Chains that adapt to the times

Small-scale operations are also not blessed with back-up machinery, so if a face loader blows a tyre, it doesn’t necessarily mean they can park the loader and bring out another vehicle whilst they are waiting for a replacement tyre – assuming replacements are readily available.

The world has in the past 10 years experienced a major tyre shortage, so suitable replacement tyres have often been in short supply. This meant that quarries and mines had to be more vigilant in conserving and protecting their vehicles’ tyres from wear and tear.

According to Paul Aleckson, who is the director of the Australian division of international tyre chain manufacturer the Pewag Group, the peak of the tyre shortage has now passed, if only because of a current flat resources market rather than any increased supply in production. Nevertheless, one of the benefits of the tyre shortage was that it forced vehicle operators to think about alternative means of protecting their tyres.

“Although tyre protection chains were never created to address the tyre shortage,” Aleckson explained, “it did highlight through this period the benefits that tyre protection chains can provide. Prior to this period, the product was more commonly used in more abrasive applications. However, the tyre shortage was able to show that even in less abrasive applications tyre protection chains had substantial benefits.”

He explained that the best results have been in the haul area, which is often considered the most abrasive area of a quarry operation; it impacts not just on the face loaders but the haul trucks as they move in and out of the area. “When we have a face loader using chains, particularly on all four positions, the benefits are evident with the tyre condition on the haul truck fleet as well. The loader with chains acts as a compactor. Whilst this is never an answer to cleaning the load area, it is an added benefit.”

It’s not the first time that the tyre protection chain has had to adapt to the needs of a changing market. Aleckson said that while the physical appearance of the tyre protection chain has not changed dramatically over time, the quality of the chain certainly has.

“When tyre protection chains were originally developed it was for smaller equipment where a large loader had a 25-inch rim,” he elaborated. “We now operate on tyres sizes up to 70/70-57 on 250-tonne plus machines. As earthmoving machines increased in size, so the quality of the steel needed was increased to meet such stresses.

The same material that we developed for the world’s largest machines are now commonplace in the chains that we use on quarry-sized loaders. In fact, we can present to quarry management reports that quantify the exact cost savings the quarry achieves when it operates with tyre protection chains, as well as assist in budgeting for future expenditure.”

500 years experience

Aleckson said that Pewag has been firmly in step with the tyre’s evolution. After all, it is the oldest chain manufacturer in the world (dating back to 1479!) and the company prides itself on manufacturing its entire line of products, including the largest tyre protection chains, within the same factory in Kapfenburg, in Austria. This positions Pewag as the only company in its field to manufacture its products in-house. The company is therefore experienced in providing tyre protection or traction chains for every kind of tyre, from regular passenger vehicles to the largest earthmoving vehicle, for every application.

“Pewag chains can run in the coldest places, like Antarctica, to above 1200 degrees celsius, in areas like slag production plants,” Aleckson said. “This is because we are the only company that cryogenically treat our chains. This is a process that enables the chain to increase its hardness and the chain is taken down to below 80 degrees celsius to achieve this. Adding to that, we have the largest heat treatment ovens, meaning the chain will be able to be head treated as one complete chain, and not broken down into smaller pieces and joined retrospectively in more than one location on the chain, creating additional potential weak points.”

Pneumatic, solid-filled tyres and all loader tyres alike can carry tyre protection chains. Aleckson mentioned that even in underground applications, where certain machines do not have the room around the tyre to operate with chains, Pewag has been entrusted with shaving down the tyres so that the operator can fit tyre protection chains. “In effect, we replace rubber with Pewag chain,” Aleckson said. “The application will require more traction than protection and then we will recommend a more open link pattern that will provide a balance of protection and traction. Every tyre protection chain is put together by hand and it is with this process that we are able to totally create a product for every application.”

Pewag has also been the first company in its field to introduce a range of hammer-free mechanical installation and repair parts into Australia. “This means that should chains need to be installed or repaired down the track, this can be done with reusable parts that can be closed with an Allen key,” Aleckson concluded.

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