Moving Objects from Here to There Easier with Conveyors

An Amazon Fulfillment Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. (Courtesy: Bill Haslam at
An Amazon Fulfillment Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
(Courtesy: Bill Haslam at

When you imagine a factory, one of the most common images that come to mind is a conveyor belt.

Conveyor belts, ball transfer tables, and other conveyance devices have been a part of industrial manufacturing since the Industrial Revolution of the 19th Century. And they have been burned into the public consciousness in popular media, such as when Lucy and Ethel try to keep up with production at the chocolate factory by stuffing candy into her mouth on “I Love Lucy”.

But laughs aside, conveyance devices are critical to most factory, warehouse, and dock operations for a very simple reason: They make it easier to move boxes, products, and other objects from one place to another.

Manual vs Automated Conveyors

Requiring workers to lift heavy loads from one place to another just isn’t good business. Not only is it inefficient, but it can lead to workplace injuries, increased employee turnover, and a lot of bad feelings towards management.

Commercial conveyors, on the other hand, are typically inexpensive, highly efficient, and can boost productivity and profits by double digits practically overnight in many cases.

Photo by Jorge Anoro (via Wikimedia Commons)
Photo by Jorge Anoro (via Wikimedia Commons)

Common Conveyor Types

Conveyors are a common site at airports, in scrap yards, and in many factories. But there are nearly as many types of conveyors as there are uses for them.

Chain belt conveyors are designed to carry a high volume of objects very quickly. Also known as chain edge conveyors, they are typically found on work floors and are used to transport waste materials out of the way. Examples include sorting feed lines, mixed lines, and feed side ejector balers.

Steel belt conveyors can carry very heavy weights, up to 20 to 50 tons, every hour. They come in two main types: Piano hinge and steel apron conveyors. They are found mostly in compactors, heavy-duty waste lines, and heavy industrial 2 RAM scrap balers.

Slider bed conveyors are used for operations that don’t need the speed of a chain belt nor the capacity of a steel belt conveyor. Slider bed conveyors generally can carry from 1 to 15 tons per hour and often have variable speeds.

Of course, there are many systems that use a combination of two or more different types of conveyors. Known as MRF sorting lines, these conveyor systems more different weight items at different speeds during separate stages of the industrial process.

Benefits of Conveyors

In addition to saving labor, reducing injuries, and making workplaces more productive, conveyors also can speed up processes, move materials up and down inclines quickly and safely, and automate operations to reduce costs and improve efficiencies.

New Material Handling Options Offer More Flexibility to Assembly Lines

Photo by Jorge Anoro (via Wikimedia Commons)
Photo by Jorge Anoro (via Wikimedia Commons)

Up until recently, assembly lines were literally straight-forward operations, with workers lined up in a row performing specialized tasks as products moved down a sequential line.

But with some of the innovative new material handling equipment highlighted at a recent Chicago area trade show could change all that.

More than 37 material handling suppliers of conveyors, equipment, and modular structural framing component displayed their latest products at The ASSEMBLY Show, which was held last fall at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, in Rosemont, Illinois.

The show highlighted several new products that allow manufacturers to reconfigure their assembly lines in non-traditional, yet more efficient ways.

Innovative Flow Rack

One of the exhibitors, Creform Corp., unveiled a new pipe-and-joint structural system that can be used to assemble flow racks, workstations, stands, display boards, carts and even automated guided vehicles. Plus, like Tinker Toys or erector sets, the more than 700 different types of pieces can be reconfigured and recycled to fit different needs.

For example, Creform’s flow rack can be put together to move heavy totes and boxes from a standard conveyor to a remote workstation. And when that configuration is no longer needed, it can be disassembled to provide a different manufacturing solution — without having to buy all-new equipment every time a production line is modified.

Conveyor Configuration Software

Not sure what type of conveyor system will optimize your production? A new software program from Glide-Line called Interactive Modeling Program and Application Configuration Tools (IMPACT) can create a three-dimensional model of the conveyor configuration you need based on your application requirements.

The IMPACT system will even tell you what pieces you need to buy and how much your conveyor system will cost. The system offers more than 600,000 standard configurations, but also can be customized for more specific tasks.

Conveyor with Flexibility

A new type of conveyor belt system presented by Bosch Rexroth called the VarioFlow comes in different pieces that can be assembled in a near-infinite number of variations so businesses can transport small items to workstations or move large products along complex routes or through environments with limited space.

A motor mounting position can be centralized and smart connection technology allows for easy conversions and system extensions. Slide rails that feature lateral mounting can cut down on the wear and tear and assure reliable assembly and quiet operation. There are even ascenders and inclined conveyor sections that can move items up and down assembly lines. Plus, the whole system is reversible.

Linear Synchronous Motors

The MagneMover Lite system from MagneMotion Inc. features a “smart” track that uses linear synchronous motors and a “dumb” mover powered by magnets that propel movers around a conveyor track. With few moving parts — for example, no belts, gears or external sensors — the system requires little maintenance.

Rather than moving large pallets, the system uses 60-millimeter wide pucks, each of which can carry 1 kilogram of payload.


Conveyor System Upgrade Reduces Dust, Maintenance at South Dakota Cement Plant

ConveyorsThe Mission: Reduce emissions of cement dust and other “fugitive emissions” at the Grupo Cementos de Chihuahua cement plant in Rapid City, South Dakota.

The Solution: An temporary shutdown of the company’s cement processing facility to upgrade its bulk material handling conveyors from top to bottom.

Executives at the GCC Dakotah plant recognized that they had a growing problem. An extensive review of its four conveyor systems to to handle raw materials revealed that significant upgrades were required to reduce the amount of cement dust that was being released into the atmosphere and to cut down on the amount of spillage.

The company further determined that too many man hours were being spent on maintaining and repairing its aging conveyor system and that the buildup of debris within the fast-moving system was potentially putting maintenance workers at risk, increasing their chances of accident of injury.

For help, GCC Dakotah turned to Martin Engineering, a Neponset, Illinois, consulting firm specializing in conveyor belt cleaners and industrial vibrators.

Complete Upgrade Required

Dan Marshall, the Martin engineer assigned to the project, quickly assessed what GCC Dakotah had to do.

“Virtually any time bulk material is moved, especially in large quantities or at high speeds, the potential exists to create and release dust,” Marshall said. “Dust accumulation affects both safety and productivity, so it’s really more than just a housekeeping issue. Complicating the situation is the fact that bulk handling systems frequently must accommodate changing weather and material conditions, making dust management an even bigger challenge.”

Still, Marshall believed he had a solution: Completely rebuild the six transfer points on the plants four conveyors so that the impact of the cement and other products was substantially reduced, along with sealing the conveyor system so that dust could not be easily released, effectively creating a closed system.

Working Overtime to Solve the Problem

Plans were drawn up and work on the product was scheduled for March. The downside was that the operation would require the facility to cease production for nearly two weeks. Still, GCC Dakotah executives determined there were no other viable options.

Work crews from GCC Dakotah, supervised by Martin Engineering consultants and aided by a mechanical contracting group, went to work on the extensive installation. To minimize lost production, 12-hour shifts were scheduled.

The existing belts were disassembled and three new idlers were installed, along with toughing roll assemblies, impact cradles equipped with rugged impact bars, and new slider cradles designed to eliminate sagging. Then each transfer point were fitted with apron seal skirting, along with a tracker that continually provides precision adjustment for the return side to reduce damage, prevent spillage and extend the life of the belts.

Finally, two cleaners were installed on each belt, allowing belts to be cleaned immediately without any break-in period. The cleaners also maintain consistent tension on the belts without frequent adjustment.

Mission Accomplished

Ultimately, the project was completed in just 11 days. GCC Maintenance Manager Ralph Denoski said it was money well spent.

“The production team responsible for that area has had nothing but positive feedback about the upgrades,” Denoski said. “We’re not losing product to spillage and dust, so that material can be sold instead of cleaned up off the floor. The manpower formerly spent on cleanup can now be directed to core business activities.”


Ball Transfer Tables: Their Uses and Benefits

conveyance deviceIf you are looking for ideas to improve the efficiency of packaging, manufacturing or over materials handling, you need to look no further than your computer’s mouse. If you turn over a mechanical computer mouse, you will find is operated by a small rubber or plastic trackball that controls where the cursor on your computer screen is located.

Apply that same technology hundreds of times and you get a ball transfer unit, a piece of materials handling equipment that is indispensable in many warehousing and manufacturing operations.

How Ball Transfer Units Work

Ball transfer units allow you to convey packages, assembly parts and other materials in every direction with minimal friction or interference. They use easy running balls and medium-heavy and heavy plates to smoothly move containers with smooth surfaces through production lines, shipping assembly areas and other areas where speed and efficiency is required.

Typically, ball transfer units are composed of a single large ball — usually made of steel but sometimes made of plastic or even wood — that is supported by smaller ball bearings. These allow the ball the move Omni-directionally smoothly. When a series of these units are mounted inside a restraining fixture, the result is a ball transfer unit.

Variety of Sizes and Uses

Ball transfer units come in many different sizes and they can be used individually or combined with other ball transfer units to create a pathway for products or parts to move up, down and sideways through a production or shipping area. When objects are moved quickly across an array of ball transfer units, it’s known as a ball transfer table, which is a type of conveyer system.

Unlike conveyor belts or other types of mechanical or electronic production lines, ball transfer units don’t require any type of outside power, depending exclusively on the momentum of the object or external force to convey the object to its desired location. Consequently, in some applications ball transfer units can result in energy cost savings, as well as reduced maintenance and repair costs.

Example of Common Applications

One of the most common examples of ball transfer tables are luggage delivery carousels in airport baggage claim areas. But ball transfer tables have multiple industrial, manufacturing and warehousing applications as well.

Prior to the development of the ball transfer unit — which was first patented in 1958 by Autoset Production Ltd. — inverted casters were commonly used to transport objects through work areas. But the problem with casters is that they recognize a trail. In other words, caster wheels need to be aligned before directional change can be achieved. Ball transfer units solved this problem.

In the same way that it is possible to put too much pressure on your mechanical computer mouse so that it doesn’t work properly, ball transfer units can be affected by load bearing limitation as well as by the surface of the objects moving across them. But some ball transfer table manufacturers have addressed this problem by developing units with re-circulating ball principles.

If you are seeking to improve the flow of your warehouse, manufacturing or shipping facility, check out the ball transfer tables as well as the roller and belt conveyors available at

Automated Material Handling System Company Sees Profits

Vanderlande Industries, an automated material handling systems firm, have achieved net sales of EUR 741 million in the financial year of 2013, which ended Marth 31, 2013. Their finances have been unchanged since 2010, and with the new 31% increase reflects the market recovery, and the increased market focus, along with international expansion of the company. Their order intake grew 5% to EUR 747 million. The order book stands at EUR 858 million, an all-time high for the company. EBIT grew with 16% to EUR 24.3 million and net earnings were EUR 26.1 million or 3.5% of sales, aided by a tax benefit of EUR 8 million. These numbers reflect the company’s growth as a leader in the automated materials handling industry systems. The success of the company is also reflected in the increase of employee growth, that rose to 16% in 2011. The long-term outlook remains promising. Read about it HERE.

Denipro is Ready for ProMat With EasyChain Flexible Conveyor

EasyChain flexible conveying system

Swiss manufacturing company Denipro AG has announced a new flexible conveying system called EasyChain, and will have a booth in Chicago later this month at ProMat 2013, to be held January 21 to 24. EasyChain is adaptable to almost any layout, and it increases workloads and decreases the space needed for the conveyor, according to Denipro AG and its North American sister company, WRH Marketing Americas.

“At Denipro, innovation is an established tradition,” according to the company’s official website at . “Denipro has redefined the principles of conveyor technology that held good in the past. Since 2008 the conveyor technology specialist has launched five new products on the market – all of them based on rolling not sliding. This reduces friction as well as wear and tear. Power consumption is cut, and productivity rises.”

EasyChain is a low friction, multidimensional conveyor with both horizontal and vertical conveying integrated into the same conveyor. This significantly reduces drives, controls, installation and maintenance costs, and eliminates problematic transfers. The conveyor chain is completely lubrication free and can easily be reconfigured for new layouts. The conveyor is sold in three widths – 4.75 in., 7 in., 9.5 in. – each with a compact standard turn radius of 24 inches. It can operate in temperatures from 14 degrees to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Up to 13 lbs./ft. loads can be conveyed at speeds up to 300 feet per minute, with a noise level of only 65 decibels.

For heavier loads (up to 35 lbs./ft.), Denipro will demonstrate Deniway (another low-friction multidimensional conveyor) at ProMat 2013. Denipro invites show attendees to Booth #4527 to see the line of conveying solutions.

Conclusions of CEMA on Conveyors and Sorters

Conveyors provide easy functionality

Conveyors and sortations before were the only material handling equipment that was automated. Nowadays, there are a lot more equipment that provides easy functionality for everyone, but still feels necessity for conveyors. For example, a goods-to-person solution for picking requires conveyors to be able to deliver products from storage and send them to picking stations, and then onwards to the packing stations and shipping docks. At present, it uses much lesser conveyors than it did years ago which is a big improvement.

When you think of the past, conveyors are all about speeding things up. But today, conveyors are unbelievably smarter and can choose to take a slower pace and still perform to its maximum ability and can do it even in a smaller space. This is made possible by its new warehouse control system, drives and PLC’s.

Slowly but surely, South Americans, Latin Americans and Mexicans are starting to like the idea of material handling automation. Countries like Brazil, Argentina, Columbia and Mexico as well, are becoming constant electronic readers.

On a different note, Ned Thompson the CEO and president of PRAB, which is a conveyor company from Michigan, stated that a chaplain is part of his company and will always be. He believes that prayer is a very substantial component of a person’s life; his company even sends out employees for missions which they have been doing for quite some time now. He constantly makes it clear for everyone though, that his company is always open for those who are churched and un-churched.

Bookings for Conveyor increased to nearly 25%

belt conveyor
A good increase for Conveyor bookings.

The “Conveyor Equipment Manufacturers Association” or CEMA basing on their accumulated data, relayed that their scheduled orders for February 2012 amazingly increased by 24.8% in comparison to their bookings last February 2011.

CEMA also sized up their February 2012 bookings with their orders on January 2012, and it also definitely went up by 13.2%.

Though it might be looking good for the conveyor bookings, orders for the Bulk Handling Equipment are not doing quite as well. The Unit Handling Equipment orders on the other hand, increased to 31% in February compared to the month of January.

The over-all Invoiced Sales for the shipments of Conveyor Equipment Manufacturers Association (CEMA) magnified by 4.5% this year compared to their February 2011 sales.

The sales though, were down by 1.0% on February 2012 in comparison to January 2012.

The Invoiced Sales on February for Bulk Handling Equipment increased for about 1.0%, and for the Unit Handling Equipment it decreased to 2.0% in comparison to the month of January.

Other Essential Parts of a Conveyor System

Roller & Belt Conveyors and Ball Transfer Tables
Conveyor parts, such as conveyors stands provide additional support for the entire conveyor system.

A conveyor system is a well known material handling equipment used to continuously move object, materials and heavy equipment. This equipment is widely used in different industrial and commercial applications such as in retail stores, food industries, airport, manufacturing, shipping, processing and others.

However, as its name implies, a conveyor system is composed of different parts or elements besides the conveyor itself. Conveyor system also has different parts like stands, tracks, hangers, bearings, covers, shrouds, flange, clamps, couplings, spout and replacement parts. These conveyor parts provide additional support and safeness. These parts also helps improves efficiency, quality and performance.

Popular manufacturers of conveyor parts are Roll-A-Way, Vestil and HYTROL. Roll-A-Way offers replacement parts such as roller, balls, skate wheels, H stands, tripods and guard rails. Vestil and HYTROL on the other hand offers durable H stands for conveyors.

Ball Transfer Tables

Roller & Belt Conveyors and Ball Transfer Tables
Ball transfer tables used ball bearings that are made from high quality steel, which can handle 65lbs of weight and more.

Ball transfer table is another type of conveyors, which uses omni-directional or multi-directional bearings to move around object and heavy materials. This type of conveyor used the same principle that is used in trackballs, in which a bigger ball is supported by smaller ball bearings.

Ball transfer tables are used to conveniently transfer, rotate and position objects in a conveying line. Ball transfer tables have hundreds of individual ball sockets that are mounted in a restrictive fixture. These ball sockets are made with high quality steel which can handle 65lbs or more of weight. These moving tables are available in different sizes and shapes. Expandable ball transfer tables are also available in the market, which are used for temporary set up in warehouses, loading docks, shipping departments and assembly lines.

Most favored brands of ball transfer tables are Roll-A-Way and NestaFlex. Roll-A-Way offers curved and custom size ball transfer tables. NestaFlex on the other hand offers expandable ball transfer tables.