Four questions to ask before choosing a drivetrain for heavy industries

Written by: Patrice Devoulon and Stefan Koesfeld | Published:

When it comes to performance and durability, not all power and motion transmission solutions are created equal. Harsh environmental conditions in certain markets, such as the metallurgical and marine sectors, can heavily damage the drivetrain. In these cases, exceptional performance, durability and reliability are essential.

Patrice Devoulon and Stefan Koesfeld, from Altra Industrial Motion Corp., look at the aspects to consider when selecting couplings, clutches and brakes for challenging industrial applications.

Power transmission components are critical pieces of equipment, thus choosing the right equipment can be dauting. To avoid early breakdowns that can result in failures, it is important to opt for solutions that satisfy the specific needs of the industry. This can be achieved by asking some basic questions prior to specification.

What conditions should the drivetrains withstand?

One of the main aspects to consider is the environment where the equipment is going to be used. Many industries present particular environmental challenges that can take a toll on the equipment. In these cases, the service life of drivetrain parts can be heavily compromised unless they have been designed to meet these specific challenges.

For example, splashes or immersion in saltwater, as often occurs in marine environments, can cause gradual corrosion of metal components. Similarly, the metallurgical industry is characterised by bulk material handling in dirty environments under extremely high-pressure, high-temperature conditions. In fact, the rolling equipment in steel mills is exposed to hot, semi-molten metal slabs. Finally, metal shredding machines features high misalignment angles, vibrations and movements when grinding big metalworks, such as cars, into small pieces.

Experienced drivetrain suppliers are able to support and direct their clients towards the solutions that offer protection against such conditions. Often a manufacturer with experience in such industries will have developed bespoke technologies with the sole intention of offering end users improved performance. For example, if mooring and anchor winches in offshore platforms are exposed to particularly corrosive environments, Wichita Clutch can provide clutches and brakes with enhanced corrosion resistance. In this way, it is possible to improve the equipment’s service life.

Are standard solutions good enough for the intended application?

It’s always worth investigating standard solutions that are available on the market. If a component from a manufacturers standard catalogue meets all of the application’s demands then this will often be favourable as it is likely to be more cost effective, offer better availability and better access to spare parts. However, for many specialist applications a degree of customisation – or even bespoke design – may be necessary to ensure maximum performance.

By identifying the conditions that the power transmission equipment should withstand, as well as the properties that the equipment should exhibit, power transmission specialists will develop engineered solutions that provide optimal performance and durability for specific applications.

For example, Svendborg Brakes, can design, prototype and test innovative solutions that meet the needs of its customers and their industrial applications. In particular, its engineers are able to develop brake solutions suitable for corrosive marine environments. Similarly, Bibby Turboflex provides floating shaft couplings that are designed for use in applications where the coupling shaft needs to span lengths of 10 metres or more. By using carbon fibre construction, the couplings weigh up to 80% less than steel counterparts and do not need any bearing supports or similar structures.

Are maintenance services included?

Before investing in drivetrain solutions, it is also important to consider who will conduct maintenance operations and how simple the process is. While specifying the most appropriate component designs will greatly improve the product’s service life, the challenging conditions experienced in heavy industries means the maintenance and repair work will remain a certain necessity for optimum performance.

When preventative or responsive maintenance activities are required, responsiveness, expertise, time- and cost-efficiency are key parameters to consider. If the original equipment supplier is able to include maintenance and repair services with a local field service team, then the likelihood of a component being maintained to the correct standards increases. In addition, having a single point of contact for the supply and maintenance can be highly beneficial.

Svendborg Brakes understands that it is ongoing support that makes the difference between a supplier and a partner. With support offices located around the world, it has invested in a service infrastructure that is available to all of its end-users. It even offers specialist service contracts for specific industries, such as offshore maintenance service for wind turbines.

What experience does the supplier have?

The harsh conditions found within many heavy-duty industries require power transmission solutions with high performance, durability and reliability. Highly skilled drivetrain specialists should be able to assess the sector- and location-specific features to identify the most suitable solution. This also means being able to develop bespoke products and provide an effective maintenance service.

All Altra Industrial Motion Corp. brands are committed to supporting customers with state-of-the-art drivetrain solutions. With decades of experience in delivering innovative, high-quality, long-lasting power transmission components such as couplings, heavy-duty clutches and brakes, as well as belted drives for a wide variety of industries.

With the combined expertise and experience of all these individual brands, Altra can tackle any industry-specific challenge and offer a turnkey service, from initial investigation to design, manufacture, maintenance and support. Thanks to its global network, customers in Europe, Russia, Africa and the Middle East can benefit from extensive supply and maintenance services.


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