How To Find the Friction Factor of a Conveyor Belt

Conveyor belt systems operate under the quantum of physics and the fundamentals of engineering. Their main function is to transport goods from one location to another. Without movement, conveyor systems fail to work and provide very little use. Many factors contribute to movement, from energy and weight to materials and interactions with external influences. Conveyor systems themselves consist of numerous different mechanisms that play into their functionality. Sometimes, those varying parts affect the belt's movement, hindering the system's success.

One of the main contributors to failed conveyor systems is friction. Since movement plays a crucial role in the belt's functionality, understanding friction and finding your conveyor belt's friction factor affects the success of your operations.

What Does Friction Factor Mean?

The definition of friction factor varies per engineered system and mechanics. In conveyor systems, it refers to the amount of resistance a belt endures as it moves. It dictates the energy loss caused by friction. Alongside a belt's friction factor, numerous other forms of friction affect the conveyor belt's mechanism, including internal and coefficient friction.

Internal friction refers to the resistance force between different elements within the same material. Meanwhile, coefficient friction determines the ratio between friction resistance and various general energy forces, like kinetic and static. It often gets mixed or interchanged with friction factor. However, the latter typically only refers to the resistance caused by two materials instead of energy forces.

What Causes Friction and Resistance?

Numerous factors cause friction. When two surfaces collide and rub against one another, they create resistance. In a conveyor system, the belt can endure various collisions with varying conveyor components, including:

  • Track-rollers
  • Carried objects
  • Track corners
  • The track itself
  • Automated robot hands
  • Debris
  • Glue residue
  • Carryback
  • Walls
  • Floors

Aside from interacting with other surfaces, conveyor belts also resist different forces like gravity and heat. Incline systems often endure more resistance than other conveyors because of the added gravitational pull against the belt's movement. Weights, tension, and types of belt material also factor into a conveyor's resistance.

Belt and Object Weights

The weight of the belt and the items it carries affect the amount of resistance the conveyor system can endure. Compared to lighter weights, heavier belts and objects cause more friction because the gravitational pull increases, applying more force against the colliding surfaces. The more pressure the objects supply, the more resistance.

Belt Tensioning

Both loose and tight belt tensions create potential risks of friction. Loose belts leave excess material to droop, hang, and drag. As the excess material dips, it touches the floor or track when hanging and carrying a heavy load, creating friction as the belt rubs against the other surfaces. Over-tensioning your belt also causes friction because it applies more force against the belt and increases the likelihood of the belt rubbing against the system's track as it rounds around corners and comes into direct contact with other conveyor parts. The right belt tension creates enough force to lift the belt, but not enough to let it fall or dip too much under applied pressure and weights.

Belt Materials

The conveyor's belt does most of the work. It carries, transports, and interacts with various mechanisms. The type of material it features creates different surfaces that either increase or decrease resistance against other exteriors. Materials with smooth finishes produce the least amount of friction. Their flat veneer allows other objects to glide over them easily, minimizing applied and combatting forces between the two surfaces. On the other hand, rough, rugged, and uneven material finishes create more barriers that can rub against external substances, increasing friction.

Why Does Friction Matter?

Like magnets, friction creates a scenario where two forces meet, pushing against one another and causing two objects to collide. Akin to positive and negative magnets connecting, the two forces in play that produce friction create a static motion, making it hard to move the two objects from one another. In a conveyor system, when the belt interacts with another item, moving or static, it creates a collision of forces that potentially stops both parties. Sometimes friction just slows down the system instead of causing a complete halt.

Friction affects the main functionality of conveyor belts. It hinders movement and causes potential damage to your equipment and carried goods. Reducing the various causes of friction in your conveyor system increases its productivity, optimizes its functionality, minimizes damages, and ensures your business and warehouse continue to operate without a hitch.

How Do You Measure Your Belt's Friction Factor?

Before calculating your belt's friction factor, numerous calculations and measurements first come to play, including resistance, applied energy, active forces, and weight carried. However, the easiest way to find your conveyor belt's friction factor is to calculate its energy loss by finding the system's coefficient friction ratio.

The coefficient ratio follows the function of frictional force (the energy lost) divided by normal force, also known as weight. There are many ways to calculate frictional force, but the simplest method involves calculating your belt's theoretical ideal energy (mass multiplied by speed) and then subtracting the difference between the speeds. Thankfully, countless online resources and programs gather all the necessary data needed and do the calculations for you. In general, knowing the difference between the optimal velocity of operating your belt and the current velocity it runs at gives you an insight into possible friction infringement.

Ways To Reduce Your Conveyor's Friction

Minimizing your conveyor's friction involves simply eliminating and reducing surface interactions. Removing debris, oiling surfaces, tightening loose parts, and utilizing proper tensioning reduces the occurrences of friction and resistance. Plus, opting for certain materials like PVC belts creates the least friction due to their smooth-surface veneer.

Finding your conveyor belt's friction factor involves a lot of technicality, mathematics, and understanding of physics. However, you can gain a general idea of your system's friction by finding the difference in run times between an optimal conveyor circuit and your current one. The bigger the difference and the slower you operate, the more resistance apparent in your equipment. Once you've discovered active friction and its causes, you can optimize your conveyor belt and improve your system's performance.

How To Find the Friction Factor of a Conveyor Belt