When someone says the word ‘conveyor’, the image that appears in your mind first is probably that of a typical belt system. These are common across many industrial sectors, including warehousing, distribution and manufacturing, to name a few, and have a simple premise: act as a labour-saving system by moving large volumes of material from point A to point B.
Conveyor belt systems usually consist of a frame with rollers at either end. The belt is looped around each of the rollers and, when one of the rollers is powered by an electrical motor, the belt slides across the frame bed, moving the product. To many, a conveyor system may literally be straightforward, but they can also change in elevation, or direction, via belt curves (see OE November 2018, or www.is.gd/ixevey).
Another common moving system is the over-head conveyor, which is used in sectors such as automotive and steel, where large parts are transported at slow speeds. At the other end of the conveyor market are static or non-moving conveyors. Different designs have been created for transporting different types of product.
Air conveyors are systems that have been designed to move product around a site via air, rather than using the traditional belt and chain. These devices are said to be a convenient way of moving powdered or granulated products, as well as other lightweight objects, such as plastic bottles and empty boxes. The conveyor system uses air pressure or vacuum to transport materials in or through closed tubes or along surfaces.
The Ring Vac Air Conveyor from Canadian company Nexflow is sold under The Air Nozzle People. These conveyors claim to offer advantages over conventional conveyors, such as containing no moving parts, having better reliability and easily controllable flow. The Nexflow Ring Vac Air clamps to a standard hose size to create the conveying system. The system works by converting a compressed air stream into a strong moving air current with a partial vacuum at one end and a positive air flow at the other.
To be more precise, the compressed air enters an annular plenum chamber and injects into the throat of the unit though directed nozzles. These jets of compressed air create a vacuum at the inlet, which draws in material and accelerates it through the unit and out again. The Air Nozzle People says that the conveyor is available in a range of materials, as well as several different sizes to fit pipework from 3/8” up to 5”. A video of the conveyor in action is available at www.is.gd/emasuy.
Compressed air-operated products manufacturer EXAIR Corporation also offers a heavy-duty air-powered conveyor. Last year, the company launched new 2-1/2” and 3” Heavy Duty Line Vacs (pictured), which it described as powerful in-line conveyors that can transport high volumes of material through ordinary hose or tubes.
Designed for rugged, industrial applications, Heavy Duty Line Vacs have a hardened alloy construction that aim to prevent premature wear when transporting abrasive or heavy materials, such as shot blast, tumbling media or metal fittings.
The system again works by ejecting compressed air through directed nozzles into the throat to produce a vacuum on one end and high output flows on the other. The material conveying rate can also be easily controlled, the company says, via a pressure regulator. No moving parts or electricity assures maintenance free operation, it adds. A video of the system in action is available at www.is.gd/mawura.
Some industrial sites – particularly those in manufacturing – may require frequent production changeovers or volume changes. To combat this issue, FlexiBowl – a system designed for automatic bulk parts feeding – has been introduced by RARUK Automation. The system allows entire families of parts – regardless of shape, fragility, material composition, weight and surface characteristics – to be fed into the assembly process.
It also has a simple working principle. The device includes a rotating disk and an impulse generator; the disk itself is actuated by a servomotor that allows clockwise or anti-clockwise movement. When parts are released by a hopper, they fall onto the moving disc and are separated by the rotation and vibration. Acceleration, deceleration and impulse frequency are all selectable according to the part geometry to achieve the optimal result.
In a typical application, RARUK Automation says that the parts are located by a vision system mounted above the FlexiBowl. This guides a robot to pick and place individual parts to an ongoing process. FlexiBowl is also equipped with a variety of communication ports – Ethernet, Ethercat and digital i/o signals – for easy integration with the vision and robot systems.
The system is available in four different sizes with an inner diameter from 350mm to 800mm. Its rotating disk is made from standard conveyor belt material and is easily replaceable. A range of hoppers with standard five-, 10- and 20-litre capacity complete the system. A video of the FlexiBowl in action can be found at www.is.gd/tivazi.
These are just some examples of static and non-moving conveyor systems available to industry. Many factors will determine what systems work best for an operation, including site size, overall goal, and maintenance requirements, to product frequency, size and weight, to name a few.
BOX OUT: Other non-moving conveyor systems in brief
Chute conveyor system:A gravity-operated chute slides material along
Roller conveyor system: A system that relies on the natural force of gravity to move product along rollers. Suppliers include Welco and Interroll
Vibrating conveyor: This system, which is also known as a vibrating feeder, uses gravity to determine what direction a product will go, and vibration to move material. Suppliers include Syspal and General Kinematics
Vibrating spiral conveyor: Also known as a vibrating spiral elevator, this system works in the same way as a vibrating conveyor, but rather than vibrating materials along, material is vibrated up or down a spiral column. Suppliers include GEA and Aviteq.