A Packaging System Primer - Conveyors

A Packaging System Primer: Conveyors

Now that you have your product and your location picked out, it is time to start (carefully) choosing packaging equipment.  While you may purchase the fastest automated liquid filler, the speediest capping machine and the quickest, smoothest labeling equipment, these packaging machines cannot achieve maximum performance levels if the bottles are not efficiently moved from one to the next.  For automated packaging systems, power conveyor systems become just as important as the individual packaging machines.  For labor driven packaging systems, both power and non-power conveyors can add efficiency.
Power conveyors are normally motorized belt conveyor systems that can be manufactured in virtually any length and width.  Curved conveyor sections can also be used to move product around obstacles or through turns on a packaging system, though transfer turntables may also be used to achieve the turns.  In general, a packager using an automated packaging system should create a floor plan by laying out the conveyors and packaging machinery in the most efficient manner, be it a straight line packaging system, a horseshoe setup or any other shape that works for the facility.
Power conveyors can be manufactured using aluminum, stainless steel or even HDPE.  The material used to manufacture conveyors for a specific customer will depend in large part on the product and the packaging environment.  Low profile aluminum conveyors can be used where space is tight, allowing packaging machinery to easily roll up to the conveyors.  Stainless steel conveyors are ideal for washdown applications and for heavier products where the conveyor system may need a little extra strength.  HDPE, or all plastic conveyors, can be added to a system where acids, bleaches and other harsh chemicals are being packaged.  Such products, through spills, splashes or sometimes even fumes in the packaging environment, can have a negative effect on stainless steel or other metals.  The plastic construction of conveyors in these situations helps to lengthen the life of the conveyor system itself.
In addition to the construction material, a packager using an automated packaging system will want to choose a conveyor belt that suits the product and production method.  For example, heat resistant conveyor belting would likely be a necessity for certain molten products or products passing through a heat tunnel.  A number of other options are available on most power conveyor systems, including double railing systems for added stability, centralized controls and locking casters for mobility.  Though "standard" power conveyors are available in 5, 10, 15 and 20 foot lengths, almost any conveyor length is available.  In truth, most power conveyor systems will be designed and manufactured specifically for the packaging project of a unique customer.
For partially automated packaging systems or labor-driven packaging systems, non-power conveyors may be used alone or in combination with powered conveyors.  Non-power conveyors are also available in different models to meet the needs of the individual packager. 
Normally, non-power conveyors will be used at the end of a packaging system to move packed boxes or other containers in preparation for shipping.  However, this use is not the exclusive use of non-power conveyors.  Non-power conveyors may be used to move product from one packaging station to another.  For example, two workers may cap bottles using a hand-held capping machine and then send the capped containers down a non-power conveyor to a nearby labeling station.  Non-power conveyors may also be used to simply accumulate product for the next stage of packaging or for shipping.
These conveyors are available in several different models, including roller conveyors, skate conveyors and serpentine skate conveyors.  The first two of these three are fairly self explanatory.  Roller conveyors use a series of metal rollers and gravity (or a good push!) to move products, boxes and other containers from point A to point B.  Different size and strength rollers can be used on the conveyor system to handle different products and weights.
Rather than rollers, skatewheel conveyors use skate wheels.  The wheels on these conveyor systems can be positioned in different patterns to accomodate different products.  The wheels, like the rollers, spin and take advantage of gravity or a strong shove to move product and containers from A to B.  Serpentine skate conveyors also use skatewheels, but have the added advantage of a flexible frame.  The frame allows the conveyor to be positioned with curves or turns, making navigation around certain items or areas easier. Once production is finished, the serpentine skate conveyor can be collapsed and easily stored to save space.
Choosing the best conveyor system for your production floor can save both time and money by helping to maximize the efficiency of your packaging system.  If you have questions regarding conveyor systems, or if you would simply like more information on conveyor systems manufactured by Liquid Packaging Solutions, Inc., call LPS toll free today at 1-888-393-3693.