The conveyor belt system is almost everywhere. From the grocery store checkout, moving passengers at airports, or hauling tons of materials in quarries and factories. And the reason they are used so often is two-fold. First, they are an incredibly efficient way of moving things, offering a continuous method of transport that can work around the clock. Second, they are reliable, and a well looked after conveyor can be expected to have a long service life. But how are conveyors used, and how can their working lifespan be extended as long as possible?

What is the conveyor belt system?

Most people will have a mental image of what a conveyor looks like, and this is probably shaped by the ones with which they are most familiar: the grocery store or even the running machine treadmill. However, there is a wide range of products that would be deemed as conveyors.

The belt conveyors, where the belt loops around rollers, is perhaps the most common. But conveyors also include things like cables, chains, and even just the rollers. Essentially, it’s any device that produces a constant linear motion for transit.

They are used in different circumstances, but the uses often have some common features. A conveyor will save human labor, whether it’s moving produce at a checkout or ore from a quarry, getting it to where it needs to be. They will typically speed up transit, many can operate at a significant speed that could not be replicated by other forms of transport or labor. And they can provide a constant flow of material, for example during a production process.

Finally, many are used because they’re capable of following routes, such as up inclines or through small tunnels, that are difficult or impossible for people or other types of transit and shipping.

Classification of conveying systems

The versatility of conveying systems makes it impossible to create a comprehensive classification since there are many unique systems, developed to address specific needs, in use around the world. However, they fall into four main types.

The conveyor belt system is the most common. This, at its most simple, is a single belt around a couple of rollers that keep it moving. Goods placed on the belt will be moved along. The belt can come in different forms. Although often flat, they also can be troughed to carry raw materials, such as powers or ores.

Other types of conveyor work on a similar premise, but bring different advantages. The chain conveyor uses a chain moved by the motor. Goods are carried in buckets or other devices that are attached to the chain. While this might not offer a continuous flow of material, a chain system, which is usually overhead, can be more versatile, for example including corners that would not be possible with a belt.

Cable systems are similar, with a constantly running cable that carriers attach to. Perhaps one of the most famous examples are San Francisco’s trolley buses, which head up and down the hills by grabbing a constantly running cable installed beneath the road.

Finally, roller systems are similar to belts, but goods move along a series of rollers rather than a single belt. These can offer a more flexible layout since the rollers can be installed to manage tight turns or even changes in direction.

What advantages does the conveying system bring to the industry?

A belt conveyors offers significant benefits to any industry that needs to move goods and materials.

Speed and volume are, for many, the most important. A conveyor can work at high speeds, some transporting thousands or tons an hour. And because a conveyor can be constantly loading and unloading, it creates a shipping volume that other forms of transit, such as road and rail, cannot match.

Conveyors can also be incredibly versatile. While each type will have its design constraints, a simple belt conveyor, for example, has a limited ability to handle corners, in general conveyors can go almost anywhere. Conveyors are often used in narrow tunnels, taking materials rapidly via routes that nothing else could manage.

And because conveyors will run with little intervention, they can be the safest and most economical way of moving goods. This is especially the case for longer conveyors, since, by definition, there is no need for human involvement, there is no exposure of people to risk. And since the conveyor belt system will run without direct supervision, and runs efficiently, its cost per unit moved is usually significantly below any other mode of transport.

How to maintain the conveying system?

Conveyors can run for years without any problems. But like any equipment, their lifespan can be extended with regular checks, maintenance, and common sense.

The most important advice is to use the conveyor properly. Although robust, a conveyor installation will have a specific purpose and working range. Loading it outside that range can put strain on motors or equipment, meaning they wear quickly or even risk failure.

This also means looking after them. Although robust, and often designed for extreme environments, they should be protected from damage. Whether this is from things like vehicle movements, or just things dropping onto it, it’s critical to minimize the risks of accidental damage.

There should also be a routine of checks and maintenance. This should start with a daily visual inspection, but also include more thorough periodic checks. And everyone involved with the conveyor should be part of this, operators, for example, are likely to see or hear things that are early indicators or developing problems.

Once installed, a conveyor belt system offers a hard-working, efficient and effective way of moving things. Whether it’s tons of raw material over miles to a refinery, or even just a few cans to a checkout operator, conveyors are used everywhere because they are hard-working, long-lasting and incredibly reliable.

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