How Do Conveyor Belts Work?
A conveyor system systematically carries and transports materials, typically in an industrial or controlled environment. Conveyor belts are a tried-and-true energy saver designed to increase efficiency. Let’s take a look at how conveyor belts work and why they’ve stood the test of time.
How a Conveyor Belt Works
A conveyor belt works by using two motorized pulleys that loop over a long stretch of thick, durable material. When motors in the pulleys operate at the same speed and spin in the same direction, the belt moves between the two.
If objects are particularly heavy or bulky — or if the conveyor belt is carrying them for a long distance or duration — rollers may be placed on the sides of the conveyor belt for support.
Parts of the Conveyor Belt System
While there are numerous types of conveyor systems, all serve the same purpose of transporting materials. Some products may require a system without a belt, using only rollers or wheels for flexible movement. However, many conveyor systems rely on a frame with a belt and possible support rollers to carry materials and products efficiently.
All conveyor systems have three main components — the aluminum profile, the driving unit and the extremity unit.
In a conveyor belt system, the aluminum profile consists of the frame, belt and any supports. Systems that use a belt are generally powered by a motor, though conveyor systems can also use gravity or manual force to function. Motorized conveyor belts are ideal for industrial use as they are more reliable and efficient — the driving unit for such systems would include the motor bracket, electrical drive and any counter bearings.
The conveyor belt system’s extremity unit typically includes any pulleys and clamping straps. Additional stands or lateral guides could be necessary for specific variations or functions, so consider your industry’s needs when choosing these optional add-ons. Parts and functions of a new conveyor belt system might include:
- The frame: The system’s framework holds all of the moving parts together for safe and secure operation.
- The belt: A long stretch of thick, durable material upon which materials are transported from one place to another.
- The conveyor belt support: Rollers assist the belt to stay on course and swiftly maintain movement. Rollers keep objects in place and prevent the belt from sagging.
- The driving unit: Motors may use either variable or constant speed-reduction gears to power the conveyor belt. An efficient driving unit must continually assist the belt with continuous running, smooth reversing and repeatedly adjusting direction.
- The pulleys: The conveyor belt should loop over two or more strategically positioned pulleys. The pulley controls the belt’s movement and performs critical functions such as driving, redirecting, turning, tensioning and tracking the belt.
- The clamping straps: Clamping straps are used on various machines to hold down fixtures and work components.
- Add-on modules: Most additional parts are installed for further reinforcement. While rollers support the belt from within the system, stands and lateral guides support the outer framework.
Conveyor belting can be crafted from various materials, including rubber, metal, leather, fabric and plastic. Consider the conditions that your system will operate under to ensure the conveyor belting material is of suitable thickness and strength.
Functions of the Conveyor Belt
How is a conveyor belt typically used? A conveyor belt’s function is to move objects from Point A to Point B with minimal effort. The conveyor belt pace, direction, curvature and size varies based on the needs of the user. In some industries, a conveyor belt brings products through a manufacturing or packaging line and back out again.
Conveyor belting usually falls under two categories: lightweight and heavyweight.
Lightweight belting is designed to meet various material handling requirements in diverse industries. A lightweight belting system has a working tension of less than 160 pounds per inch of width. The four main types of light-duty conveyor belts are:
- Solid plastic
- Thermoplastic covered
- Lightweight rubber
Top industries that use lightweight belting include:
- Food processing
- Unit package handling
- Paper goods
For your toughest applications, use heavyweight conveyor belting with a tension of at least 160 pounds per inch of width. A heavy-duty belting system is used for applications that require continuous movement of bulky, heavy materials. The belt is often coated with PTFE to withstand high temperatures.
Top industries that use heavyweight belting include:
- High-temperature food processing
Conveyor Belt Uses and Applications
Lightweight and heavyweight belting have a range of uses and applications across different settings and industries. Whether you need light-duty or heavy-duty belting, conveyor belt systems are remarkable in their ability to impact efficiency, productivity and labor.
Conveyor Belt Uses
A conveyor system has a wide variety of uses, such as:
- Quickly and reliably transport a large amount of material
- Stack materials at the end of a transportation line
- Streamline the process to get something from Point A to Point B
- Move a product vertically or horizontally with a high degree of flexibility
The advantages of using a conveyor belt system include:
- Reduce labor while massively increasing productivity and time efficiency
- Protect workers from any injuries caused by carrying heavy loads
- Keep the product safe from damage during transportation
- Easily transfer a product onto a different route
- Enjoy relatively simple maintenance of this durable, long-lasting system
Conveyor Belt Applications
Conveyor systems are at work across many industries, including air travel, mining, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, food processing and more.
At an airport, a conveyor belt is the best way to process, sort, load and unload passenger luggage efficiently. The baggage carousel is a practical use of industrial conveyor belts that most people encounter in life — luggage is loaded onto the belt in a secure area and then swiftly delivered to the terminal where the passengers have access. The belt continuously passes through the loading area and circulates back around to the baggage reclaim area for efficient delivery.
For the pharmaceutical industry, conveyor belt systems transport cardboard boxes or palates full of medical supplies before and after packaging and distribution. In manufacturing and mining, enormous amounts of material are transported through tunnels, along roads and up steep slopes on conveyor belts. Durable belting material and good use of support rollers are necessary for conveyor belt systems in these industries.
For food processing, products go through their life cycle on a conveyor belt. Items can be spread, stamped, rolled, glazed, fried, sliced and powdered — all while rolling on the belt. Think of the hours of manpower that would otherwise be spent bringing each food item through every part of that process. With conveyor belts, goods move from start to finish in mass quantities while still retaining a uniform high quality.
Each industry has its own specifications and requirements for the type of conveyor belt they use. From shipyards and power plants to bakeries and ice cream plants, the conveyor belt is the go-to utility because of its simplicity and reliability.
Turn to SEMCOR for Custom Conveyor Belt Fabrication
If you’re in the market for a new conveyor belt or belt maintenance services, SEMCOR can help. Offering everything from customized conveyor belt consultation and fabricationto installation and repair, we can support your conveyor belt applications with the right materials and expertise you need to get moving — and keep moving!
We know that when something goes wrong, you need a quick fix you can trust. You can reach us 24 hours a day, seven days a week for any conveyor belt emergencies.
Have any questions? Contact your SEMCOR representative today to learn more.