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1. WO2018148014 - APPARATUS AND METHODS FOR MEASURING BELTS

Note: Text based on automatic Optical Character Recognition processes. Please use the PDF version for legal matters

APPARATUS AND METHODS FOR MEASURING BELTS

BACKGROUND

The invention relates generally to apparatus and methods for measuring conditions, such as the pitch or speed of belts or chains, by measuring the passage of topographical features in the profile of the belts or chains with distance measurements.

When transmission or conveyor belts or chains age, they stretch in the direction of belt travel. Stretching degrades the frictional engagement of a flat belt with its pulley or the positive engagement of a positively driven belt with the teeth of its drive sprocket.

Stretching also presages belt failures due to aging. Because belt failures can be costly, a number of schemes for measuring belt stretch have been used. Many of those schemes require that special-purpose markers be added to a belt separated by a nominal distance. Detectors along the belt's travel path sense the passage of the markers and determine belt stretch from the times of passage. Conventional special-purpose markers serve no purpose other than as detectable position marks on a belt.

SUMMARY

One version of apparatus for measuring belts comprises and a processor receiving first distance measurements from a first rangefinder and producing a first profile record of a predetermined number of sequential first distance measurements and determining the occurrences of the regularly spaced topographical feature in the first profile record. The first rangefinder makes the first distance measurements from the first rangefinder to a belt having a regularly spaced topographical feature and advancing at a belt speed in a direction of belt travel transverse to the distance between the first rangefinder and the belt.

Another version comprises a first rangefinder and a second rangefinder. The first rangefinder makes first distance measurements to a belt having a regularly spaced topographical feature and advancing in a direction of belt travel transverse to the distance between the first rangefinder and the belt. The second rangefinder makes second distance measurements from the second rangefinder to the belt. The second rangefinder is offset from the first rangefinder in the direction of belt travel by a separation distance. A processor receives the first and second distance measurements, produces corresponding first and second records of a predetermined number of sequential first and second distance measurements, and produces a cross-correlation of the first record and the second record to determine a cross-correlation time delay between the occurrence of the topographical feature in the first record and the occurrence of the topographical feature in the second record.

In another aspect, a method for measuring belts comprises: (a) advancing a belt having a regularly spaced topographical feature in a direction of belt travel at a belt speed; (b) making first measurements constituting a profile of the belt along its length; (c) producing a first profile record of a predetermined number of sequential first

measurements; and (d) determining the occurrences of the regularly spaced topographical feature in the first profile record.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a schematic side elevation view of one end of a modular conveyor belt monitored by a distance-measuring apparatus embodying features of the invention;

FIG. 2 is a plot of two sets of distance measurements made by the distance-measuring apparatus of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a cross-correlation of the two sets of distance measurements of FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 is an auto-correlation of one of the two sets of distance measurements of FIG. 2; and

FIG. 5 is a flowchart of one version of a method for measuring belt pitch and speed using an apparatus as in FIG. 1.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

One version of an apparatus embodying features of the invention for measuring belt speed and belt pitch is shown in FIG. 1. The apparatus comprises two sensors, rangefinders Si, S2, offset a predetermined distance in the direction of travel 10 along the length of a conveyor belt 12. The optical rangefinders Si, S2 in this version are laser rangefinders whose transmitted beams 14, 16 are separated by a separation distance ds parallel to the direction of belt travel 10. The rangefinders Si, S2 are mounted to a conveyor frame member 18 at a distance from the conveyor belt 12 transverse to the direction of belt travel 10. In this example the distance, measured along the transmitted laser beams 14, 16, is perpendicular to the direction of belt travel 10. When mounted with their beams parallel, the sensor spacing is the same equals the separation distance ds of the two transmitted beams 14, 16. The beams 14, 16 each illuminate a spot on the belt 12. Reflected beams 15, 17 return to the rangefinders Si, S2, which have imagers, such as CCD arrays that detect the reflections, and signal conditioning and processing electronics that determine the ranges to the reflecting surfaces of the belt 12. The range measurements are sent to a processor 20 over a communications link 22. The processor 20 may be a general-purpose computer with data memory and program memory that is programmed to analyze the rangefinder's measurements. The processor 20 can also be programmed to control the sample rate of the rangefinders Si, S2 over the communications link 22.

The two parallel transmitted beams 14, 16 strike the conveyor belt 12 at two points separated by d$ on a facing target surface 24 of the belt. The working range 26 of the rangefinders 14, 16 extends along their transmitted beam paths from the closest point of approach 28 to the farthest point of approach 30 of the target surface 24 of the belt 12. A standoff distance 32 extends from the rangefinders Si, S2 to a point within the working range 26. The rangefinders Si, S2 detect ranges to regularly spaced topographical features in a profile of the belt 12. In this example the regularly spaced topographical feature is a drive bar 34 that protrudes downward from belt's target surface 24. In this case the regularly spaced topographical feature 34 is an inherent feature of the belt 12 that has a main function; namely, engaging a drive sprocket that drives the belt on the drive bar 34. The drive bar 34 is not a feature whose sole purpose is to serve as a range marker to be measured by the rangefinder— although such dedicated-purpose features could be used. And the

topographical features need not be protrusions, like the drive bar 34; they can be any regularly spaced features in the profile of the belt— including recesses. Thus, the

rangefinding apparatus can be used with already existing belts having topographical features without adding a special-purpose marker, such as a magnet or a printed mark.

FIG. 2 shows two sets of sampled distance measurements Di, D2 made by the two rangefinders Si, S2 of FIG. 1. The two sets of distance measurements are artificially offset from each other along the Distance axis in FIG. 2 to make them easier to see. The shape of the two time series Di, D2 corresponds to the profile of the target surface of the belt 12.

Minimum values 36, 38 in the two time series of distance measurement data Di, D2 correspond to the regularly spaced features 34 on the belt 12. As FIG. 2 shows, the minimum distance values of the first rangefinder's profile record Di occur shortly before the second rangefinder's minima in its profile record D2. The difference in time /¾ between these two minima is inversely proportional to the belt speed Vb. In fact, the belt speed Vb can be

computed using the sensor spacing d$ as Vb = ds/ts. The time tv between consecutive minima in each rangefinder's time series is proportional to the distance dp between the positions of consecutive topographical belt features 34. If the belt speed Vb is computed or is known a priori, that distance dp = ν ν. But the distance dp between consecutive topographical features can also be computed without explicitly using belt speed as dp = d$ (tP/ts), where tv is determined directly from either one of the time series Di, D2 or by averaging the tp of both. If the regularly spaced feature 34 repeats at the belt pitch P, as in FIG. 1, dp can be used to measure belt pitch and, consequently, stretch (i.e., increase in belt pitch) over time. (For modular belts, the belt pitch P is defined as the distance between consecutive hinge axes 40.) Although the measurements of ts and tp from the time series Di, D2 may be accurate enough in some situations to determine belt speed and pitch, correlation techniques provide more robust measurements of time delays. Correlations are less susceptible to noise and other problems caused by belt wear, dirt accumulation, or time-series corruption that degrade time-delay measurements taken directly from time series. FIG. 3 shows the cross-correlation of the first and second rangefinder distance measurements Di, D2 of FIG. 2. For best correlation results, the length of each profile record Di, D2 includes at least two occurrences of the regularly spaced topographical feature. So the profile record lengths should be longer than twice the belt pitch at maximum stretch to guarantee that at least two occurrences of the regularly occurring topographical feature of interest appear in the profile records. The cross-correlation function R21 is created by shifting Di to the right in FIG. 2 while D2 is held stationary. The shifting is performed one measurement sample interval at a time. The cross-correlation value at each point in FIG. 3 is given by Pv2i(Z) =∑; d2 (i)d1(i— I), where di(i) are the individual distance measurements in the first rangefinder's profile record Di, di{l) are the individual distance measurements in the second rangefinder's profile record D2, / is the shift of Di relative to D2 in measurement sample intervals, and the summation for each / is summed for index i over the number of distance measurements in each profile record Di, D2. (The cross-correlation R12 could alternatively be used.) The peaks of the cross-correlation provide a more accurate indication of the time delay than the peaks or edges of the times series Di, D2. The time delay Ts from the first cross-correlation point 42

(corresponding to / = 0) to the first cross-correlation peak Pix corresponds to ts in FIG. 2 and is used to determine belt speed. The time delay τν between consecutive peaks, for example, between Pix and P∑x, corresponds to tv in FIG. 2 and can be used to measure belt pitch if belt speed is known a priori or has been calculated. Or belt pitch can be calculated as dp = d$ (TP/TS) without an intermediate calculation of belt speed. Both τ$ and τν are more robust measures

The measurement of the time delay τ between consecutive occurrences of the regularly spaced topographical feature in the first or second rangefinder's measurement data profile record Di, D2 can alternatively be computed with the auto-correlation of either or both records. FIG. 4 shows the auto-correlation R11 of the first data profile record Di. The auto-correlation R11 is the correlation of profile record Di with itself. (R22 is the autocorrelation of D2.) The first and highest peak Pi A occurs when Di is not shifted from itself (/ = 0). The next consecutive peak P2A occurs when the first occurrence of the minimum value in shifted profile record Di (FIG. 2) aligns with the second occurrence of the minimum value in unshifted profile record Di. The time delay τ between consecutive peaks PIA, P∑A in R11 (or in R22) can be used to measure belt pitch in the same way as tv and τν.

Because the nominal pitch of the conveyor belt 12 is known and the belt speed is known or has been calculated, the auto-correlation does not have to be performed at every sample point. Instead, auto-correlation values outside a predetermined later region of interest 44 spanning the expected occurrence of the next peak after the peak PIA need not be computed. Searching for the peak P2A can be limited to auto-correlation values in that region of interest 44. Belts with small topographical features of interest result in auto-correlations with low signal-to-noise ratios. So searching for peaks only in a predetermined region of interest is necessary to avoid selecting an incorrect peak. A similar region of interest can also be applied to the time series Di, D2 if they are used directly to calculate pitch or belt speed.

The flowchart of FIG. 5 describes one method for determining the speed and pitch of a belt using correlation techniques. An executable program according to the flowchart and saved in the processor's program memory and executed by the processor (20, FIG. 1) controls the measurement cycle, performs the auto- and cross-correlations, computes the belt speed and the belt pitch, and performs other functions, such as accepting operator inputs and displaying or sounding alarms in the event of an impending belt failure or other alarm condition.

In acquiring measurement data at step 50, the processor reads the rangefinders and stores their distance measurements in buffers in the processor's data memory. From each of the two buffers the processor's program acquires a record of measurement data and checks

to see if any measurements lie outside an acceptable range. If any value in the record is out of range, that record and the corresponding record of the other rangefinder's measurement data are discarded and new profile records are acquired. Both records are synchronized in time. The processor computes the mean value for each valid data record and subtracts the mean value from each measurement value at step 52 to produce zero-mean measurement records. The two zero-mean data profile records are then correlated with each other and themselves. The first rangefinder's measurement profile record is cross-correlated with the second rangefinder's profile record at step 54. A peak-finding routine finds all the peaks, i.e., all the relative maxima, in the cross-correlation at step 56. The processor computes the root-mean-square (rms) value of the cross-correlation at step 58. A peak threshold level is set at step 60 as a function of the rms value to eliminate peaks due to noise and distance measurements corresponding to other salient topographical belt features not of interest and to other belt features that produce high auto-correlation peaks, but are not located at the belt pitch distance. The peak threshold 46 is used at step 56 to find the peaks in the cross-correlation R12 due to the salient belt feature of interest as shown in FIG. 3. The processor, at step 62, selects the first-occurring peak Pix above the threshold 46. The time delay Ts of the occurrence of that peak from the start of the cross-correlation R12 is used at step 64 to compute the belt velocity Vb as cUlxs, where ds is the known rangefinder separation distance. If the belt speed is known a priori as measured by a different sensor or as reported by a belt-motor controller, the belt speed Vb does not have to be computed as in step 64; and, in fact, the cross-correlation does not have to be performed and only one sensor is required. The belt speed z¾ computed for each profile record at step 64 or provided from another source can then be applied to a low-pass digital filter to provide a running average of the belt speed at step 66 to provide a better estimate of belt pitch by filtering out noise.

At step 68 the processor calculates the auto-correlation of the distance-measurement profile record of each rangefinder. Every auto-correlation function has an initial maximum peak at τ = 0. Because the next peak after the initial peak is expected to occur in the region of interest (44, FIG. 4), the processor opens that region of interest (ROI) in the auto-correlation at step 70. At step 72 the processor searches through the limited set of auto-correlation values in the region of interest (ROI) for the maximum value, which is assigned as the peak P2A. The delay between the first peak Pi A at τ = 0 and the second peak P2A is the time delay τ that corresponds to the time interval between occurrences of consecutive topographical belt features of interest. The processor, at step 74, calculates belt pitch P as ζ¾τ or as the product of the rangefinder separation distance ds and the ratio of the average of the first and second auto-correlation time delays (τνι ' + τΡ2')/2 to the cross-correlation time delay Ts. Like the belt speed Vb, the belt pitch P can be filtered to produce a smoother running average at step 76. The processor then repeats the steps at a predetermined rate for a new set of distance measurements.