Nowadays, any type of manufacturing process would be unthinkable without an efficient conveyor system. The global conveyors market was valued at $7.73 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow up to $10.07 billion by 2026. The globalization of the economy leads to shorter production cycles, increased international flow of goods, and accelerating advancements in e-commerce – all of which drive the conveyor market forward.
Conveyors come in all shapes and sizes, from large conveyors for bulk products to miniature conveyors for discrete product sorting. Pretty much any product or material can be transported using industrial conveyor systems – metal, plastics, boxes, food, cosmetics, medical supplies, and more. Common conveyor types are traditional belt conveyors, cable conveyors, screw or auger conveyors, roller conveyors, bucket elevators, and similar.
But how does an industrial conveyor system work? What do you need to know before you decide to purchase one for your business?
The main purpose of a conveyor system – the reason they were invented in the first place – is to transport products, goods, raw materials, or any other type of materials from one location to another, typically within the same building or area. Conveyors belong to a business segment called intralogistics – the process of automating, optimizing, and managing the flow of information and material goods within the walls of a single production or distribution facility.
Industries that make the most use out of this type of equipment are the aerospace, agricultural, automotive, beverage industries, bottling and canning, building materials industry, chemical industry, computer, electronic, food processing, packaging, pharmaceutical industry, printing industry, and mining.
Understanding Conveyor Systems
Conveyor systems can be powered in three ways:
- By a motor
- By gravity
Manual and gravity-powered conveyor systems typically include rollers. Rollers make it easy to move items from point A to point B with minimal effort on the workers’ part. All an employee needs to do is push the item along a horizontal conveyor or place it at the top and let it slide down an angled system. Manual and gravity roller conveyors do not require any electricity to run.
Large manufacturing businesses will need motor-powered conveyor technologies to handle their material and product transportation more often than not.
The most common type of motor used for conveyor systems is a three-phase AC. AC motors are ideal for conveyors that continuously operate in one direction. Three-phase are also more efficient than single-phase because there is no capacitor delay and no starting windings. Most production facilities use 440V motors, double the amount used in homes. Higher voltage is more efficient for a manufacturing setting because there are lower transmission losses over the grid.
Mode of Transfer
Depending on several factors, material handling systems can use different modes of transfer. When choosing the right conveyor for your production or distribution centers, you need to consider the floor plan, the type of material you’re transporting, the system’s throughput, and more.
Here are the most common modes of transfer for industrial conveyor systems:
- Aero-mechanical – In these conveyor systems, evenly spaced discs move the material at high speed. Sometimes the pace needs to be reduced to prevent the breakage of material.
- Belts – One of the most prevalent and simplest forms of conveyors. Moving conveyor belt systems rest on a steel frame that has the purpose of supporting the belts and the materials they’re moving.
- Buckets – Multi-sided containers are attached to chains, belts, or cables to move the material along. The containers (buckets) of the bucket conveyor remain in an upright position during transport and are tipped over to release the material in the right place.
- Chains – This conveyor type utilizes an endless chain for material transport. The chain moves thanks to sprockets at either end of the trough. Chain conveyors can be drag, plain chain, scraper, apron, flight, or en-masse chain conveyors.
- Pneumatic – In pneumatic conveyors, the bulk material is conveyed with the help of a vacuum or compressed air.
- Screw or auger – Screw or auger conveyors are great for liquid or granular materials. They use a rotating helical blade called a flighting to move the material. Typically, the flighting is placed inside a tube. Screw conveyors are one of the oldest ones ever invented, dating back to ancient times for the purpose of pumping irrigation water.
- Cable – Utilizing a completely enclosed system, cable conveyors are great for specialty materials, such as small and powdered materials, clean, toxic, or delicate materials. Cablevey tube cable conveyors, in particular, offer a modular design for maximum flexibility and a wide range of applications.
Aside from the way the conveyor system is powered and how it transports the material, it is also accompanied by a range of support mechanisms. These are frames that keep the buckets, belts, chains, or rollers in a fixed position, allowing the material to move throughout the entire system seamlessly. Also, the system has cleaning or maintenance features.
Although all conveyor systems have a standard framework, each has a different set of advantages and disadvantages. Not all conveyor systems are suitable for all industries. A car assembly center will require a vastly different design than a coffee manufacturer.
If you wish to install a brand new conveyor in your production facility, there are several crucial questions you need to ask to land on the correct type of conveyor:
- How much floor space does your facility have available? What is the ceiling height?
- Is energy efficiency an important factor for you?
- At what speed will the material be transported?
- What is the actual capacity of the conveyor system?
- How fragile is the conveyed material? Do you need to sacrifice integrity for throughput or vice versa?
- How can you minimize degradation during transport?
- How abrasive, flowable, and moist is the conveyed material?
- Will the transported product change in the future?
- How easy is it to clean the system? Does it need to be dismantled for maintenance?
- Are there any parts of the conveyor that are particularly difficult to clean? (Such as chains or ropes.)
- Does it require downtime for regular maintenance?
- How often do particular parts need to be replaced? Are they expensive and/or difficult to obtain?
- Is the system you’re considering financially feasible for your business?
The decision-making process of choosing the right industrial conveyor system is the most critical step. Before making a purchase, you and your team should answer all of these questions and more to make sure your business will thrive with the new material conveyor.
Benefits of an Industrial Conveyor System
Implementing a conveyor system into your manufacturing facility comes with a host of advantages. Here are the most important ones:
- Increased safety. Conveyors are one of the safest methods for moving materials across the production floor. They can have emergency stop switches, speed adjustments, and many more failsafes and safeguards. These systems are the only ones that can improve productivity and efficiency while at the same time not increasing the number of worker accidents or injuries.
- High volume. A manufacturer can never hope to transport as much material with their workers as they can with a conveyor system. If your business has reached its peak, it’s time to invest in an industrial conveyor that will allow you even faster production times.
- Continuous operation. Unlike people who need to rest and recover from their work, machines can operate for far longer before stopping. Regular maintenance is obligatory, but conveyor systems and their automated processes are infinitely more efficient than human labor.
The primary purpose of a conveyor system in any industry is to transport bulk materials from one spot in the production area to another. Even though there are dozens of conveyors, the basic conveyor components include a source of power, a system of transport, a support system, and controls. Depending on the type of conveyor you’re considering, it may come with various additional features.
It is not an easy task to select the right conveyor system for your business. You need to consider many factors and plan everything out in advance. But the benefits of installing a conveyor in your facilities are undeniable – you are looking at a drastic decrease in costs and increase in efficiency, throughput, and overall performance.
Curious about acquiring a conveyor system? Reach out to Cablevey for assistance. We will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have and help you get the best product for your business goals.