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The V-belt drive is a rather popular, widely used form of power transmission in agricultural and food industry engineering. At the same time, its stability, the lifetime of V-belt is influenced by several environmental factors, namely in the food industry by the contamination affecting the belt sides, the ambient temperature, humidity and the occasionally aggressive (acidic, alkaline air, air saturated with gases, etc.) medium. In the case of agricultural machinery, the vibration caused by uncertainly oriented pulleys with bearing in different plate structures (often being shaken in the fields) as well as alignment adjustment inaccuracies jeopardize the reliability of the parameters of the drive. Furthermore, the efficiency is determined by several factors together: the slippage occurring during drive transmission, the hysteresis loss resulting from the external and internal friction occurring with the belt entering and exiting the pulley. Experimental equipment and calculation methods were developed to determine the dynamics of temperature increase generated by the belt and pulley relationship. The temperature generated in the V-belt was measured as a function of pretension, pulley diameter and bending frequency. The so-called damping factor characterizing the contact with the pulley (the external friction when entering and exiting the groove) and the hysteresis loss (inner friction) are also determined. On the basis of the damping factor (ζ400 Ns/m2) of the V-belt involved in the experiments the other losses (Poth) occurring from the pulley—V-belt contact and internal friction may be estimated. The drive parameters may be optimized with the mathematical model describing the effect of the pulley diameter and belt frequency on the increase in temperature.

A standardized calculation method as well as design factors valid for the properly adjusted drive and normal operating conditions determined through empirical and laboratory experiments are used for the sizing of V-belt drives. The lifetime of V-belt drives designed in this way, used in extreme conditions typical of agricultural machinery will not be appropriate and will not provide clear, predictable information for maintenance planning. In such cases the results of our own many lifetime tests conducted in the given circumstances can be safely relied on.

The agricultural harvesting machines are large plate-body self-propelled structures on which most of the power supply of the (threshing, cleaning, moving, etc.) machine units handling the crop is realized via belt drives. The distance and angular displacement of the axes involved in the drive can vary within wide limits. The misalignment and angular displacement of the pulleys can be the result of installation instability — due to the plate structure — and the deformation of the plate structure occurring during the operation as well. V-belt drives operate satisfactorily under such conditions as well, however these faults are unfavourable in terms of belt lifetime and result in the reduction of drive efficiency.

A further aim of our research is to examine through experiments the lifetime and efficiency of V-belts used in agricultural machines as a function of drive adjustment errors. According to the results of the measurements of the geometrical adjustment errors of V-belt drives performed in the field, the pulleys of agricultural equipment are not always positioned in the medium plane of the drive. In our experiments these data served as independent variables. Figure 1 shows the arrangement of a V-belt drive in a grain harvester with the laser pulley alignment measuring instrument installed as an accessory. In the case of many machine types in 80% of the tested drives three times the permissible error was measured, and because of off-road use, due to dynamic load these errors further increased as a result of the frame deformation.

The results of both the belt bending testing and the geometrical adjustment testing of the drive offer great help in the design of belt drives. At the same time they can be the source of lifetime and efficiency forecasts.

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