Gates changes formulation for new belt

DENVER—Gates Industrial Corp. P.L.C. is moving to ethylene elastomer for the next generation of its high-torque synchronous belt for industrial markets, the PowerGrip GT4. The new construction, a change from the previous versions made with chloroprene, gives the belt unique performance characteristics, said Taylor Jung, director, synchronous drives, global product line management.

"It is a more capable belt because of the materials and the components that are brought together both from a materials  standpoint and the process that's required to manage those new materials," Jung said.He said the GT4 differs from other belts in two major ways: power-carrying capacity and temperature range. He thinks of power-carrying capacity in terms of "power density," or how much power a belt can carry for a given width. "The advantage to having a belt with high power density is that you, for a given application, can apply a narrower belt," Jung said.

That's a really valuable characteristic for users, because a narrower belt is generally more cost-effective, he said. And as a drive gets narrower, all of the accompanying materials around it get narrower as well. Companies also are always trying to build and install equipment in tighter spaces, and any ability to bring a belt into a smaller space can give designers more options to work around power transmission drives.Moving from chloroprene to the EE formulation allows the new belt to carry required power across a greater temperature range, Jung said. While Gates still is in the process of testing the specific range of temperatures the GT4 can withstand, it has increased on both the high and low end compared to previous chloroprene belts. "It does end up performing well when it's in the field in those spaces," Jung said.

Gates originally started using EE formulations with its Micro-V belts in automotive markets, Jung said. "We've brought those types of materials into our V belts in that space," he said. "This is really the first time we've brought it into our high torque synchronous range. We're excited to do that in a really big way: Not by making it a special or custom construction as needed, but by bringing it to our standard range, the one we offer on the shelves in inventory on a consistent basis." The belt—which will be available in 8- and 14-millimeter tooth pitches and in lengths exceeding 21 feet—can have applications anywhere from pumps to fans to industrial manufacturing machines, Jung said. Because of its enhances to temperature range, it can be used in warmer environments, which opens up mining and chemical environments where temperatures might be elevated.

"We're going to have some better performance in those stages. That's not to say we don't have belts in those spaces  today. They may just not be getting the same level of performance out of them as they will get out of GT4," Jung said.

The new EE formulation also is able to better withstand chemical exposure, and Gates is compiling a list of chemicals  the new belt resists, Jung said. "An ethylene elastomer belt is going to be a little more resistant to degradation through exposure to different types of chemicals," Jung said.The new belt is manufactured in Gates' facility in Arkansas. Plants in Europe and Asia also are bringing manufacturing capability online, he said. Europe will come on stream first, and Asia will do so the following next year. Jung did not provide details on equipment expansion alongside the new line, but said the company faced challenges in finding ways to work with and manufacture the new belt because of the new material. Most new equipment related to managing the materials, and the product is being produced inside the company's existing space. One reason Gates is able to work inside its current footprint is that it is sunsetting some of its older products that can be drop-in replaced with the new GT4 belt, Jung said. In addition to the value proposition of the new belt, Gates is simplifying and updating the product by sunsetting older legacy product that will better fit customers using earlier platforms.

"That's one of the ways we can help leverage our existing capacity to delivering this better product," Jung said. The timeline for sunsetting previous PowerGrip iterations is still being determined, Jung said. The PowerGrip GT2 belt  will be the first reaching the end of its production, with an effort to bring customers still using it to the newest generation. After that will be the PowerGrip GT3. "We work to our customers' needs in terms of what they need for making changes. The range of users that we have of this type of product is so vast that those needs are very different," Jung said. "We're really going to move directly to GT4, and then those customers who have specific part numbers and utilize unique parts that may need to go through a validation process, we will move through at a bit of a slower pace."

Gates is working through final production validation on the GT4, with a targeted availability date through the end of April, when the first product will start being made at full-scale production, Jung said.

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