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Four questions to ask before choosing a drivetrain for heavy industries
2nd Quarter 2019, Electrical switching & drive systems & components

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.

Power transmission components are critical pieces of equipment, and choosing the right equipment can be daunting. 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 occur 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 feature high misalignment angles, vibrations and movements when grinding big metalworks, such as cars, into small pieces.

Are standard solutions good enough for the intended application?

It is always worth investigating standard solutions that are available on the market. If a component from a manufacturer’s 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.

They can design, prototype and test innovative solutions that meet the needs of their customers and their industrial applications. In particular, they are able to develop solutions suitable for applications such as corrosive marine environments. An example is 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.

Ongoing support makes the difference between a supplier and a partner. Look for a supplier that has invested in a service infrastructure that is available to all of its end-users and 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.

For more information contact Marie Kerdoncuff, Altra Industrial Motion, +33 6 83 99 8408,,

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