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This article takes an in depth look at conveyor belts.
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A conveyor belt is a material handling system designed to move supplies, materials, and components using an efficient and effortless process that saves on time, energy, and cost. The design of conveyor belts includes two motorized pulleys with the conveyor material looped over them. The pulleys operate at the same speed and move in the same direction to activate the motion of the conveyor belt.
There is an endless number of types and uses for conveyor belts. All of the varieties serve the purpose of transporting materials and goods along a continuously moving path. Though motorized conveyor belts are the traditional form of a conveying system, there are systems that use rollers without a motor to move materials.
The range and uses of conveyor belts cover several industrial settings and applications. The efficiency of conveyor belt systems assists in improving productivity, saves on labor costs, and decreases lead times. Conveyor belts move large quantities of goods quickly and reliably for transport, further assembly, or storage.
The principal reasons so many conveyor systems are in use are the savings in labor costs, efficient movement of goods, and their ability to keep products and materials from damage. They provide the best possible service at the lowest possible cost.
The surface of a roller bed conveyor belt is a set of rollers that match the weight and speed required by the product. The length of the roller bed conveyor belt determines the number of rollers to be used.
A roller bed conveyor belt is designed for applications where materials are loaded by gravity. They are an ideal solution for conditions where materials have to be moved over long distances since they are designed to reduce friction.
A flat belt conveyor belt uses a series of pulleys to move materials and supplies. Its belt is made of natural or synthetic materials; this makes it versatile and adaptable to varying conditions and applications. In some instances, a flat belt conveyor belt may have a center drive and nose bars.
A modular belt conveyor consists of interlocked pieces made of hard plastic with segments that can be easily removed and replaced. The design of modular belt conveyors makes it easier to clean, and the material is resistant to sharp and abrasive substances. Modular belt conveyors come in varying configurations and use a single belt to go around corners, in a straight line, up inclines, and down declines.
Cleated belt conveyors have sections, pockets, or dividers that secure granular products when the belt declines or inclines. The cleats have equal spacing between them and come in various styles and shapes depending on the product to be moved and the design of the belt.
An inverted T cleat stands perpendicular to the belt and provides support for delicate and fragile materials.
A leaning capital L has a wide base that can be curved to scoop up granular materials. The design of the capital L makes it less resistant to leverage forces.
Inverted V cleats are two inches or less to create a trough like effect and are used for heavy, abrasive, and larger pieces of bulk materials.
Lugs and pegs are designed to meet the specific needs of a product and are a cost effective solution for products that do not require continuous support, such as cartons. They can be selectively placed to move products of varying sizes.
The purpose of sidewalls on a conveyor belt is to keep the material being moved on the belt. Sidewall conveyor belts are ideal for incline and decline belts and help increase product load capacity to improve conveyor system efficiency. There are a wide variety of sidewall materials, and they can be corrugated at various depths to fit the needs of the product and application.
The curves in conveyor belts are used to carry products around corners, make transfers, and make efficient use of floor space. Curved conveyor belts can make "U" turns to face the direction from which they came. They are made with flat belts and can make turns at 45o, 90o, 135o, and 180o angles.
Incline conveyor belts have a rough, uneven surface to hold materials and prevent them from slipping or falling back. The underside of the belt is smooth to allow the belt to glide smoothly along the bed. Modular belt and timing belt conveyors can be used for this purpose. Depending on the material to be moved, cleats may be included for increased slippage prevention.
The purpose of a decline conveyor belt is to move products or materials down or change its height. As with the incline version of conveyor belts, a decline conveyor belt has a rough surface or cleats to prevent materials from slipping or falling.
Decline conveyor belts are a continuous operating conveyor system with an articulated frame with a section that is pivoted or placed downward to accommodate downward movement of products from an upper location.
An advancement in conveyor belt technology is the electroadhesion conveyor belt, which acts like a magnet that is activated by a switch to create a strong and secure holding force between the container and the belt. Two low amp power strips placed in the conveyor belt powers its holding force. Materials with an electrically conductive pattern are knitted into the belt to produce the force that holds materials in place.
Unlike conventional conveyor belts, filter conveyor belts allow materials to pass through in order to drain excess liquid from components or filter out toxins and contaminants. Filter conveyor belts are constructed with lateral grooves and holes in the center of the belt to allow liquids and fluids to escape. Drainage holes are placed in a fabric free zone down the center of the belt or sealed to prevent the liquid from soaking into the belt fabric.
Much like a sidewall conveyor belt, filter conveyor belts can have sidewalls to prevent liquids and fluids from spilling over the sides of the belt. They are made of heated polyester, polypropylene, polyolefin, or stainless steel mesh for dewatering applications.
Vacuum filter belts are used for washing coal and other ores to assist in the separation of fluids and solids.
Hinged conveyor belts are made of joined flat metal slats designed to rotate around pulleys. The slats are interlocked to form a continuous metal belt that is durable and able to withstand harsh, stressful, and rigorous conditions. Hinged conveyor belts are used to move steel chips, turnings, metal parts, and discharges from presses and are configured and designed to fit a specific application.
Piano hinged conveyor belts are designed to eliminate the negative effects that handling steel can have on a standard belted conveyor. They are used to remove steel punchings and scrap from presses as well as for transporting hot and cold formed castings. Piano hinged conveyor belts are made of cold rolled steel and can be used for flat or inclined conveying applications.
An indexing conveyor belt moves a product a set distance in a step by step fashion using fixtures to hold the product in place. The process of indexing is designed to move incomplete components through a set of positions easily and precisely and is normally part of a machining process. Indexing conveyor belts are used in production applications during assembly operations to move a workpiece from station to station.
A sandwich belt conveyor has two belts that are face to face with one belt on top of the other to firmly hold materials. They have a rotating wheel for adjusting the pressure and gap between the belts.
Electrostatic charge on a conveyor belt can be created by friction between the belt and the bed, the movement of the conveyed product, or ionization in the air. In most cases, the static current is of low intensity but can cause problems if materials stick to the belt. Though the charge is very low, it may cause sparks, which can lead to serious and hazardous conditions.
There are various devices that can be installed on conveyor belt systems that dissipate and eliminate static charges. Anti-static belts are also available that are made of materials that have no-carbon particles and are made of fabricates that are static dissipative.
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As essential as conveyor belts are to the efficiency of various industrial operations, it is easy to summarize their operation. In essence, a conveyor belt is a very large wide belt that is similar to a huge rubber band affixed to rollers in the shape of a loop connected to rotors powered by a motor. The loop in the design is the conveyor belt, which is made of various types of sturdy and durable materials.
The design of the belt provides structure and traction for the movement of goods and material.
The motor on a conveyor belt turns the rotors that move the conveyor belt. There is a sufficient amount of friction between the belt and the rotor for the belt to stick to the rotor. The turning motion of the rotors causes one side of the belt to move in one direction, while the other side moves in the opposite direction. The different motions produce the movement of the conveyor belt.
Pulleys are positioned at either end of the conveyor belt or near the drive motor. The drive pulley drives the conveyor belt and has external bearings that are driven by a motor and reducer. Pulleys can be flat faced or crowned and have lagging to reduce belt slippage.
Return or tail pulleys redirect the conveyor belt back to the drive pulley, have internal bearings, and are located at the end of the conveyor bed. The purpose of tail pulleys is to provide tension in the conveyor belt.
Rollers support the materials on the conveyor belt as they move along the belt and support the belt during its return. The center of the shaft of a roller has a spring retained axle that is used to install and remove it. The position and location of the rollers reduces the amount of power required by the motor to move the conveyor belt.
There is an endless number of types, sizes, shapes, angles, and materials for conveyor belts. In a conveying system, the design and type of conveyor belt determine how it functions, and it is fabricated to carry materials and products from one location to another.
Regardless of the material used to produce a conveyor belt, all types are designed to move products, materials, supplies, and components efficiently and smoothly from one point to another. The design of the belt determines the products and industries the belt is best suited to serve.
Though there is a long list of materials used to make conveyor belts, all varieties fall into five categories: metal, plastic, rubber, fabric, and leather. There are subgroups and variations within each category that produce the many varieties.
Plastic conveyor belts are lightweight and temperature resistant belts that are made of thermoplastics such as polyurethane, polyester, polyvinyl chloride, silicone, and polyethylene. To allow for bending, curving, and incline or decline motion, plastic conveyor belts have interlocking segments that give them the flexibility to move in any direction. Interlocked plastic conveyor belts are an alternative to metal and fabric belts.
Woven metal or plate conveyor belts are extremely strong, durable, rigid, and flat. They do not change shape, stretch, or deform over time. Metal conveyor belts run in a straight line without curves, turns, or variations in their path. They are made from stainless steel, aluminum, or carbon steel and have exceptional longevity.
Rubber has been a conveyor belt material for many years and is one of the more durable choices due to its abrasion resistance. The types of rubber used for conveyor belts include neoprene, nitrile, and styrene butadiene, all of which are reinforced with cloth fabric.
The durability of rubber makes it ideal for harsh conditions where abrasion resistance and impact absorption are necessary. The cloth reinforcement prevents the rubber from stretching and deforming.
Fabric conveyor belts are a cost effective choice for short conveying systems with lower capacity. The belt is made of several layers of synthetic fabrics that are specially treated to prevent elongation and have lengthwise polyester threads with crosswise polyamide threads. The combination of the two thread patterns provides an exceptional tensile strength to weight ratio and flexibility as well as resistance to impact and chemicals.
Various grades of rubber are used as cover materials to meet the needs of a variety of conveying applications. Rubber cover grades are added to fabric conveyor belts to make the belts resistant to fire, heat, and wear.
The types of fabric conveyor belts are:
Conveyor belts can be found in any industry that requires the movement of materials or supplies from one position in the facility to another position. In small manufacturing businesses, it may not be necessary to have a conveying system since parts and components can be moved using a hand cart. Larger more complex facilities require an automated system for efficiency, saving of time, and productivity.
The varieties and uses for conveyor belts range between small conveyors used to move jewelry and precious stones to gigantic conveyors that remove rocks, coal, and stones. When there is a need for the rapid and economical movement of materials, it is likely that a belt conveying system will be used.
The various uses of conveyor belts can be broken into the categories of general and bulk material handling, food processing, and manufacturing and assembly operations.
Bulk conveyor belts are used to handle very fine and granular materials as well as large lumped sized materials. Cement, sand, and gravel are moved and loaded using belt conveyors. In the mining industry, coal, minerals, rocks, and stones need to be removed from mine shafts and open pit mines to get to the raw materials. Belt conveyors of varying lengths are extended into the operations to remove minerals and refuse.
Mobility is a crucial factor regarding the loading and unloading of ships. In the loading process, a belt conveying system unloads trucks and moves materials into the hold of a ship. For unloading, the process is reversed, and materials are moved from the ship and conveyed to trucks. Due to the unique nature of shipping and the different types of ships, loading and unloading belt conveyors are able to adjust to the height of the ship by telescoping.
Assembly operations have a series of conveyors that are custom designed to fit the needs of the operation. As more and more assembly operations are using robotics and automated processes, belt conveying systems are being rapidly developed to meet the many computerized innovations and operational demands.
The varieties of belt conveyors used for automated assembly lines include chain, slider, hinged, plastic belt, and pallet. The increasing demand for rapid and efficient material movement has necessitated the creation of new and unique belt conveyor configurations.
Belt conveyors are a necessary part of all airport operations in order to provide fast and efficient movement of packages, cargo, and luggage. For a belt conveying system to be successfully integrated into airport material handling, it must be able to meet the needs of all other handling and checking systems.
The specifications for airport belt conveyor systems include reliability, silent operation, appealing appearance, safety, and ease of maintenance. Every airport belt conveyor system is tailored and designed to meet the specific requirements of the airport‘s layout such as angles, flow rate, and one or two way operation.
Parts belt conveyors are made with hinged steel belts that are designed to move hot, oily, and pressed parts from forging machines to hoppers, storage units, and drums. Piano hinges are used due to their durability, strength, and rigidity. The weight and density of the part loads necessitate that the belt be made of shock and impact resistant materials with sidewalls to prevent part spillage.
Excavation belt conveyors are designed to move earth and materials through small enclosed spaces such as windows, doors, and vents. Belt buckets are designed to handle loads of varying weights and have a high load capacity. Though excavation belt conveyors are capable of handling heavy loads, they can be easily maneuvered and positioned by two or three workers.
The standards and regulations regarding belt conveyors are written for specific industries by agencies such as the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Rubber industry associations such as the US Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) and the Association for Rubber Products Manufacturers (ARPM) have multiple guidelines for the manufacturing, certification, and production of rubber conveyor belts.
The restrictions for conveyor belts for the FDA are covered under the Food Contact Material (FCM) regulations regarding any form of equipment that makes contact with food. The regulations are outlined in Title 21, Chapter 1, sub-chapter B of the Code of Federal Regulations.
The MSHA has its stipulations outlined in section 56, 57, 75, and 77 regarding surface mining, underground mining, and coal, and nonmetals mining. The MSHA is a branch of the United States Department of Labor.
The main concern of all OSHA regulations is the health and safety of workers. It has conveyor safety standards outlined in section 1926.555; they are in regard to safety stops, emergency stops, conveyor passes, and other protective actions.
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