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The Right Conveyor Belt

Technology hasn’t forgotten about conveyor belts. Today’s engineers can choose from any number of conveyor belts and styles to suit most any application. Although many people tend to take belts for granted, there are major differences in the types available. Specifying the right one depends on several factors, all of which need to be taken into consideration. Among these are:

• The product being moved.
• The product’s size and weight.
• The conveyor’s speed.
• The conveyor’s operating environment.
• Product orientation on the belt.
• Turns and slopes on the conveyor.

For belts to perform well, they must track properly. Tracking refers to a belt’s ability to run true and straight on the conveyor frame and around the end rollers. If a belt isn’t tracking properly, it can run crooked over end rollers, affect operations, and lead to premature wear. Many factors affect tracking, including belt splicing, conveyor rollers, belt tension, side loads from pushing products on or off the belt, and debris built-up on the rollers.

To ensure belts track, some conveyor manufacturers add a V-guide strip of urethane down the middle of the belt’s underside. It fits into a V-shaped guide groove running down the center of the conveyor’s frame. The V-guide helps keep the belt centered and tracking properly.

The manner in which the V-guided urethane is attached can make a difference in the overall integrity of the belt. V-guided belts tend to be stronger when the urethane is applied before the belt is made. Many manufacturers opt to cut fingers into the belt, splice it together, and then flip it upside down to apply the V-guide strip. The problem with this process is that it leads to two potential failure points: the splice and the V-guide splice. By applying the guide prior to making the belt, it maintains its integrity and provides a seamless guide on the belt.

Another belt type that’s not as popular—but has specific advantages for the packaging, manufacturing, and automation markets—is the clipper splice belt. They use intertwined hooks held together with a wire hook. Clipper splice belts are easy to remove; users simply remove the locking hook and the belt comes apart. This design is well-suited for applications that have conveyors partially inside larger machinery or equipment where access to the belts can be difficult.

The conveyors of today are engineered to provide much higher levels of functionality and performance than those of years past. Moving forward, conveyors are expected to continue evolving to fulfill specific niche roles within material handling and packaging. Miniature conveyors are a good example of this. 

(Information courtesy of machinedesign.com)

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