, self-contained and water-resistant unit reduces maintenance substantially over the traditional system of a larger motor and gearbox on the side of the conveyor – which requires frequent oil changes and routine maintenance – and needs guards built around it for safety. The motorized pulley only needs its mineral-based oil changed every 20,000 operating hours or synthetic oil changed every 50,000 operating hours.
The motorized pulley – which has been used since the 1950s in Europe but is relatively new to North America – is manufactured in Aschersleben, Germany.
Precismeca Canada assembles, repairs and ships the motorized pulleys from its factory. “We enjoy selling them because they do exactly what they said they would and are an excellent product,” Hartney maintains. “Once we sell it, we don’t have to worry about it. It sells itself after that.” Nevertheless, he admits, “It takes a while to change some maintenance guys’ minds.”
The motorized pulley has 97 percent mechanical efficiency. “It is a huge energy saver,” Hartney stresses. “It’s one of Todd’s best allies when he’s introducing the product.”