Conveyor systems are a form of mechanical handling equipment that move materials from one location to another. Beyond using them to move products, conveyors can also be used to create buffers and deliver products in sequence for a production line. As they are used for a variety of operations, there are a few conveyor variations. The most common types include belt, roller, and chain conveyors, all of which are categorized by their floor style and mounting position.
Manufacturing engineers incorporate conveyors in their production facilities for countless reasons, some of which we will briefly outline. As previously mentioned, conveyors are primarily used for moving products from point A to point B, reducing the time required to physically move materials with forklifts. Furthermore, conveyors carry products that are too heavy for team members to lift, avoiding unnecessary injuries or potential accidents from occuring. A major advantage of such systems include their ability to move products while operators are adding to them or working on them.
For storage and buffering uses, conveyors serve particularly important roles. Conveyors allow operators to store products between processes, and they create a buffer or accumulation bank which serves as a flexible storage system. This system balances the process flow and permits operators to sequence or re-sequence products between processes. Serving as one of the most versatile types of industrial equipment, conveyors improve productivity, efficiency, and safety.
When selecting between conveyor systems, understanding your operational needs is paramount. That being said, it is helpful to understand the productive role that your system will perform and the constraints the system will face, some of which include space limitations, floor styles, and mounting positions. Generally, conveyors are distinguished as either floor or overhead styles. Overhead styles consist of the system being mounted above the part that is moving, often occupying space that is not needed by other equipment. If space is not an issue, floor style systems are feasible options, those of which include belt, gravity roller, skatewheel, and slat conveyors.
As you decide between different styles, you must consider how you want to load and unload products. For example, some processes need the precise positioning of products, and tooling, pallets, or carriers can accommodate this. A belt or roller conveyor, on the other hand, cannot keep a part in a precise position. Another parameter to keep in mind is speed. Faster and more affordable systems are ideal for operations that do not necessitate rigid precision while precision-centric operations require automated conveyor lines. The following section will cover three of the most common types of conveyor systems.
Belt conveyors, or conveyor belts, are a type of belt system that moves parts from one end to another, and speed can be varied with a variable speed drive. This type of conveyor system is not suitable for buffering purposes and cannot be used as a working surface. Conveyor belts belong to the floor style category, and operate by moving the belt across a supporting steel plate, allowing the belt to move as the plate slides.
Gravity Roller Conveyor
Serving as one of the simplest and affordable types, gravity roller conveyors consist of a series of rollers that are mounted on a side frame to provide a rolling surface. When gravity roller conveyors are mounted on a decline angle, parts move by themselves. In the case that gravity conveyors are utilized for parts of different sizes and weight, one must control the speed and angle.
The last type is a chain conveyor which takes on a floor-mounted configuration. This style is a great option for heavy items on an uneven lower surface. Chain conveyors provide two or three contact points at the bottom of the load and carry the product forward as the chain moves.
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