Conveyor Technology Keeping Up with the Times
Conveyor belts have been work horses of industrial and commercial production for more than 100 years. Electronic technologies have revolutionized modern production in many ways, but nothing has been able to replace the rubber conveyor belt for many jobs. Modern conveying equipment has evolved to meet the unique production needs of many industries throughout the world. Improvements in efficiency, minimal downtime and operational safety have maintained a competitive advantage for conveyor belts.
What are Conveyor Belts Good For?
Conveyor belts do more than move materials from one point to another; they serve as a lifeline of an efficient production network where downtime can be very costly. They carry input material in, finished products out, and have countless uses in between. So developing an efficient and reliable conveyor belt system is essential to the profitability of a production facility or plant. Many raw material operations are dependent on miles of conveyor belts to sustain production. When the ability to move product in any of these operations is interrupted, it can halt production altogether, costing millions.
Conveyor Belt Materials
Conveyor belt systems are relatively simple machines, but the rubber compounds used to construct specialized conveyor belts are truly remarkable. Every operation presents unique challenges for conveyor belt designers and manufacturers. Belt manufacturing materials and techniques have been devised to meet the unique operational conditions of particular industries and production facilities. The basic general purpose rubber belt that served the bulk handling and manufacturing industries for so many years has been enhanced to create technologically advanced compounds.
Modern conveyor belts perform efficiently in a variety of operational settings. No one design or conveyor system is suitable for all operations. Today’s innovative materials have helped keep rubber belting viable for many operational tasks:
- Fat and oil resistant belting makes it possible for conveyors to handle materials such as corn and animal products that would quickly degrade traditional rubber belting.
- Heat resistant belting is essential for foundries and other industries that handle materials at extreme temperatures.
- Flame-retardant belting dramatically improves the safety of operations where easily ignited chemicals are handled.
- Conductive belting is employed by operations that handle agricultural and chemical materials. Conductive belting prevents explosions where dust can be set off by static electric charges.
- White belting can reduce food contamination in food handling operations. A stark white background makes it easier to identify and eliminate potential contaminants.
Belts are generally constructed with vulcanized rubber, textile reinforcements, and wire supports and treated for the required attributes. Layers are either laminated to form the finished belt or the materials are homogeneously cured for added durability. Every bulk handling application presents specific criteria to provide adequate support, flexibility, strength and driving power.
Conveyor Design and Application
A conveyor belt system design is an integral part of an overall product handling operation. Sidewall belting and cleats can be employed to convey materials at very steep angles. This makes it possible for bulk handling operations to increase handling capacity, save floor space and devise traffic handling patterns to meet specific operational needs. A modern specialized conveyor system can meet the needs of any facility layout.
Many facilities use conveyor belting with cleats and other specialized features to meet desired tolerances, abrasion strengths, and loading capacities. The final design of a conveyor system will depend on the conveying requirements of the mass production operation, properties of materials to be handled and the anticipated handling capacity.
Another essential ingredient of a conveyor system is the base that supports the system. An inadequate frame can minimize conveyor performance and reduce the life of the system. The quality of the conveyor belting and the implementation of a comprehensive conveyor system maintenance program also contributes to the performance and durability of a bulk handling conveyor system. An innovative conveyance system constructed from quality materials can reduce down time and promote productivity.
Increasingly Complex Machines
As with belting, the chassis of a modern conveyor system has to be versatile enough to meet safety and efficiency requirements for a wide range of chemicals and materials. This has led to impressive variation of forms and applications. Conveyor designers continue to adapt to the needs of the increasingly competitive global economy. Here are a few innovations that make today’s belt conveyor systems highly customizable:
- L and Z configurations. With the right belting, these machines can transition between horizontal to steep angles and back for efficient movement of bulk material.
- Optical sensors and roller belts that allow for smart sorting of packaged goods.
- Airtight enclosures. This addition allows containment of dust and fumes for increased safety
From trash to iron ore to packaged goods, modern conveyor belt systems take on the task of moving materials efficiently enough to keep up with the needs of today’s industry. Custom designed conveyor belt systems not only maximize efficiency but they help meet rigorous safety and environmental standards – not too bad for a 100-year-old technology. Of course we can expect new innovations to keep the conveyor belt an essential piece of machinery for many years to come.