Cambridge Engineered Solutions has introduced Knuckleback Platinum, a new woven T314 stainless steel conveyor belt suitable for use in the final sintering stage in powdered metal production.

The belt can help produce parts for automobiles, home appliances and other industries.

Cambridge says that Knuckleback Platinum’s belt life is extended through a pre-oxidation process that provides surface protection to prevent carbon build up in the furnace and along the edges of the belt.

The belt was developed in collaboration with Abbott Furnace Company, the leading manufacturer of continuous belt furnaces in North America. Field tests performed by the two companies have shown that the pre-treating process increases belt life by 25% and reduces operational down time for belt replacement by more than 18%.

Dr. Stephen Feldbauer, Abbott director of engineering and technology, and Cory Bloodsworth, cambridge director of business and market development, are co-authors of a white paper about the belt field test results entitled ‘Increasing Belt Life Performance and Maximizing Production Time in Powder Metal Sintering Operations.’

Knuckleback Platinum’s belt life is extended through a pre-oxidation process.
Knuckleback Platinum’s belt life is extended through a pre-oxidation process.

Service life

Metal belts are an ongoing cost associated with the operation of a continuous powder metal sintering furnace. Typically, their service life, depending on workload, is measured in months, according to Feldbauer.

’To perform optimally, they should be subjected to a break-in period of one to three days that soaks the belt as it slowly moves into the furnace,’ Feldbauer said. ‘Most manufacturers, however, can’t afford the extended production downtime for a new belt to be pre-oxidized and installed.  This results in a reduced service life.’

Closely associated are issues with excess lubrication on powdered metal products. Often, manufacturers facing production deadlines are not able to give products sufficient time in the de-lube heat zone prior to the sintering stage. As a result, a portion of the soot (carbon) from the lubricants naturally develops and collects inside the sintering furnace. It is carried out of the unit due to the motion of the belt.

Carbon then forms on the edges of the belt causing embrittlement and eventually results in broken welds and frayed edges.

Production uptime

Tom Perdue, Cambridge product development engineer, said the company’s engineering team worked on and tested a solution for more than a year.

‘What we developed is a controlled pre-treatment process where the belts undergo a series of heat ‘soaks’ to build a protective layer of natural oxidation on the surface of the wires,’ he said. ‘Field tests show this process can extend the average belt service life from 60 days to more than 75 days.’

The process effectively replaces the desired break-in period that is not practical for most companies operating a powdered metal sintering furnace.

'The additional 15 days of average belt life means one to two less replacements per year for powdered metal manufacturers,’ said Bloodsworth, ‘which results in US$15,000 to US$20,000 in production uptime for a single sintering line.’

This story is reprinted from material from Cambridge Engineered Solutions, with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier.