Conveyor Tech Types: What Are They?

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Conveyors are machines used to move materials in various industries. They can be passive or powered, and come in different forms such as roller conveyors, conveyor belts, bucket conveyors, and chain conveyors. Other transportation technologies include magnetic, monorail, and pneumatic conveyors, as well as screw conveyors and logging troughs.

Conveyors are a common type of machine used to move materials and are found in many areas of industry and commerce. The technology can take many forms and the differences are mostly in the exact mechanism by which the conveyor moves the materials. Conveyors are used to move nearly every type of raw material, parts and finished goods in factories, food in processing plants, crops during harvest, and packaging in distribution centers. They can be passive or powered and can be designed to move its contents a few feet or several miles.

Passive transport technology relies on an external force to move the object and simply provides a means to facilitate that movement. A very simple type of passive conveyor is a roller conveyor. A roller conveyor consists of a series of free-spinning rollers, usually made of metal and mounted on a frame much like the rungs on a ladder, but much closer together. An object placed on the conveyor and given a small push slides quickly and easily along the rollers, which reduce friction. Conveyors of this type are common on trucks and in small businesses and loading docks.

Powered systems make up the majority of transportation technology and take many forms. Powered roller conveyors work in much the same way as passive rollers, but use machines to spin the rollers that push the object or package. Complicated networks of such carriers are found in parcel and mail distribution centers. Conveyor belts consist of a large belt that extends and rotates around two or more cylindrical pulleys. A typical checkout aisle in a supermarket is a good example, although these types of conveyors can also be extremely large and are sometimes used to move mining products and waste over distances of several miles.

Another common type of conveyor is the bucket conveyor, which consists of a series of containers connected together in series and the machinery to move them in a rotating cycle. Bucket conveyors typically transport material from one location to another, where the material is unloaded, then back to the source for refilling. Chain conveyors are conveyors that use machinery and gears to move a long link of chain. The chain can have frames, to which parts or goods are attached, or be mounted over the head with hooks.

Many types of modern transportation technologies have been developed for specific purposes. Conveyor belt technology is at the heart of the assembly line, one of the most important developments in the history of the industry. Magnetic conveyors, monorail conveyors, and even pneumatic conveyors, which use jets of compressed air to move materials, are common in industry today.

Other forms of transportation technology have also been developed over the centuries. Screw conveyors, based on the Archimedean screw principle, which dates back to ancient Greece, consist of a large fixed screw around a central shaft. The entire assembly is enclosed in a close-fitting cylinder. Material fed into the propeller at one end is moved to the other end as the propeller rotates.
Logging troughs, a primitive transportation technology, used the force of flowing water and gravity to transport logs down wooden chutes from logging areas in mountainous areas to rivers or sawmills in valleys and coastal areas. They have been used particularly in the American West, although historically logging canals have also been used in other parts of the world. Some of them were up to 60 miles (100 km) long.

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