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What is a Conveyor Belt System?

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Conveyor systems are mechanical structures that transport material from one location to another. It consists of drive mechanisms such as motors to move a transport material, commonly a belt. The material is carried by the belt and follows the belt movement to move to the target location. Additional components can include chains, rollers, pulleys, and wheels.

Figure 1. A Pulley Conveyor Belt System.

Conveyor belt systems are common in factories where the transportation of goods between different departments or areas is required for the plant’s operation to proceed. For example, a conveyor belt may transport a container from filling machines to the packaging machine in the packaging department. 

A History of Conveyor Systems

The conveyor systems were first developed in 1892 by Thomas Robins for the coal industry. The main idea behind this invention was to assist material movement with minimum or zero human involvement. In 1901, Swedish Company Sandvik invented steel conveyor systems. The steel conveyor systems helped industries use conveyors in stressed and complicated operations, which was lacking in its initial design by Thomas Robins.

Figure 2. One of the first long belt conveyor systems, located in Milan.

Richard Sutcliffe invented a conveyor belt in 1905, designed especially for mines. These belts could function in underground areas to transport coal and other minerals.

In 1913, conveyors were first used in the manufacturing industry when Henry Ford introduced conveyor belts in the assembly lines of Ford Motor Company. Then, a special conveyor system with a half twist, called the Turnover Conveyor Belt System, was developed in 1957 by the B. F. Goodrich Company. 

Since 1957, several other conveyor systems have been implemented throughout factories worldwide.

Types of Conveyor Systems

Let’s look at a few common types of conveyor systems being used in industries.

Belt Conveyor System

A belt conveyor uses a belt to transport material from one point to another. The belt is stretched across the conveyor length with pulleys at both ends to support the belt. A driving mechanism such as an electric motor rotates the pulleys, which moves the belt across the conveyor length. The belt’s speed can be fixed or variable, depending upon the application required.

Figure 3. A belt conveyor. 

A conveyor belt is commonly used and is a generally less expensive option. Industrial environments can use it for most material transportation applications. The belt’s construction material varies depending on the transported material characteristics, area requirements, and operations.

Roller Conveyor

The roller conveyor uses multiple rollers instead of a belt. The rollers can move when manual force is applied, or if the material exerts pressure on it. Rollers can also move through the force of gravity when the conveyor is slanted downward. 

Each roller moves independently of other rollers with a bearing on one or both ends to rotate smoothly. Or, a bearing can be used on one end with a sprocket at another end. They move bulk goods because the roller material can withstand high stress and force caused by heavy goods.

Another category of roller conveyor is called powered roller conveyor. It uses motorized rollers and involves less manual or human effort to move. These types are useful for highly automated facilities.

Bucket Conveyor System

A bucket conveyor uses a series of containers (or buckets) to transport material. The containers are attached to belts or chains that drive the buckets. The main feature of this conveyor is that the containers remain upright until discharged, regardless of whether they are used in a horizontal, slanted, or vertical system.

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