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How Is A Tubular Conveyor Different From A Screw Conveyor?

Brush in a tubular disc system

When it comes to moving materials in a food processing facility (or any other kind of facility), conveyor systems are a game changer. 

But not all conveyors are created equal. Two popular options for food processors are tubular cable and disc conveyors and screw conveyors. 

While both can get the job done, in this blog post we’re going to dive into why a tubular cable and disc conveyor is the better option when it comes to handling delicate materials. 

We’ll compare the design, material handling capabilities, and maintenance and cleaning requirements of both types of conveyors and show you why a tubular cable and disc conveyor is the superior choice for food processing facilities. 

So, let’s get started!

Tubular cable and disc conveyors vs screw conveyors

Here is a comprehensive breakdown of the main differences between an auger conveyor (screw conveyor) and a tubular conveyor system.

Design and construction

  • Tubular cable drag conveyor

A tubular cable and disc conveying system is a mechanical conveyor made up of a tubular casing with a cable running through the center. 

The cable is made from stainless steel and is sealed in nylon, meaning it doesn’t come into direct contact with the conveyed material.

Solid circular discs are attached to the cable at regular intervals, and these discs act as carriers for the materials being conveyed. 

The tubular design helps to protect the cable and the conveyed materials from external factors, such as dust and debris. The tube also helps to contain the material, reducing the risk of spills or loss of product. 

The cable and discs are driven by a motor, which powers the movement of the conveyor. 

The tubular cable and disc conveyor can be customized to suit the specific needs of the application, such as the diameter of the tube, the distance between the discs, and the speed of the conveyor.

It is best suited for conveying the following bulk material options:

  • Snack food
  • Breakfast cereal
  • Pet food
  • Coffee beans
  • Specialty grains
  • Nuts
  • Rice
  • Frozen food, and more
  • Screw conveyor

A screw conveyor is another mechanical device that uses a spiral shaft with a helix (auger) that rotates within a tube or trough (which is how we get a tubular screw conveyor and a trough screw conveyor). The helix is the component that moves the material through the conveyor. 

The screw conveyor can be inclined or horizontal. The material is fed into the conveyor at one end and is moved along the conveyor by the rotation of the helix. 

The conveyor can be powered by a variety of means, such as an electric motor, a gas engine, or a hydraulic motor. Typically, an inclined screw conveyor requires more power to operate than a horizontal screw conveyor, because the material is conveyed against the forces of gravity.

The screw conveyor’s design allows for the efficient movement of materials over short distances. 

The open design of the trough version of the auger conveyor allows for easy access to the interior for cleaning and maintenance.

Screw conveyors are most commonly used to convey both sluggish and free-flowing materials such as:

  • Grain
  • Animal feed
  • Meat
  • Bone meal
  • Boiler ash
  • Food waste
  • Municipal solid waste, and more

Material handling capabilities

  • Tubular drag conveyor

One of the key advantages of tubular drag conveyors is their ability to handle delicate materials without causing damage. The design of the conveyor allows for a gentle material handling process that minimizes the risk of damage.

As mentioned above, the discs that are attached to the cable are carriers for the conveyed material. These discs gently push the material forward, without any jostling or breakage. 

The spacing between the discs is such that the material is practically not moving while being conveyed, which means that it doesn’t experience any unnecessary agitation that could cause damage.

Material breakage is kept to a minimum.

In addition to this, the conveyor’s speed can be adjusted to match the fragility of the conveyed product, ensuring that it is handled as gently as possible.

  • Screw conveyor

Unlike in a tubular cable and disc conveyor, the rotation of the helix within the screw conveyor can cause damage to fragile materials, such as nuts, coffee beans, snack foods, and similar.

The rotation of the helix can cause abrasion or breakage of delicate materials due to the friction between the helix and the material. Essentially, the conveyor blade is slicing through the conveyed material, ruining its integrity.

Consequently, using a screw conveyor to handle delicate or friable materials can lead to loss of product, decreased product quality, and increased maintenance and cleaning costs. 

It’s important to consider these factors when choosing a conveyor system for delicate materials.

Maintenance and cleaning

  • Tubular drag conveyor

These tubular mechanical conveyors are designed to minimize downtime during maintenance and cleaning, which helps to keep production running smoothly.

One of the key features that make maintenance and cleaning easy is the conveyor’s enclosed tubular design. It allows for easy access to the interior of the conveyor. 

Additionally, many tubular cable and disc conveyors are equipped with special “clean-in-place” mechanisms that allow for easy cleaning without the need to disassemble the conveyor.

When it comes to maintenance, tubular cable and disc conveyors are relatively low-maintenance. 

The conveyor’s enclosed design helps to protect the internal components from dust and debris, which can prolong the life of the conveyor. 

Furthermore, the conveyor’s discs and cable can be easily replaced as needed.

  • Screw conveyor

When it comes to maintenance and cleaning, screw conveyors can present some challenges. 

Unlike tubular cable and disc conveyors, screw conveyors are not equipped with special “clean-in-place” mechanisms, which inherently makes cleaning more difficult and labor-intensive.

One of the main issues with cleaning a screw conveyor is that not all the parts are fully accessible. 

The helix and other internal components are difficult to reach, which can make cleaning time-consuming. 

Additionally, food products and other delicate materials can leave residue and debris within the conveyor, which can be difficult to remove without causing damage to the conveyor.

When it comes to maintenance, screw conveyors can also be more challenging to maintain than tubular cable and disc conveyors. 

The open design of the screw conveyor trough can expose the internal components to dust and debris, which can shorten the life of the conveyor. 

Additionally, the helix and other internal components are subject to wear and tear, which can require more frequent replacement than a tubular cable and disc conveyor.

Advantages of using a tubular cable and disc conveyor in food processing facilities

The truth is, all conveyors have their pros and cons for specific use cases.

Not every conveyor type will work for conveying frozen food, just like not every conveyor type will work for conveying sand or packaged goods or glass bottles or electronic chips. 

Given all that we outlined above, there is no doubt that tubular drag cable conveyors are well-suited for transporting fragile materials in food processing facilities. 

Their biggest advantages include:

  • Gentle conveying
  • Virtually no material damage
  • Enclosed system that is safe from contamination
  • Easy cleaning and maintenance
  • Low energy consumption
  • Low noise levels
  • Ability to fit into pretty much any floor space

While screw conveyors are still used in some areas of food processing, perhaps it’s time to rethink their role and switch to systems that lead to less material loss and higher product quality at the end of the day.


We highlighted how tubular cable and disc conveyors are a better choice when it comes to handling delicate materials in food processing facilities. 

These conveyors use a gentle material handling process thanks to the closed tubular design and discs attached to the cable, minimizing the risk of damage to fragile materials.

Additionally, tubular conveyors can be tailored to suit the needs of the specific application, making them a versatile option.

Not only are they better for handling delicate materials, but they also have lower maintenance and cleaning requirements, which lead to less downtime and more productivity. These low maintenance requirements also lead to cost savings, as the need for costly repairs or replacement is greatly reduced.

If you’re in the market for a conveyor system for your food processing facility and want to learn more about the benefits of tubular drag cable conveyors, don’t hesitate to reach out to Cablevey Conveyors

Our team will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have and help you find the perfect conveyor solution for your needs.

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