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Modular Conveyor Systems

19th February 2019

Manufacturers in every field are keeping their processes private, if not secret. After all, most processes are in some ways proprietary, comprising a mixture of methods, technologies and operations that ultimately affect a manufacturer's ability to compete successfully. This is certainly not lost on the medical products sector, where both products and processes may be highly proprietary.

If no one is talking, how does a plant manager know if his process is outdated or if process components are lacking flexibility, crippling productivity or resulting in unnecessary capital expenditures? While they are usually keenly aware of such problems with primary production equipment, they may not be aware of them when it comes to secondary support equipment.

In material handling equipment such as conveyors, both archaic and inflexible equipment often create downtime and unnecessary repairs and replacement costs. While conveyors connect critical production points, some manufacturers who experience logjams, maintenance interruptions or other deficiencies are not aware that new-generation conveyors and innovative accessories could eliminate those productivity killers.

One of the best-kept secrets in the manufacturing sphere is the “modular” conveyor system — a new concept in material handling. Truly modular conveyors can improve process flow, facilitate system integration, enhance quality assurance, reduce labor and virtually eliminate the cost of replacement conveyors — all of which can translate to competitive advantages. The benefits were so significant one plant manager decided he didn't want to share his solution with his competitors, saying he had to “search hard for this solution,” and that even a friendly competitor would have to discover the solution for themselves.

But the fundamental other thing that a truly modular conveyor system does is change shape, and does so very quickly. Composed of interlocking units (modules), including belts, sides, legs, motors and accessories, these conveyors are self-contained systems that can be configured like “building blocks” to meet changing production flow in any environment where light- to medium-duty conveyors are used. Improved production flow means leaner manufacturing, enormously important to competing successfully in today's marketplace.

“Different managers view this unique flexibility in different lights,” Habetler says. “But what it comes down to is that they can now make the conveyor system more precisely fit their needs, instead of having to improvise a patchwork of heavy fixed-length conveyors or have a new conveyor system custom-built for an application that's going to constantly change.”

A strategic production tool
Another secret with competitive advantages is the many types of configurations that can be achieved with a modular conveyor system, making it a strategic production tool. Instead of having to replace a conveyor whenever a workstation or production setup changes, a modular conveyor can be expanded, contracted or reshaped to fit the new requirements. Considering the cost of metal fixed-length conveyors, there are obviously savings available with a system , but also improved uptime.

Truly modular conveyor systems are useful for many processes and applications used for producing medical equipment and virtually countless other applications. The potential improvements to process flow are often the key to their best use.

However, while ideal for most light- to medium-duty applications, modular conveyors are normally limited to handling products that are less than 15 lb in weight. The handling of such heavy-duty production is probably still the domain of the conventional fixed-length metal conveyor. Yet, if robots are used to place products on the conveyor, modular systems commonly handle product weights of 15 lb or more.

Small changes can make big differences
Sometimes the real hidden value in modular conveyors is due to relatively small changes in configuration or accessories. These can create surprising results in terms of productivity improvements and cost savings.

Another example of the flexibility of truly modular conveyors is the ability to move them easily from one plant location to another. Some plants use the same modular conveyor for both production and packaging.

All the right stuff
The ultimate “trade secret” behind conveyor systems — achieving maximum uptime — requires the ability to service or repair them very quickly. If a forklift wipes out a chunk of a metal fixed conveyor, the system could be out of commission for a week or more. With an inventory of spare units and replacement parts, repairs can then be made to modular systems within hours.

The series line offers a “radius turn” module that can save manufacturers substantial costs while simplifying operations. Featuring flexible, ribbed sides that allow users to make turns of up to 180 degrees, the radius turn module can eliminate the need for secondary fixed conveyors. Using the radius turn, you can get your products to a destination using a single conveyor with a single motor where two fixed conveyors with two motors had been required before.

Standard conveyor system modules include drive flights, side guards, retaining walls, legs and connectors. A variety of primary accessories, such as box fillers, cooling tunnels, separators and water bath tanks for cooling products are carried by the conveyor system. they also offers a radius turn conveyor that can flow on an incline or decline.

Modular conveyor belts are available in a variety of materials and configurations, making repair a simple matter. Most customers keep a supply of belt sections on-hand for incidental repairs. The  system includes a wide range of belting options, including a variety of flat-top and perforated, grid, friction and radius-turn designs. Standard belting material is an impact-grade polypropylene. Optional belting materials include acetal, polyethelyne and nylon (for specific belt styles), or a choice of other materials. Belts are available in widths from 4 to 60 inches. Drive flights may be installed at any location along the belt, and are available in 1, 2 and 3 inch heights, in widths to fit belt widths.

A number of  system accessories are available: a feed shield to prevent parts from deflecting off the conveyor, exit chute, and drop-zone reinforcement module. Available electrical accessories include box filling via counting machine cycles, metal detection, electronic eye for parts counting and placement, as well as electrical controls for indexing, reversing and cutting conveyor power.

FROM:Design News