Rudimentary conveyor systems date back to ancient times. A screw or auger conveyor was used to transport water for irrigation systems in ancient Greece. Modern-day conveyor systems appeared in the late 18th century. They were short, made from leather and wood, and manually operated. Their first purpose was to transport agricultural products from shore to ships in ports.
Conveyor technologies advanced considerably since the first conveyors came about. Nowadays, they are mostly powered by motors (AC motors or sometimes DC motors) and can be designed and installed in various ways. There is no manufacturing industry that does not utilize a conveyor system. They have become an essential component of the industrial sector.
There are dozens of different conveyor types available for purchase. A belt conveyor system, gravity roller conveyor, chain conveyor, slat conveyor, overhead conveyor, bean trolley system, tube conveyor, pneumatic conveyors… The list goes on. They are all mainly used for transporting materials from point A to point B within a production facility.
However, industrial conveyor systems have numerous applications.
Where Are Industrial Conveyor Systems Used?
As their name implies, industrial conveyors are utilized in a wide range of industries. They include:
- Packaging industry
- Automotive industry
- Food industry
- Pharmaceutical industry
- Chemical industry
- Computer industry
- Aerospace industry
- Agricultural industry
- Warehouse and logistics
- Mining industries, and so much more
Wherever there are heavy materials or bulky materials transported from one place to another within the same production area, a conveyor system is better suited than human labor. This equipment offers various benefits, such as continuous operation, increased efficiency, reduced risk of worker injury or accidents, faster product output, reduced costs, and similar.
You will hardly find a well-developed manufacturing enterprise that doesn’t have at least one conveyor system incorporated into its processes.
What Are Conveyors Used For?
The two main purposes of an industrial conveyor system are to move products or materials and to store and buffer them.
The entire concept of material handling systems came about to satisfy a need for faster and safer ways to carry bulk product or material. There are various ways conveyors can contribute to a production facility.
- Movement of product from point A to point B. The most common use of a conveyor is to get material from one place in the facility to another. If workers were to do this continuously, they would waste a lot of time walking to and fro. Suppose there is a need for continuous transportation of the same type of material across the same distance. In that case, conveyors drastically reduce forklifts’ movements as well, which you can then utilize elsewhere.
- Carrying heavy loads. Sometimes, moving a load by hand or forklift is not an option due to its size or weight. Products that are too heavy to lift or otherwise transport have no other choice but to be moved by a conveyor. Unique systems made to handle heavier loads are designed for these purposes.
- Assembly operations – allowing operators to work on a product in motion. This application is common in the automotive industry. A final assembly conveyor may slowly move the product along as workers apply finishing touches or complete the auto part. Conveyors that carry the product so that workers can stay in one place as they work on it are frequently seen in production lines.
- Protecting from injury or damage. The risk of endangering your workers’ health from repetitive motions they have to perform to move a product is not worth it. Conveyors can get the job done in the same amount of time (if not faster), and no one gets hurt in the process.
Additionally, some products are too fragile to introduce the element of human error into the process of moving them. Conveyor systems represent a safe way to transport materials and items that can easily be damaged in the move.
- Transporting bulk material. Bulk materials such as iron ore or gravel are difficult to transport. The right type of conveyor is an excellent solution.
- Complete automation. In extreme cases, a production facility is free of any manual labor. Instead, robots are the ones that deliver products for processing or receive products from the conveyor. Automated conveyor systems are an essential component of the entire production machinery.
Storing and Buffering
- Storing products. Aside from transport, certain types of conveyors can also store products between processes or at the final step of production.
- Creating an accumulation bank. A buffer or an accumulation bank is a flexible storage system. It helps balance the flow of production by either reducing or increasing the number of products in the accumulation bank.
- Grouping production operations into batches and prioritizing them can be beneficial for your line of work. Conveyors allow managers to sequence and resequence products between processes for maximum productivity.
How Do You Design a Conveyor System?
When looking at conveyor options, you can choose to design the system yourself or, preferably, hire experts to do it for you. Dozens of factors need to be considered in order to install a conveyor that will help you grow your business:
- Type of materials conveyed – The fragility of your materials is a significant factor in deciding on the right conveyor system. Some conveyors prevent breakage, while others can be quite rough on the transported items. Likewise, you need to consider how easily your material flows, whether it is dry or wet, and how abrasive it is.
- Conveyor throughput – Some conveyors have a high throughput (can handle high volumes at once), while others are not as efficient. High throughput is often achieved by sacrificing material integrity since speed tends to break many fragile materials. If this isn’t a concern for you, then a high throughput conveyor is the right choice.
- Transport velocity and acceleration – Certain types of conveyors, such as pneumatic ones, transport materials at incredibly high speeds. This makes for increased productivity but can lead to material breakage.
- Ease of maintenance and cleaning – Conveyors that can be cleaned in place (don’t have to be dismantled) are the easiest to maintain. Those that include ropes or chains can be quite difficult to clean. Additionally, you should consider how easy it is to acquire spare parts for your mechanical handling equipment should you need them in the future.
- Energy efficiency – Conveyors of different sizes and types have different energy requirements. Typically, those that have a large motor require more power. If you want an energy-efficient system, you will need to pay special attention to the power source and its strength.
- The size and height of your available space – Some conveyors are flexible and can be adjusted to almost any type of space, while others require more room. Your floor space will be a deciding factor in the type of conveyor you choose.
- Initial purchase cost – Finally, make sure that the purchase, shipping, and set-up costs aren’t outside your planned budget.
These factors contribute to deciding on which conveyor system design is best suited for your organization.
Cablevey Conveyors, for example, offers completely modular and customizable conveyor layouts. This means that our conveyors will fit in your production facilities even if you have minimal space available. Our technologies are ideal for moving specialty materials such as grain, breakfast cereal, coffee, and nuts in a way that is free of dust and contaminants.
If your building includes tight corners, is more vertical than horizontal, or overall represents a challenging space for a conveyor system, then modular conveyors are the best choice.
Industrial conveyor systems have a wide array of manufacturing applications. Every industrial building requires at least one conveyor (but most likely several) to speed up its processes and help them meet its production goals. It doesn’t matter if a business is brewing craft beer or producing paint powders or resins – conveyors are a vital component of an industrial process.
Conveyor system solutions are most commonly used to transport a wide variety of materials and products in any industry. They help workers modify the products, prevent them from performing repetitive motions, or aid in carrying heavy or bulky material loads. But conveyors can also be used for permanent or temporary storage and for sequencing and resequencing items before the next production process.
Designing the right conveyor system for your business largely depends on what you will use it for. It also depends on other factors, such as the type of material you’re transporting, the throughput you want to achieve, how easy it is to maintain and clean the system, and so on.
The good news is that you don’t have to make all of these decisions by yourself. Cablevey will help you design the perfect solution for your factory – contact us for more information!