New coupling solution for underground mining

Paul Boughton

Gates, a leading manufacturer in hose and belts, has developed the new iLok coupling. The coupling is the company's answer to the traditional staple-lock coupling in underground mining, specifically designed to increase safety and substantially reduce downtime when disconnecting and reconnecting the coupling, a key challenge when moving and re-assembling in longwall installations.

The ease to connect and disconnect is a key element to improve both safety and productivity. iLok can save hundreds of man-hours on every longwall move since the average disconnect time per coupling can be reduced up to 90% compared to staple lock. No tools are needed to engage or disengage the iLok coupling, so workers will not be tempted to use hammers or chisels as they often do to remove staple-lock fittings, endangering themselves and the equipment.

The coupling is a threaded design. The flat, wide spaced threads resist seizing. It is quite simple to understand and to use as people are familiar with tightening a nut by hand to make a hydraulic connection. However, unlike nuts on threaded fittings, the iLok does not require torque to create preload and assure a good, consistent seal.  And the cable that is inserted into the holes of the nut, secures its connection. 

The coupling is also compact, roughly the diameter of a standard staple-lock coupling without the staple and significantly more compact once the staple is in place. Not having the sharp ends of the protruding staple will additional avoid damage and abrasion of neighbouring assemblies and parts. 

To further improve the lifetime of iLokT assemblies in highly corrosive environments, the couplings are plated with Gates TuffCoat Extreme coating. This offers 840 hours of red rust protection under ISO 9227 salt spray conditions, which means more than 10 times better than the 72-hours requirement in given standard.

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