Create a free account to continue

Building Faster Retractable Conveyors

How KLEENLine designed and built the fastest retractable conveyor system, which operate at speeds up to 1000 feet per minute.

KLEENLine's retractable conveyor systemRetractable conveyor systems are used in many industries, but most often in food and pharmaceutical. The determining factor in the performance of these systems is speed. The sytem comprises transpositors, shuttles, dealers and reciprocators, which can be thought of as:

  • Dealers deal out rows of products.
  • Transpositors transport product in another direction.
  • Shuttles move product in a number of directions back and forth, and so on.

Basically, what these systems do is “pull the rug out from under” a product so that it drops down to a second conveyor that’s going in another direction. An example of where this might be used is a bakery product that has several layers of ingredients, and must move in and out of an oven.

For the food processing industry, retractable conveyors need to be really fast and reliable. They must also be able to handle frequent wash-downs.

KLEENLine has been designing and manufacturing the fastest retractable conveyor systems that operate at speeds as high as 1000-feet per minute with a motion acceleration and deceleration of less than 0.1 second. The systems require a torque of over 1000 inch-pounds to activate the movement.

According to Richard A. Glazier, Automation Engineering Manager for KLEENLine, “We’ve been looking for a product that could overcome the friction problems of linear bearings. We needed higher torques for the machines without having to bump up the size of the motors, which gets expensive. Friction was our biggest culprit stopping us from fulfilling our goals.”

The machines used to use a metal rack and pinion system that is also terribly noisy, and creates particulates that can gum up the linear bearings or get into the food if not protected. These systems also produce a lot of friction and need to be lubricated, another problem in some food processing situations.

“The real challenge with that system design was that the linear bearing shafts would score and seize up. Some of the problem could be solved using bigger servos and bigger amps to overcome the higher torques required to maintain the speed of the system. “I’ve been looking for the right products to remedy this problem for quite a while,” says Richard. “When I ran across the PowerCore components produced by Intech (Closter, NJ), it was the perfect solution.”

“Intech’s PowerCore pinions and cam followers took care of two of the major problems with our rack and pinion system at once: the PowerCore components virtually eliminated the problem of friction, which was a defining factor in the reduction of noise in the system, reducing it by half,” says Richard.

KLEENLine is always on a very tight schedule. By discussing the challenges with Intech’s custom design group, KLEENLine was able to find the help they needed to be able to clarify a design that would replace the metal-on-metal rack and pinion system with the PowerCore products.

“Their ability to customize to our needs was essential,” Richard said. We had the design finished in less than 24 hours.”

A few specially made systems retract a full 12 feet. The way the standard systems is designed and manufactured, they operate at a speed of 70 cycles per minute, which is equivalent to 140 strokes per minute. 

Intech’s PowerCore pinions and cam followers provide unsurpassed corrosion resistance, operate quietly, need no lubrication, absorb shock and vibration, do not wear out the rail, and can be washed-down frequently, and are so strong that there is no scoring of the shafts.

According to Richard, though, the best benefit from using PowerCore products is that they were able to eliminate friction. This saved the company from having to research, order, and design in larger motors, which was a great cost savings on time and materials.

The PowerCore components allow the machines to operate faster using less torque and energy than was needed before, providing another Intech solution towards the goal of achieving sustainability.

For information visit