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Walk through any modern-day assembly and packaging facility and the conveyor systems may well resemble roller coasters at an amusement park – going up steep inclines, down drops, twisting and turning around equipment and machinery as they move product along its track.

Conveyors have evolved to become critical, integral components of material handling systems both large and small. Many of these systems are using elevation and motion control to maximize a facility’s available space, especially where space has become a premium in many manufacturing facilities.

More complex processing requires conveyor systems to work in sync with other conveyors and functions within the larger application. Conveyors need to be robust to withstand 24/7 operation, yet agile and flexible enough to be quickly re-configured to meet the challenging needs of modern manufacturing and assembly practices, such as switching between sizes, shapes, speeds, etc.

How to select a conveyor?

Conveyors play a key role in packaging and material handling applications. They’ve evolved over the years to become more sophisticated and flexible to accommodate many different types of applications.

Conveyors handle many different types of products including metals, food, cosmetics, medical supplies, plastics, and boxes. This is why they come in all shapes and sizes, from belt widths of less than two inches (for moving extremely small parts) to several feet wide for transferring bulky packages. Once viewed as an afterthought, conveyors have become an integral component in many automated facilities and applications.

To select the right conveyor for your application, consider these design factors:

Product to move: What types of product is the application moving? What is the maximum weight of the product being moved? Conveyors for material handling of bulk product are more rugged than those for moving discrete product. On the other hand, the latter often requires conveyors that can advance product with more precision.

Layout/ design type: How does surrounding equipment interact with the product riding on the conveyor? This will make a difference in the kind of conveyor selected. Also, does the application require the conveyor system to have inclines, declines or curves? If so, you may need to look for conveyor features that secure or enclose material or product onto the conveyor.

Motion design issues: Does the conveyor need to operate at a certain speed? Are there starts/stops involved or is it continuous motion?

Environmental issues: Will moisture be present in the application? Does the application need to be sanitary? You may need to consider rugged or washdown-ready conveyors with open frames.