Every industry that needs to transport or move products from one production area to another uses conveyor systems. These industries use these conveyor systems to increase efficiency, reduce labor costs, and streamline work processes.
A conveyor system is mechanical handling equipment designed to move raw or processed products from one location to another. Manufacturing and processing companies use these systems, especially for mass-produced products. Similarly, it’s used when dealing with sharp or heavy items such as car parts.
Below, we’ve discussed all you need about conveyor systems: types, advantages, limitations, applications, and everything in between.
Also, you can download the PDF on Conveyor systems and their types at the end of the article.
Components and Requirements of a Conveyor System
Conveyor systems come in varying designs, sizes, and shapes. However, there are some basic components you’ll find in every conveyor system. These are the frame or belt support, the drive, and the idlers/support system.
Before installing a conveyor system or adopting it for certain applications, there are certain factors you must consider. One is the available space to ensure there’s no obstruction or interference with other materials and products. Below are the other factors to consider;
The load capacity refers to the maximum weight the system can carry per unit length. When calculating the total load capacity, pay attention to the overall bed width and length. Inaccurate sizing can lead to system overload, which may cause damage or force the conveyor to stop while in operation.
The average speed of a conveyor system determines how fast it is in moving products from one point to another. This speed is often measured in feet per minute (fpm). Anything below 65 fpm is considered slower than the average human being. That said, modern conveyor systems allow for speed adjustments. This makes the entire production process more flexible.
Most conveyors are designed to handle solid, powder, or liquid materials. These systems will have varying parameters, shapes, sizes, configurations, etc. A powder or liquid conveying system, for instance, will be sufficiently sealed to avoid leakages. The system design should meet the highest quality standards throughout the transportation process. This is especially true for powdered or chip-type materials that may experience dust build-up over time.
Like most industrial machines, conveyor systems must adhere to the OSHA rules and meet the various government safety requirements. The best conveyor systems have different safety features to prevent accidents and minimize machine components damage. Some of the safety requirements to consider are symbols & warning signs, an emergency stop button, and keyed motor activation feature.
Drive is the system’s power that moves the belt and the material on the belt support/frame. The drive system can move things in one or two directions. The drive can be located at the beginning of the system, middle, or end, depending on the design. The drive often comes with a system of gears actuated by a motor. Similarly, some have single or variable speeds depending on their specific use cases.
Types of Conveyor Systems
Popular conveyor systems include belt conveyors, monorail conveyors, overhead trolley systems, and pneumatic conveyors.
Others are screw conveyors, gravity roller conveyors, chain conveyors, and vibratory conveyors. Below is a quick overview of each of the main conveyor types in the market.
They are the simplest and most common form of conveyor systems. Belt conveyors come with a moving belt, which rests on a steel frame for support. The underneath frame also supports the materials being moved.
This conveyor system has a rotating helicoid on a shaft found inside a pipe. Screw conveyors are often used to move bulk substances such as chips, granular products, and loose materials.
They use pressurized gas to push bulky materials through a sealed pipeline. When the pressure builds inside the pipeline, the materials are lifted then moved through the pipe. This conveyor system is often used with powders and granular products.
Gravity Roller Conveyors
As the name suggests, this system uses a set of equally-spaced rollers attached to a side frame to move heavy products and materials. This conveyor system should also be mounted at an angle for the materials to move by gravity. The system also provides a convenient surface to place the products for movement. Shipping companies often use gravity roller conveyors to load and unlock trucks.
This system consists of rails that can be modified to move different products. Monorails occupy the open space above the production floor, and it’s best used to move products over long distances.
These are smooth flat-surface systems made of metal, plastic, or wood and mounted at an angle in a conveyor frame. They are often used for mail handling, scrap handling, packaging, etc.
Conveyor System Working Principle
To understand the working principle of a conveyor system, we will pick a belt conveyor for illustration. The latter has a belt made of thick, durable material that’s looped over the pulleys. This conveyor also has a support system designed to hold the material being transported without sagging.
The other critical components are a drive system and a belt cleaner. A drive system consists mostly of AC motors to power the pulley, while a belt cleaner removes any carryback that remains on the belt after the load has been discharged.
That said, the working principle of conveyors will vary slightly based on the design of the driving unit, the pulley configuration, and add-on modules. Before picking a conveyor system, ensure you understand its working principle and whether it will meet your unique needs.
Conveyor System Applications
As you would expect, conveyor systems are found in nearly all the industrial sectors you can think of. It’s estimated that the conveyor market will reach $10.07 billion by 2025. This represents a CAGR of 4.5% over the forecast period 2020-2025.
One of the basic use cases of conveyor systems is in packaging applications. It’s also used widely in areas where more than one process is required. For instance, they can be used with bottle capping and packaging machines to deliver capped bottles for packaging.
Different conveyor systems find their use cases in various industrial settings. For instance, overhead conveyors as used in slaughterhouses, dry cleaners, and automobile production floors. Pneumatic and screw conveyors move products via semi-enclosed tubes and are often used with powdered and dry products.
Other conveyors accomplish specialized operations such as moving products between processes. An example is the walking beam conveyor used in manufacturing floors, where precision is important.
The use cases include metalworking, pharmaceutical, sintering, food processing, and printing applications. In other words, any production process where finished products or materials must move back and forth will benefit from a conveyor system.
Advantages and Limitations of conveyor systems
Some of the key benefits of a conveyor system are increased efficiency and time-saving. Since the machines work without biases, consistency and quality are easy to manage. Conveyor systems are also flexible and can be adjusted to suit the production requirements. This is done mainly by adjusting the speed of operation. The other benefits of these systems include increased safety on the production floor and enhanced flexibility. Thanks to the automated unloading and bidirectional function of the drive system.
Besides the benefits above, conveyor systems also come with some limitations. Most of these limitations are caused by system malfunctions due to poor maintenance or sudden parts failure.
Examples of system malfunctions include belt drift, slippage, blockage, excessive carryback, and spillage. Each type of conveyor system will experience different challenges, and you need to know all of them. That way, you can prepare for potential downtimes and even seek solutions earlier on. Even so, most of these issues can be resolved with regular maintenance and, most importantly, by investing in high-quality and reliable products.
If you want to automate some of your production processes, investing in a conveyor system could be your ultimate solution. When choosing a conveyor, always prioritize the load capacity, rated speed & throughput, drive location, and frame configuration.
Similarly, you should do your own research before settling for a product to ensure it’s from a reputed company. A conveyor system from a great manufacturer will have a positive track record in the market. You can check this by going through customer reviews on trusted third-party sites.
Other things to look out for are the warranty period, expected life span, technical and customer support services. And to avoid feeling overwhelmed or confused in the flood market, consider seeking professional advice when sorting through the many conveyor systems.