Bucket elevators are an essential part of the equipment and machinery of mines, manufacturing, smelters and many other processing plants. They can be various designs, weights and sizes, depending upon the type of product that is being moved. Some of the common products that are transported via elevators and conveyors include, bulk foods, grains, metal ore and liquid substances. These elevators can be mechanical, hydraulic, electronic or operated through other means, including animal or human muscle power.
The buckets are typically attached to an endless belt or chain. This belt butts up against other equipment or machinery so that the contents of the bucket is transported from one location or level to another. These circular belts can be friction driven or chain driven. The surface of the conveyor can be rough or smooth.
The presence of the buckets on the belt indicate that the product being moved is liquid or maybe small bulk products. The buckets are filled and in the case of liquids the contents are transported to the new location and dumped or poured. The same process is likely to occur when the product is ore.
Products such as ore can be very heavy, so the equipment must be durable. Metal buckets are quite common. Elevator parts such as conveyor belts can be made of heavy fabric, metal, screening or straps. It is important that these parts be very durable, since most elevators are most profitable when they are run continuously. They may only be shut down periodically to perform routine maintenance.
The elevator can go straight up or down from one level to another. When this type of elevator is used, the product is placed into the bucket which is raised or lowered either through mechanical or hydraulic means. When the full bucket reaches the new level, the action of the belt causes the bucket to tip the contents into another container or storage area.
The contents may also be transported horizontally. In this instance, the bucket may appear like a scoop to move the product from one part of a facility to another. Moving products in this way can be done by fewer people than traditional methods. Usually the equipment is operated by a series of switches that provide power to the appropriate area.
It is also common for elevators to work on an incline arrangement. This means less wear and tear on the buckets and the connections. The product is placed in a bucket on the lower level and the conveyor or elevator belt moves upward at an angle. The bucket reaches the apex of a continuous belt rise and the contents are dumped.
Bucket elevators are manufactured by a limited number of businesses, the importance of good equipment with durable parts can not be overestimated. The businesses that use these elevators can not afford to shut down operations for a missing or worn part, Regular maintenance and inspections are critical to efficient operation. The manufacturing plant for the elevator equipment often provides technicians who do the maintenance work.