Belt scale weighing systems, critical kit for almost every bulk material handling plant, have two core elements – the belt scale, which incorporates the load cells, and the ‘brain’, the electronics for integration, management and control. These elements are specified individually, giving engineers valuable flexibility to design solutions that robustly meet requirements, whether new build or retrofit.
The mechanical elements of a belt scale weighing system can last for decades but electronics may age less gracefully, simply because communication standards or requirements change. State-of-the-art electronics are often essential to achieve modern operational goals.
Next generation belt scale conveyors serve real needs
Focusing on the day-to-day challenges of those who oversee loading of conveyor belt systems, manage production output and inventory, and safeguard reliable operation is the starting point for every vendor when working on next generation belt scale electronic integration. Real customer pain points necessarily drive product development alongside important trends such as implementation of the Internet of Things and broader moves towards industrial digitalization.
If you were to ask customers to recite their wish-list items for better belt scale systems, you would hear the words “cost-effective” and “exemplary reliability.” But if you delve further, you would hear examples of the diverse issues that matter to those using belt scale systems and service engineers in the field, including:
- Remote operation: For geographically remote sites, maintaining a physical personnel presence can be one of the highest operating costs. Moving to unmanned operation and remote control is an answer but it relies on having kit with the necessary integrity, health diagnostics, and comms.
- Screen size: For operators, the human machine interface (HMI) for a belt scale weighing system impacts ease of use on a daily basis. Intuitive software is key but on the practical side it makes a big difference to have a screen that is large enough to be able to display the information required and easily perform required tasks.
- Flexibility: Project engineers are looking for fit for purpose tech at a competitive price but needs vary enormously. A solution that is just as well-suited to a simple, low-cost retrofit as to a fully integrated, large scale, new build project with multiple weighing systems is valuable.
These requirements point to desirable features for next generation electronic integration solutions.
For example, if your goal is at-line interaction with a belt scale then a rugged field HMI with a large screen is clearly going to be desirable. However, if there’s no one on site then an expensive HMI is wasted money, a blind version is far more economical. The same is true if the processing environment is simply too harsh for a screen to be viable. When it comes to cutting costs it’s also helpful to be able to share integrators across belt scales.
Given the growing importance of reliability, digitizers are likely to be the preferred choice to robustly carry signals from the belt scale sensor and load cells to the integrator. More broadly leading edge, Industry 4.0 connectivity – via architectures including MODBUS and PROFIBUS is becoming critical, particularly for remote operation. Remote operation also intensifies the need for longevity, easy maintenance and advanced health diagnostics, though in truth these are valuable for all operators as reliability targets rise ever higher.
- Thermo Scientific Ramsey Flex belt scale integration system web page.
- Thermo Scientific Ramsey Flex brochure