Aerospace manufacturers using heat treatment – which can reach temperatures up to 2,400°F and vary from a few seconds to 60+ hours – need conveyor belting that can withstand the rigors of the process. However, traditional round balance weave wire belting has changed little in 100 years and often requires annual replacement, causing costly production downtime.
Heat treating is essential to improve the properties, performance, and durability of metals such as steel, iron, aluminum alloys, copper, nickel, magnesium, and titanium used in aerospace manufacturing. This can involve conveying to hardening, brazing, and soldering, as well as to sintering furnaces, carburizing furnaces, atmosphere tempering furnaces, and heat processing in annealing and quenching furnaces. Parts treated can range from bearings, gears, and fasteners, to saws, axes, and cutting tools.
Heat treat-grade balance weave belts – made of temperature-resistant stainless steel or other heat resistant alloys, suitable to be run on a conveyor with friction drive – can cost thousands of dollars, depending on the dimensions and quality. So, even though wear and premature replacement seems inevitable, such wire belting should not be considered a low-cost consumable. While many manufacturers using heat treating consider periodic replacement of wire belting simply a cost of doing business, today innovative alternatives have been developed that can significantly prolong its life and drive down operational cost.
Although heat resistant wire belting is available, repeated thermal cycling between heating, soaking, and cooling while carrying substantial loads can continually weaken its structure until it fails. The greater and more frequent the temperature fluctuations in heat treatment steps, the shorter the wire belt’s usable life becomes.
In addition, on conveyor belts, belt stretch accelerated by heat and dynamic loading forces on the belt is typically the main cause of breakage and failure.
Fortunately, industry innovation in the form of engineered, shaped wire belting has minimized these challenges. The design vastly prolongs usable life with increased strength and decreased stretch, which dramatically curtails replacement costs and production downtime.
This approach can also help to extend the longevity of wire belting used with increasingly popular powder metal parts, particularly sintered parts that may be heat treated to enhance strength, hardness, and other properties. In such cases, powder metal serves as a feed stock that can be processed into a net-shape without machining.