007. Bulk Material Handling trends in USA with Mike Gawinski

“Welcome to “I LIKE TO MOVE IT,” the Rulmeca podcast that explores the latest trends and innovations in the material handling world.

I’m your host, Mr R, and in this episode we will delve into the transformation of the world of US material handling, an excursus between yesterday and today and we will do it with a special guest with long experience, Mike Gawinski, CEO at Rulmeca Corporation in the USA.

MG: Hello!

MR R: Welcome Mike and thank you for being here with us today, first of all I ask you to introduce yourself to those listening to us.

MG: I would certainly be happy to introduce myself I am with the RULMECA Corporation and our company, supplies and services Motorized Pulleys for the United States Market both the Bulk Materials Handling market and the Unit Handling Market. I have been in the bulk Materials Handling industry since I earned my engineering degree in 1971. I’ve been involved in the design, construction, and consultation on bulk Materials Handling equipment and systems. And for the last 30 years I’ve been involved in the distribution management for Motorized Pulleys.

MR R: Given your extensive experience, I would like you to talk to us a little about how the world of handling has transformed over the years?

MG: How has the materials handling market changed over the years? Well, I’ve been engaged in it since 1971. So, during the last five decades I’ve seen some notable changes.  One of which would be the availability of stronger and thinner carcasses in bulk materials handling belting.  What does that mean? Well, that means, in general, that a pulley that required a large diameter decades ago no longer requires such a large diameter because the carcass is thinner and stronger.  So that’s one thing we notice. In the Motorized Pulley world in which we live the smaller the diameter the lower the price.  So, for a given power and speed combination for a particular conveyor belt, given a fixed width, if it’s possible to install a smaller diameter Motorized Pulley, the price will be less than if that same power and speed were provided by a larger diameter.  So the significance of a stronger and thinner carcass is important.  Another thing I’ve noticed is that there’s a growing interest in use of variable frequency drives. 30 years ago when I first got involved in promoting Motorized Pulleys, variable frequency drives were available and the types of VFDS that were available were somewhat limited.  Nowadays their price has come down dramatically, the availability of brands in the market is very wide, and the features that variable frequency drives build into them are incredible compared to 30 years ago.  And so it seems to us that more and more people are using variable frequency drives to drive their conveyor belt and they get certain advantages by doing that.  Not least of which is the ability to change the speed of an AC squirrel cage induction motor running on three-phase power and all there are also other protection features built into the VFD.

MR R: Can you kindly tell us if there are differences between the American handling market and the main markets of the same sector in the rest of the world?

MG: How does the American bulk materials handling market differ from that in the rest of the world?  One thing that’s very noticeable is this.  Rollers to support conveyor belts (we call them idlers) back in the 60s and 70s in the United States were exclusively made with roller bearings and at the same time the equivalent roller bearings were ball bearings in Europe.  Nowadays (I wouldn’t say exclusively but very nearly exclusively) the idler rollers in the US market use ball bearings and, of course, they have certain advantages.  Ball bearings in idlers do not require regreasing.  So that’s one thing it’s very noticeable to us and of course it’s interesting to Rulmeca worldwide because the idler rollers which we make have an excellent ball bearings installed along with a very fine sealing system.

MR R: For some time now there has been a lot of talk about Artificial Intelligence and possible future applications, do you think that it can be used even in the case of material handling and if so in what way?

MG: You asked about the possible use of artificial intelligence within the bulk materials handling world and I suppose the possibilities are endless.  When I look back to doing a construction project on a bucket wheel stacker reclaimer in Australia back in the early 70s we used cam limit switches and they were large pieces of iron  quite crude .  The cam limit switches determined the extremes of rotation when the bucket wheel boom slewed left and right and when it luffed up and down.  And of course we also had DC motors with scrs and relays and so forth.  Over the subsequent years I saw the Improvement in the quality of controls sensors which are more sophisticated nowadays and control systems which of course are very user friendly compared to what we saw.  Back in the day you would have controllers sitting in a control room who were looking at displays that were based on switches installed on the system in various places. I can remember having lunch not so long ago with a underground coal mine superintendent and we talked about the conveyor system underground and he said to me “Would you like to see it?” And I was shocked when he took out his laptop and showed me the location of all of the conveyors underground along with their production capability and whether or not they were on or off. So, electronics control are the obvious place in which Bulk Materials Handling is improving technically. Another thing that we see growing in popularity would be condition monitoring.  In other words a system in which devices can be installed in electric motors for example that would be able to monitor the condition of the motor.  Things such as current draw, vibration, temperature, RPM.  These are the sorts of things that can be measured with sensors and relayed to a gateway in which the operators and the designers can take decisions regarding whether or not a piece of equipment needs to be repaired or removed from service.  That certainly is one area in which technology is moving quickly.

MR R: So far we have talked about developments and trends in the handling sector, I would now move on to talking about applications. Do you have any examples of particular interest where the motorized pulley is used that might be of particular interest to our listeners?

MG: You asked me if I have a couple of examples that our listeners might be interested in hearing about.  Well the answer is certainly “yes”.  As we have used application engineering in responding to the needs that our customers have drawn to our attention, one thing that’s been particularly enjoyable to see is the beneficial effect of installing a dual drive system in a conveyor belt whereas previously a single drive had been conceived.  Dual drives offer a number of amazing things.  Given the operational requirements and the ambient conditions, it’s possible by the use of dual drives to increase the wrap angle of the conveyor belt and, therefore, decrease the amount of slack side tension required to provide grip on the belt. This could be a very fine technical Improvement to A system that might otherwise have been thought of to be “just fine” with a single drive.  We have suggested and customers have used “nested dual arrangements” in a variety of bucket wheel reclaimers as well as a limestone conveyor (a thousand foot conveyor to remove rock from the bottom of the pit to the top of the pit).  The dual drive was very successfully applied in that application.  As a matter of fact, in that application, going to a dual drive as well as going to a faster belt speed enabled the operator to reduce his total tension in his conveyor belt from 27,000 lb to 17,000 lb.  That means he was able to purchase a less expensive belt and that belt will last longer thanks to the lower tension required to move the amount of tonage he had planned.

MR R: All very fascinating Mike and thank you so much for sharing your experience with us, unfortunately we have run out of time. I greet you and those who followed us.

Thanks again for listening, we’ll see you next time on “I LIKE TO MOVE IT“, the Rulmeca podcast.
Thank you for your attention and I look forward to seeing you next time to explore together again the most interesting new trends and developments in the world of materials handling.

Take care and keep being awesome.

That’s all for now!”