Conveyor belts have become a common sight in numerous industries. These types of machinery are particularly useful in the manufacturing, packaging, and distribution sectors. They help lighten the work while also saving on time and labor.
If you’ve been considering investing in conveyor belts but did know where to begin or are just enthusiastic about this equipment, this article is for you. Below is a definitive guide to what conveyor belts are, including what they are, how they operate, and their primary benefits.
Introducing Conveyor Belts
A conveyor belt is part of a conveyor belt system, which is a system comprising two or more pulleys (often known as drums) that are connected to an endless loop that serves as a carrying medium. The carrying medium constitutes the conveyor belt, much as the term is commonly used to denote the entire system.
The primary function of conveyor belts is to transport products from one point to another. The materials are typically transported from the point of production to the point of packaging.
Most conveyor belts transport products in a straight line. But some may convey materials through changes in direction and elevation.
The growing demand for conveyor belts has translated to an increase in belt conveyors manufacturers and distributors. However, it’s imperative to tread cautiously while shopping for this equipment. More on this later on.
The History of Conveyor Belts
Conveyor belts have been around since at least the late-19th century. The earliest iterations of the modern belt conveyor systems were invented in 1892 by Thomas Robins.
Robins’ inventions played an instrumental role in helping transport coal and ores. They also set a series of subsequent modifications of his original concept in motion.
In 1901, the Swedish multinational engineering company Sandvik AB invented steel conveyor belts. Four years later, Irish-born mining engineer Richard Sutcliffe invented the first conveyor belt designed primarily for use in coal mines. Sutcliffe’s invention was timely as it helped revolutionize the then-thriving coal mining industry.
Ford Motor Company was the first automobile maker to experiment with conveyor belts. This was after the company’s founder Henry Ford introduced this machinery into his assembly lines at Michigan’s Highland Park factory.
Many inventors continued creating their own versions of conveyor belts or perfect existing iterations over the next few years.
For instance, B. F. Goodrich Company created the Turnover Conveyor Belt System in 1957, which is considered one of the most durable conveyor belts. The durability of this belt conveyor system was mainly due to its anti-wear and tear features.
1972 saw the creation of the longest straight-belt conveyor at that time. The belt measured 8.6 miles (13.8 kilometers) and was the brainchild of the French society REI.
Parts of a Conveyor Belt and How They Operate
As indicated, conveyor belts are made primarily of two or more drums and a carrying medium. When the equipment is powered, the drums rotate around, creating a pull effect that conveys the materials across different locations covered by the carrying medium.
A conveyor belt system can have multiple drums. However, only one is usually powered. The powered drum is called the drive pulley, while the unpowered ones are called the idler pulley. The drive drum is responsible for transporting the materials through the belt conveyor system.
A conveyor belt’s carrying medium can be made from various materials. However, most manufacturers prefer a durable woven or metal fabric. Commonly used fabrics include polyester, cotton, nylon, or steel.
The fabrics also come in various colors depending on the intended application. For instance, food processing plants prefer blue or black fabrics as these colors are reasonably washable. Besides, they’re excellent at masking dust.
Besides the pulleys and carrying medium, a conveyor belt system includes a stand. You may also have several add-ons, including;
- Belt scraper for removing material carry-back
- Auto tensioners for maintaining the belt conveyor tightness
- Auto tracking for realigning belts that move off-center
- Removable rollers for cleaning and removing any excess raw product
Benefits of Conveyor Belts
They Minimize Manual Labor
At least two people must move a standard generator from one point to another. Now, imagine how many personnel a large-scale generator manufacturer would need.
With a conveyor belt, you simply load material onto the system and let the equipment get to work. You can convey a maximum number of products with a consistent power supply and no machine breakdowns.
They Minimize Production Costs
Conveyor belts are not only a labor-saving investment. These equipment can also help minimize production costs.
Fewer people working in the production line means lower employment costs. You can invest the wages and salaries saved to transform other business aspects.
Besides, belt conveyor systems eliminate the time and costs involved in employee training.
They Streamline the Process
Machines have proven way more diligent than humans. Once powered, conveyor belts will keep going until there’s a power interruption or a malfunction in the system.
These equipment can improve efficiency by automating various processes. They reduce the time a supervisor would need to move across the distribution channel, checking if all employees are pulling their weight as required.
They Reduce Accidents
Work-related injuries are forever on the rise. A considerable percentage of all reported cases are often due to human and machine errors.
Conveyor belts have proven incredibly effective at reducing workplace accidents. That’s mainly because employees rarely interact with this equipment. So, even if a malfunction occurs, there’s less chance someone will be close enough to get hurt.
How to Choose a Conveyor Belt
First and foremost, start by determining your need for a conveyor belt. The nature of your business and its production volume will decide whether or not it requires these utility equipment. For instance, you may need a conveyor belt to set up a bottling facility.
Once you’ve determined that your business requires a belt conveyor system, familiarize yourself with the options available. This will help you understand the recommended product material, length preferences, and critical components.
Lastly, find a reputable supplier. Consider outlets that offer high-quality belt conveyor systems at reasonably affordable rates. Find out if they offer free delivery and installation. If not, ensure the associated costs are reasonable enough. You might also contact the supplier beforehand to establish whether they can customize the belt’s length to your requirements.
Belt conveyor systems are some of the most valuable innovations. That explains their presence across different industries, from food processing and pharmaceutical to bottling, automotive, and chemical industries.