Way cover bellows improve human and machine safety, machine uptime, and dynamic protection. They bring reliable, engineered solutions to complex and specialty applications. Equipment protection, particularly flexible covers, represents the largest part of our product portfolio.
Bellows are most often used to protect critical components. Actuators used in motion control equipment are often exposed to contaminants ranging from dust and abrasive grit to metal chips and weld spatter. Finished surfaces of cylinder rods, slides, and other mechanisms need protection from these wear-inducing elements.
In other cases, way cover bellows might be used around pinch points to reduce the hazard of unintentional contact with machine parts. Bellows are also used as flexible ducting for air exhaust/intake applications, such as traction motor cooling on light rail vehicles. Bellows are used in many industries such as machine tool, medical, and transportation. Two examples are bus bellows and protective skirts around lift tables.
What material choices are there for bellows? There are hundreds of material choices, which are chosen based on the environment – and this is where collecting customer application details is crucial. The application specialists will consider the presence of abrasion, chemicals, liquids, and operating temperatures along with various physical requirements when recommending a protective cover.
A bellows is typically made using an elastomer or thermoplastic coated fabric, pure elastomer, or a thermoplastic film. The common elastomers are Chlorosulphonated polyethylene (CSM), ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM), chloroprene, nitrile (NBR), Styrene-butadiene (SBR), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polyurethane, and silicone while PVC and polyurethane are typical thermoplastics. Textile substrates include nylon, polyester, and specialty fibers including para-aramid, fiberglass, and others. Keeping in mind that bellows are essentially wear parts, heavy-duty conditions or extreme temperatures can diminish the useful life of the bellows. In the end, the goal is to prevent unplanned downtime from damaged equipment.
Are there any life-cycle extending measures and preventive maintenance strategies for way cover bellows? Maintenance is a key component of preserving bellows type covers. While covers are inherently wear items, cleaning them off, removing debris and ensuring they are functioning on a routine interval will increase longevity. Maintenance engineers can provide accessories that simplify installation and replacement. For example, round shaped bellows can be supplied with a zipper to facilitate mounting to a cylinder or shaft without disassembling the machine.
In addressing the high demand for machine safety controls and guarding, engineers have recently become focused on smart factory solutions. This includes the VF Automated Machine Safety Door which prevents process generated hazards from interfering with other processes and nearby people. The VF Door can include windows to maintain process visibility while still replacing light curtains. Traditional light curtains require an extra distance buffer to create a safety zone. In contrast, the VF Door eliminates this extra space helping meet the shrinking footprint of automation – allowing more automation in less space.