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New Technology Generates Power Using Conveyor Belt Kinetic Energy

July 12, 2016
The Martin Roll Gen System
The Martin Roll Gen System

Martin Engineering has introduced a technology that uses the kinetic energy from a moving conveyor belt to generate enough power to run a wide variety of electronic systems.

The Martin Roll Gen System was designed to create a self-contained mini power station that allows operators to run electrical monitoring systems and safety mechanisms. Able to be retrofitted on existing idler support structures, operators are not required to maintain a special stock of conveyor rollers, as the generator can be employed on virtually any steel roller. It is the first step to eliminating power production obstacles as conveyors move into the next generation of “smart systems” that are predicted to be more sustainable and autonomous.

Running auxiliary power can be both complicated and costly, requiring expensive labor and oversized cables to accommodate the inevitable voltage drop over long runs, as well as transformers, conduit, junction boxes, and other components. Using even a small conventional generator to provide power introduces a different set of issues, including flammable fuels. In many operations, this lack of available power means that any monitoring of the conveyor must be done by technicians physically walking the length of the structure, which can be a difficult and time-consuming task when the systems are long and span difficult terrain.  

A more efficient approach is to employ sensors to transmit important data from remote points to a central location where it can be monitored in real time and recorded for later analysis. But intelligent monitoring systems for any conveyor system require power for extended operation. Due to the distances involved, cabled communication systems are not ideal, and therefore wireless communication systems are more advantageous. Options such as solar power are not well suited to the general conditions of a conveyor system, as monitoring devices are often required in an enclosed structure without access to sunlight, or for continuous operation during both day and night.

“We found that we could draw energy from a moving belt by attaching an independent generator directly to one of the rollers,” said Paul Harrison, global engineering manager. “This way, the conveyor could produce power without altering the structure of the system or affecting its physical configuration.”

Being able to add a generator to a roller delivers the benefit of utilizing the proven reliability of existing roller designs, while drawing power from the belt for a wide variety of electronic devices.  Product engineers developed a design to accomplish this through the use of a magnetic coupling that attaches to the end of an existing roller. The outside diameter of the generator matches the diameter of the roll, but places the generator outside the material path to avoid the heavy loads and fugitive material that tends to damage existing design attempts. The roll generator is held in a fixed position by the roll support system, but is not normally required to bear any of the material load.  
In the new, patent-pending design, a “drive dog” is attached to the end face of the roll that is resting on the generator, using magnets. The drive dog engages the generator through the outer housing’s machined drive tabs. The magnetic attachment ensures that electrical or mechanical overload does not force the roll to stop. Instead the magnets will slip on the roll face.

Martin Engineering, Neponset, IL 309-852-2384 www.martin-eng.com

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