Essential Types of Conveyors You Need to Know

Mar 26, 2024 | Conveyor Systems | 0 comments

In this article, we’ll offer an overview of the diverse types and applications of conveyors. Our goal is to equip you with an understanding of how conveyors can boost the efficiency, safety, and productivity of your operations.

What is a Conveyor System?

You’re likely familiar with the concept of conveyor systems, yet we’ll begin with the fundamentals.

A conveyor system is a mechanized handling equipment designed to move materials from one location to another within an industrial facility.

These systems are essential for minimizing manual labor, reducing costs, and enhancing workplace safety. Whether your manufacturing process involves raw materials, components, or finished products, the objective is to enable continuous, efficient, and controlled movement of goods.

Conveyor systems are engineered to achieve optimal productivity and efficiency within material handling operations, which frequently contend with high demand and tight deadlines.

Beyond basic designs that facilitate the simple and continuous flow of goods from one point to another, customized conveyor models can tackle specific challenges, such as transporting exceptionally heavy loads, maneuvering through tight spaces, and managing delicate materials.

Thanks to technological advancements, conveyor systems allow ordinary manufacturing companies to excel, enhancing their productivity, efficiency, and overall success to become formidable industry competitors. Automation further increases productivity and ensures employee safety by minimizing the risks associated with manual handling.

How a Conveyor System Works

Many conveyor system comes with key components like framing, motors, gears, belts, chains, rollers, screws, and more.

Depending on the type and use of the conveyor, the required parts and the direction of movement may vary, but the principles are the same as the machine transfers material from one point to another.

For example, a standard, non-gravity conveyor model comes with a basic frame, an electrically powered motor, and a belt, rollers or chain that provides the platform for carrying products. Belts are typically constructed from rubber, plastic, or metal, depending on the needs of the manufactured goods and the working environment.

The belt or chain is supported by rollers and wheels to create a smooth moving surface and can be powered or unpowered depending on the application and the need for control over the speed and movement.

Electric motors are the most common way to power the movement of a conveyor. The motor’s size and power output are matched to the conveyor’s size, the weight of the products, and the required speed of movement.

Control systems range from simple switches and sensors to sophisticated programmable logic controllers (PLCs) for starting, stopping, controlling speed, and integrating the conveyor with other equipment.

Modern conveyor systems frequently incorporate advanced technologies like automation, robotics, and data analytics for further optimization. Automation includes using sensors and actuators to adjust operations in real-time, while robotics are used for tasks like loading and unloading materials. Data analytics monitor the conveyor’s performance, predict maintenance needs, and improve overall efficiency.

In addition to standard offerings, conveyor systems may be customized for even better performance. Some typical accessories include chain transfers, stops, chutes, and hoppers to assist in the specialized transfer of goods, while electrical components like junction boxes and motor disconnects help with overall function.

Key Operational Requirements

Selecting the right conveyor system is crucial, as it significantly influences a material handling facility’s operational efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Given the unique characteristics of each setting, a comprehensive understanding of several critical factors is necessary to choose and implement the appropriate conveyor system.

Whether this assessment is conducted by an in-house engineer or a specialized conveyor company, the priority remains to select a system that best suits the specific location and its needs.

Key considerations in the conveyor selection process include:

  • The system’s capacity to manage the anticipated volume of materials.
  • The surface that the product is moving on. If a pallet, what does that look like?
  • The required speed for product movement.
  • The physical dimensions and chemical characteristics of the goods.
  • The particular environmental conditions of the operational space.


For instance, a light manufacturing environment might need a system that supports simple and efficient transfers, whereas a mining operation would require a conveyor that is significantly more robust and durable.

Considering the long-term functionality of conveyors, it’s also crucial to factor in the future growth of the operation. This foresight could influence the decision to opt for an extendable conveyor or to adapt an existing system to accommodate a broader range of materials as production scales.

Types of Conveyors

In this section, we’ll discuss most of the major types of industrial conveyor systems, their primary uses, and any special features or components that may be included.

Belt Conveyors

Belt conveyors are one of the most common and versatile conveyors, able to handle various products. The standard model consists of a continuous closed-loop belt that rotates about two or more pulleys, efficiently moving material at a consistent speed while maintaining even spacing.

Belt conveyors can be flat, troughed, or inclined to move products over different levels and their simplicity, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness make them ideal for bulk material handling, packaging operations, and transporting goods over long distances.

Belt conveyors are also widely used because of their ability to handle a wide range of materials, from fine powders to large, bulky items, providing a smooth, consistent flow easily integrated into production lines.

Roller Conveyors

Roller conveyors may either be gravity-run or motor-powered and are essential for operations that handle moving boxes, pallets, or other rigid items. Gravity roller conveyors use the natural force of gravity to move items and are best suited for downward or horizontal movement. Electrically powered roller conveyors also transport items across flat or inclined planes and are highly modular, allowing for customization according to specific operational needs.

A roller conveyor’s simple design promotes efficient product flow and can significantly reduce manual handling.

They are ideal for warehousing, distribution centers, and assembly lines and can be customized according to the application requirements, including the desired speed, control, and the nature of the materials being conveyed.

Chain Conveyors

Chain conveyors are a rugged and sturdy option, coming with several design variations, including single, double, and multi-strand roller chains that move the product.

The positive-drive method allows for handling various goods, effectively conveying heavy shipments like loaded pallets, packed boxes, and industrial-sized container loads. It efficiently moves a wide range of product sizes, making it versatile for many industries.

This conveyor system is typically helpful for transferring products from one conveyor to another. Its robust design makes it suitable for moving items that cannot be handled by a roller conveyor.

Additionally, its flexibility is perfect for high-temperature applications, precise height and weight demands, and greater durability needs, which gives it an advantage in situations where an ordinary belt conveyor is not an option. Chain conveyors are regularly used in harsh environments where exposure to heat, dust, and corrosive substances is common.

Modular Belt Conveyors

Modular belt conveyors upgrade the traditional belt system by incorporating a belt made of individual interlocking pieces. This innovation boosts durability and flexibility and simplifies cleaning and maintenance. These features make modular belt conveyors a go-to option in sectors like food production and pharmaceuticals, where maintaining strict hygiene is paramount.

Unlike conventional belts, modular belts excel in navigating sharp turns and elevation changes within a single system. This adaptability makes them perfect for transporting irregularly shaped items that might challenge smoother belts.

Their ability to easily handle a diverse array of product shapes and sizes is a significant advantage.

Additionally, the modular construction facilitates swift repairs—individual sections can be replaced without overhauling the entire belt, enhancing operational efficiency and minimizing downtime.

Screw Conveyors

Screw conveyors, or auger conveyors, utilize a rotating helical screw element within a tube or trough to transport loose materials. This type of conveyor is exceptionally adept at moving bulk powders, grains, pellets, and semi-liquid materials. Tailoring the design and material of the system to the specific environment and the material being transported maximizes longevity and reduces wear.

The simplicity, efficiency, and versatility of screw conveyors make them invaluable. They can precisely control material flow at various rates and can move materials horizontally, vertically, or on an incline.

Their enclosed design not only enhances safety by reducing dust and contamination risks but also protects the integrity of the product. This combination of features makes screw conveyors ideal for the agricultural, chemical, and food processing industries.

Pneumatic Conveyors

Pneumatic conveyors use air pressure to move materials through tubes, setting the standard for transporting fine or powdery materials that pose challenges for other conveyor systems. These systems fall into two main categories: positive pressure systems, which push materials from one point to another using air pressure, and vacuum systems, which suck materials through the conveying line.

These conveyors offer significant benefits in terms of flexibility, as they can easily navigate obstacles and move materials over long distances without the need for multiple transfer points.

Due to their enclosed design that minimizes exposure and contamination, pneumatic conveyors are widely used in industries where hygiene and cleanliness are crucial, such as pharmaceuticals, food processing, and chemical manufacturing.

Overhead Conveyors

Overhead conveyors utilize vertical space to move items, effectively conserving valuable floor space for other activities. They are primarily employed to transport products through different stages of production, assembly, or packaging, especially in environments where maximizing space is essential.

Overhead conveyors can be designed in a couple of different ways—the monorail system transports products that hang or are attached to a single rail, and the power and free system offers more flexibility in movement and control.

These conveyors are especially beneficial in the automotive, clothing, and food processing industries as they provide an efficient means of moving items while maintaining a clutter-free and accessible workspace below, enhancing operational flow and safety.

Vertical Conveyors

Vertical conveyor systems have a continuous or reciprocating design and are specially made to move products between different heights in a facility.

They effectively overcome horizontal conveyors’ limitations in settings where space is at a premium, seamlessly transporting goods upward or downward without the need for ramps or inclines.

These conveyors are essential for multi-story warehouses, distribution centers, and manufacturing plants that have high demand. They enhance workflow efficiency for industries that handle a variety of load sizes and types, from small packages to palletized goods.

Flexible Conveyors

Flexible conveyors are designed for versatility and can expand, contract, telescope, and flex to accommodate various layouts and operational needs. They are particularly useful in shipping, receiving, and assembly areas where space constraints and variable processing require adaptable solutions.

Whether gravity-powered or motorized, flexible conveyors are designed for mobility, often mounted on casters for effortless transportation and reconfiguration of handling or shipping lines.

Their capacity to adapt to different lengths and navigate curves facilitates the efficient movement of a broad spectrum of product sizes and shapes, proving indispensable in operations prioritizing flexibility and scalability.

Maintenance and Safety Considerations

Every conveyor system demands consistent maintenance to maintain peak performance and prevent unexpected downtime that can dramatically affect productivity and operational expenses. A comprehensive maintenance strategy encompasses routine checks, lubrication, cleaning, and prompt replacement of worn or damaged components.

In addition, it’s crucial for skilled engineers to conduct regular inspections of the conveyors to spot and address potential issues before they develop into significant setbacks. This involves examining belts and chains for wear, ensuring rollers and pulleys operate smoothly, and checking that motors and control systems function properly.

While modern conveyor systems come equipped with essential safety features, additional protective measures might be necessary depending on the operational environment and worker safety needs.

Optional safety enhancements can include emergency stop controls, sensors, automatic shut-off functions, guards, and barriers to shield employees from moving components. Ensuring operators and maintenance staff are well-trained in the safe operation and upkeep of the conveyor is imperative in every scenario.

Partner with Power Pack Conveyor Company to Streamline Your Future

As you consider the specific requirements of your operation, we encourage you to reach out to us at Power Pack Conveyor Company to discuss your needs with one of our experienced engineers.

Our team of experts is dedicated to understanding your specific needs and guiding you through selecting the best conveyor for your operations.

With our extensive knowledge and commitment to customer satisfaction, we ensure seamless integration of our systems into your workflow, enhancing your overall efficiency and productivity.

About the Author

Dan Farrar is the CEO of Power Pack Conveyor Company, a pioneering industrial conveyor manufacturer since 1929. Power Pack Conveyor Company specializes in designing, engineering, and manufacturing conveyors, conveyor components, and turn-key systems for OEMs, System Integrators, and Distributors.

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