Decoding Conveyor Belts: Function, types, and applications explained

Jan 26, 2024

Conveyor belts are all around us. From supermarkets to the airport, conveyor belts have many different applications and uses that have enhanced the way we live. However, there is more to conveyor belts than just the ones you see on a day to day basis. In this guide, we delve into what a conveyor belt is, the different types of conveyor belts, and how they can be applied to different industries. 

What is a Conveyor Belt?

Conveyor belts are simply systems that transport items from one place to another. Composed of two or more pulleys and a conveyor belt, this continuous loop facilitates the movement of products. Depending on the items you need to transport, the size of your facility, and the level of throughput you require, specific conveyor belts have different functions. Each of these conveyor belts also have particular components that change the function of the conveyor system. So, what makes up a conveyor belt?

The Structure of a Conveyor Belt

A basic conveyor belt is made up of a drive roller, drive motor, tension roller, skid base, and the conveyor belt itself. The structure of the actual conveyor belt normally consists of three layers: a top cover, carcass and bottom cover. The top and bottom covers are generally made from rubber or plastic, depending on the application it is going into. The inner layer of a conveyor belt is the carcass that is typically made of a woven or metal plastic depending on the type of conveyor system. The composition of the carcass can affect the resistance and flexibility of the conveyor belt overall. Now that we know what a conveyor belt is made of, how do these components work together? 

How Conveyor Belts Work

The conveyor belt moves around the drive motor and the tension roller, creating a continuous loop that helps to move products. The drive roller is powered by a drive motor that facilitates the movement of the conveyor belt. The tension roller is on the opposite side of the loop to the drive roller, creating tension on the conveyor belt, keeping it taut. The skid base supports the conveyor belt. All of these elements together help to transport items from one place to another seamlessly. 

Additional Features of a Conveyor Belt

In addition to the previously mentioned components of a conveyor belt, additional parts can be added to a basic conveyor system to tailor the functionality of the system. For example, scrapers can be added to the system to routinely clean the conveyor belt, and chutes and skirts can be utilised to control where items are transported to. By having these additional components, conveyor belt systems can be customised to whatever you require, enabling you to get the most out of your conveyor system. 

Types of Conveyor Belts

In addition to add-ons that can be fitted onto conveyor belts, conveyor belts themselves also come in all shapes and sizes. We have compiled a list of the most common forms of conveyor belt systems to help you find the perfect conveyor system for your business. 

Roller Bed Belt Conveyors

A roller bed conveyor system utilises rollers and has the same basic structure of a conveyor belt system. However, underneath the conveyor belt, there are a number of rollers that help facilitate the movement of the conveyor belt itself. These rollers offer support to the conveyor belt, helping to guide the belt along the correct path. The rollers can be powered or non-powered, depending on the design and speed of throughput needed.

Flat Bed Conveyor 

A flat bed conveyor system is one of the most common forms of conveyor belt. This system uses a flat surface to support the conveyor belt rather than rollers, ensuring an extremely flat and continuous conveyor belt. The main purpose of this conveyor is to transport items horizontally. 

Modular Belt Conveyor 

This particular conveyor system implements a different form of conveyor belt. Rather than using a long, continuous rubber or plastic sheet as the conveyor belt, a loop of interlocking components is used to create the conveyor belt. These interlocking components can be made from plastic, metal, or a combination of materials, allowing for increased durability.

The benefit of this form of conveyor belt is the interlocking design that makes the conveyor belt easier to maintain. The individual modular components can be removed and replaced should any section of the conveyor belt become damaged. This makes it a cost-effective solution as only a section of the conveyor belt would need to be replaced rather than the whole conveyor belt. 

Spiral Conveyor Belts

With its curved design, a spiral conveyor system allows for the transport of items vertically without the larger footprint. Spiral conveyor belts work vertically, whereas inclined conveyor systems have a gradual incline, meaning they require more space when compared to a spiral conveyor system. This is an excellent solution for businesses that are looking to expand the utilisation of space in their facility dramatically. They work particularly well with multi-tiered mezzanine flooring where there is a requirement to move goods in between levels for storage, picking, or distribution.  

Incline and Decline Conveyor Belts

The conveyor belt of this system is rough rather than smooth to ensure items do not slip and fall off the conveyor belt. These conveyor systems are great for businesses that have wider rather than taller warehouses that need to increase the space efficiency of their facility. An incline conveyor belt is a good option for those looking for a cheaper inclined conveyor solution with easier maintenance and lower costs. 

Often it is the case that a combination of different types of conveyor systems are required to meet the needs of a business. In addition to the conveyors systems chosen the addition of other automation tools can significantly improve operational efficiencies. Scanners can assist in sending the goods to the correct location, check weighers can ensure that picking errors are avoided and automatic labelling machines can speed this process up and reduce human error. 

Applications of Conveyor Belts

Conveyor belts are versatile, meaning there is a vast range of industries that implement conveyor systems. From supermarkets to construction companies, here are how some companies are using conveyor belts to enhance their business operations. 

  • Construction: Conveyor belts are used in construction to help transport the movement of heavy raw materials such as bricks, sand and cement. This reduces the physical strain on employees as they no longer have to move these items in bulk manually. It is also possible to use conveyor systems to load vehicles directly. 
  • Production and factories: In factories, conveyor belts are used to establish a continuous flow of materials, allowing for a more efficient production line. Additionally, in production facilities such as car manufacturers, a conveyor belt is used to transport cars in a production line. 
  • Warehouse packing: To ensure packages are processed efficiently, conveyor belts are implemented as they can handle a range of different shapes and sizes in a timely manner. 
  • Letter and parcel sorting: Similar to warehouse packaging, letters and parcels need to be sorted effectively to ensure items are being sent to the correct recipient. The use of conveyor belts and automation ensures this process is streamlined so items can be posted faster. 
  • Airports: The primary use of a conveyor belt in an airport is to transport luggage. From checking in luggage, loading and unloading luggage from the hold of an aeroplane, and baggage claim at the end of your journey, conveyor belts are essential in guaranteeing the safe transport of your bags around an airport.  

Transform your Warehouse with Conveyor Systems and automation. 

If your business is in need of a refresh and you think conveyor belts may be the solution for you, Conveyor Systems can help. From belt conveyor systems to spiral conveyors, we have the right solutions  something for everyone in our extensive range. Our experts are experienced in installing all forms of conveyor systems, meaning you can have the peace of mind that your facility will be well looked after. We also offer a range of automation solutions, such as automated sortation and even autonomous mobile robots, helping you make your daily business processes that much easier. Elevate your warehouse with us today by contacting us to start the process to a more efficient and streamlined facility.  

Conveyor Belts FAQs

What are conveyor belts used for?

The main function of a conveyor belt is to transport items from one place to another. By using a conveyor belt and two or more pulleys, this system uses a continuous loop to facilitate the movement of products. The versatility of conveyor belts also means they can be applied to a number of different industries, including construction, warehouses, and airports. 

What is the most common material for conveyor belts? 

Generally, rubber is used for conveyor belts as it is a durable but flexible material. This is used for the top and bottom covers of the conveyor belt itself. The inner layer of a conveyor belt can be made from steel, polyester, nylon, cotton, or aramid, depending on the function of the conveyor belt. 

Why are conveyor belts made rough?

The surface of a conveyor belt is rough to ensure products don’t slip or fall off the conveyor system. Incline conveyor belts are rougher than basic conveyor belts as they work on an inclined plane. This means it is even more critical that products don’t fall off the conveyor as this could potentially harm employees.

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