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Bucket Elevators

D1: Description and Characteristics

A bucket elevator is a device used to convey material vertically up a pre-determined
number of feet in a minimal amount of space, where another type of conveying device is
not applicable.
A bucket elevator consists of a vertical casing or shaft, a drive unit at the top of the
casing consisting of a head shaft with a traction wheel driven by a reducer which is
powered by an electric motor. The bottom of the casing is generally referred to as the
boot and houses the take up traction.
An endless rollerless chain is strung around the traction wheels. Attached to the chain
are buckets to carry the material. Near the bottom of the casing just above the boot is
an opening used to feed material into the elevator. Near the top on the opposite side as
the feed spout is the material discharge chute. Attached to the edge of this chute is a
rubber peeler lip to prevent material from falling back down the casing.
Despite its obvious sensitivity to breakdowns bucket elevators are still more economical
to operate than pneumatic systems for dry powdered materials. This due largely to the
fact that pneumatic systems use large quantities of compressed air which uses large
amounts of power.
D2: Components - Bucket Elevator
The casing of the elevator is made of sheet iron and reinforced at various points
throughout the structure. Some casings house the entire elevator while others have a
separate casing for the upward and downward sides. Either way both styles have a
common boot and head end.
D2.1: Drive Unit.
Located at the head end of the unit are the main drive components. The head shaft has
the traction wheel mounted on it. This traction can be either smooth, cogged,
segmented or solid.



















Heavy-duty chabelco steel

rollerless chain.
Hooded back and high front
style or wrap-around buckets.
Hardened steel segmented
rim traction wheel with solid
steel body keyed to head
Roller bearings.
Steel split upper head section.
Stub discharge spout with
adjustable rubber peeler lip.
Headshaft bearing supports
integral with lower head
Lower head section.
Intermediate casing with deep
beaded crimps for stiffness.
Generous clearance between
casing and bucket edges.
Self supporting corner angle
Intermediate hinged type
inspection door.
Boot section
Front and rear clean out and
access panels with quick
acting latches.
Double hinged access doors
with quick acting latches.
Flanged bottom with flat base
plate for complete bearing on
Hardened steel segmented
traction wheel rim or sprocket
rim with split body keyed to
Internal gravity takeup.
Flanged inlet opening for easy
connection to loading chute.
Takeup removal beam in boot

Smooth Solid

Smooth Segmented

Cogged Segemented

The head shaft is supported in roller bearings located on the outside of the casing. One
end of the shaft extends through the bearing and has a drive sprocket mounted on it. In
line with this sprocket is a speed reducer with a sprocket mounted on the low speed
output shaft. A roller chain connects the two sprockets together. The high speed input
shaft is connected to an electric motor by a flex type coupling, such as a rubber paraflex
coupling. This rubber coupling takes up shock of initial start up or equipment stall.
Upper Head Section
Drive Unit

Drive Chain

Drive Support
Lower Head Section
Inspection Doors

D2.2: Back stops

Some elevators are equipped with back stop devices to prevent them from rolling
backwards when stopped. Without this device the weight of the material in the buckets
and the effect of gravity causes the elevator to roll backwards. Depending on the
amount of speed generated a lot of damage could be caused to the equipment. For
safety reasons, its very important that you know whether it has one or not and if so that
they are well maintained. Maintenance and inspection procedures will differ depending
on whether it has a backstop or not.
D2.3: Inching drives
Some elevators also may have an inching drive, which allows the elevator to be run at a
very low speed. These units are installed mostly for maintenance work to be performed,
P.M. checks, or if a bucket is damaged and could be hooking on the casing. Elevators
equipped with either back stops or inching drives should never be run in reverse until
the unit is disconnected.
D2.4: Elevator boot section
The boot of the elevator houses the take up portion. There are two types of take ups,
both have a tail shaft with a traction mounted on it. These traction wheels similar to the
head shaft are either smooth, cogged, segmented or solid.
One type has the tail shaft extending out through the casing and supported by externally
located roller bearings. This type is adjustable by turning the adjusting screws located
above the bearing. This is considered a fixed take up because it cannot move on its
own once it's adjusted.
The other type is housed inside of the boot, and is totally hidden from outside viewing.
Both ends of the shaft are equipped with bushings to help reduce shaft wear. The
bushings are supported by wear blocks. The wear blocks are mounted on slide rails
which are attached to the elevator housing. The weight box floats freely up and down to
keep tension on the elevator chain. Guide rails keep the take up in line so it does not
sway and band around. This is considered an internal gravity take up.

Elevator Boot with Internal Gravity Take-Up

Guide Rails

Bottom Traction
digs if
boot ov er f ills

Bottom Traction
Runner Assembly

To determine lev el,

check build-up pattern
inside, or drill and tap
small holes at regular
interv als f rom the
bottom. Open holes 1
at a time to determine
lev el approximately .

Elev ator

No material should reach

this side, except f or v ery
f luid powders.

f illing
Check clearance here
f or excessiv e chain stretch

Especially where smooth traction wheels are used, it is important that internal gravity
take-ups move freely. If they become jammed, insufficient tension on the chain will lead
to slip at the head traction. In the end capacities are reduced, recirculation occurs and
wear accelerate. This will occur more frequently on units handling crushed stone or
clinker as material packs in underneath the bottom traction.
Feed chutes should also be positioned such that material lands squarely into the
buckets as they come around. According to Rexnord, buckets should be 3/4 full
maximum and that boot digging should seldom occur. Boot digging is a condition where
the bottom is always full to a certain level, forcing the bottom traction to continuously dig
through it. Some of the causes are as follows:
a) Elevator is undersized (this is common since designers often use the wrong bulk
density in their calculations).
b) Heavy internal recirculation from slippage or incorrect speed.
c) For powdered material on mill circuits, bulk density changed due to internal water
sprays, irregular grinding aid addition, or too much air on the airslide feeding the
d) For powdered materials, no de-aeration holes on the buckets.
D2.5: Elevator Chain and Buckets

The conveying portion itself is actually done by buckets which are fastened to an
endless rollerless chain that is strung around the two traction wheels. The chain is
equipped with mounting pads to which the buckets are fastened.

Bearing Plates

Stiffeners (optional)

De-aeration Holes

Some elevators have a double chain which are two separate but identical chains used to
fasten the buckets to. These elevators also require a double traction set up on both the
top and bottom shafts. Double chains are most commonly used where a longer type
bucket is required.
For powdered materials, buckets should come with de-aeration holes drilled (6 to 12
quarter inch holes) through the bottom. Recognize that due to the speed of the chain
some air will be trapped in the bottom of the bucket as it "slaps" into the feed stream.
This effectively reduces the capacity of each bucket. The de-aeration holes provide a
vent through which this air can escape and thereby restore the elevator capacity.
Beware that for extremely fluid materials, such as aerated flyash, will leak through these

holes, resulting in heavy recirculation. In these circumstances it may be prudent to at

least reduce the number holes drilled.
D3: Elevator Speed and Throw
The buckets receive material to be conveyed through an opening in the casing just
above the boot. Material entering this opening is conveyed via an air slide or conveyor
belt. As the chain and bucket rotate they convey the material vertically up the casing.
Once the bucket makes the bend around the top traction wheel, the material then
discharges out of the bucket into the discharge chute located a few feet down from the

Figure D3.1: Correct Speed

top of the elevator. This shown in Figure D3.1.

Depending on speed and design, the material is either flung out of the bucket by
centrifugal force, or it falls out by means of gravity or a combination of both. To prevent
material from falling back down the casing a rubber peeler lip is installed on the edge of
the discharge chute. This lip is also adjustable to compensate for wear.
Chain speed will determine the material throw and should be sized to ensure that
everything gets tossed into the discharge chute. Speeds that are too slow (from
slippage too) or too fast will result in reduced capacity and casing and/or component
wear due to recirculation or backlegging. In Figure 3.2 we have a bucket elevator that's
rotating too fast. Either the material is released early, striking the casing, ricocheting

and misses the discharge chute; OR the material remains inside the bucket too long and
discharges late.
Figure 3.3 illustrates a slow moving bucket elevator. In this case material is released
early but does not have enough momentum to reach the discharge chute.
Unfortunately the proper throw is dependent on the material and particle size
distribution. Fine particles require a different throw from coarse sizes. Where the
material has a wide range of sizes, it is possible to have a chain speed that is both too
slow and too fast.

Figure D3.2: High Speed

Figure D3.3: Low Speed

D4: Trouble Shooting - Bucket Elevator

D4.1: Condition: Elevator kicked out
1. Check equipment ahead of the elevator to make sure it is running. If problem cannot
be corrected contact proper people.

2. If equipment ahead of elevator is okay, check for plugs at discharge spout, or grating
above spout if equipped. If plugged, clean out as required. After unplugging, reset
and restart. Observe operation of proper running conditions.
3. If discharge spout and grating is okay, check drive components. If problem is found
in drive call Electrical or Mechanical Maintenance.
4. If drive unit is okay, do a visual inspection of the elevator. Look down the elevator
casing for possible loose bucket, broken chain, ripped or torn casing. If problem is
found contact Mechanical Maintenance.
5. If all appears okay, reset and restart. Stand by elevator when restarting and monitor.
If it will not start call Electrical Maintenance. If it attempts to start and will not run,
promptly call Mechanical Maintenance.
D4.2: Trouble Shooting Tips
1. To check for correct material throw at the discharge use an adjustable strobe light to
freeze the action. For dusty elevators try a sheet of plexiglass over the inspection
door. Obviously this technique works better on coarse materials. It can be used to
estimate bucket filling and detect slippage.
2. To verify the degree of bucket filling (and in certain cases boot filling), crash stop the
system then inspect the elevator. Of course this will only work if there is a backstop
and it's in good working order. If you suspect that there is an over-aeration problem
inspect the elevator soon after the crash stop then again a few hours later. If it was
over-aerated material will shrink as it de-aerates.
3. If you suspect a recirculation problem get an inspection hatch installed a short
distance below the discharge on the return side. There should be little or no material
raining down.
4. To approximate the degree of boot overfilling, drill, tap and install a series of small
plugs at regular intervals starting from the bottom on the return side of the elevator.
It's messy but sure.
D5: Safety Items - Bucket Elevator
1. Lockout according to lockout procedures.
2. Never attempt to poke into a moving elevator to dislodge plug ups.

3. Make sure all guards are in place.

4. Make sure all access doors are in place.
5. Never enter into an elevator housing without chaining it off and locking it out. DO
D6: Walk Through Inspection - Bucket Elevator
1. Check from top to bottom for any unusual noise or vibration.
2. Feel bearings for temperature or unusual vibration.
3. Check drive components for temperature, vibration or unusual noise.
4. Check to ensure all guarding is in place.
5. Observe for dusting, spilling or holes in casing.