This article originally appeared in the June print issue of IMPO.
In recent years, conveyor systems have gotten dramatically smarter. Many conveyor systems, subsystems and even components now have the ability to provide status reports back to the local control level and OEM for assistance in diagnosing issues before they create operational downtime.
With the intent to minimize unexpected downtime, the wealth of historical data and lessons learned are allowing component manufacturers, conveyor manufacturers and system integrators to build smarter systems and send alerts right to key individuals, whether they are standing right next to the equipment or vacationing, says Intelligrated conveyor product management supervisor, Tim Kraus.
According to Kraus, some of the main features and capabilities that clients are asking for include polybag handling capabilities for increases in direct to consumer order automation, reduced side-by-sides for greater system operational efficiency and increased throughputs to maximize ROI and allow for greater automation justification. Intelligrated customers are also looking for ways to minimize unexpected downtime and simplify maintenance complexity due to the changing labor market.
As conveyor technology continues to advance, Kraus expects to see the trend for smarter conveyor control continuing. “Intelligrated is introducing a new accumulation conveyor product that will reduce side-by-sides, jams and system downtime while also allowing for increased throughput by as much as forty-five percent,” he says. “Simple updates to the local logic on the conveyor will make this possible and allow automated material handling professionals to think differently about the capabilities of zero pressure accumulation conveyors.”
Following is a sample of some of the newest conveyor technology that’s available on the market right now, including food-safe options, control system and maintenance kits.
The Ergo Roller by Ergotech is omni-directional. Pulling or pushing a package across unidirectional rollers can cause muscle strains and other stresses, which, over time, can lead to injury and lost work-hours. In addition, the rollers are made from polyacetal plastic, which does not rust, is extremely durable and is corrosion resistant. Because corrosion is one of the leading causes of failure in metal conveyor rollers, this feature makes them especially suitable for wet work environments. The Ergo Rollers have an open construction which allows residue to fall through, thus preventing jams and line shutdowns. Their unique multi-axle design also makes them durable and flexible, so they never need lubricating, says the company.
Multi-Conveyor has built a 2:1 mild steel constructed conveyor system that merges over 100 products per minute from two lines into a single line – doubling the product/minute production rate – to feed an automated case packing machine. Individual baggers deposit on both lines at predetermined speeds providing minimum gaps between product in order to complete the vertical merge. The bags detected on the top conveyor are “injected” into the gaps on the bottom conveyor with assistance of vacuum metered belting prior to the merge. The system is controlled by a Rockwell L71 processor that communicates with Rockwell K6500 servo controllers over Ethernet using CIP motion. The Rockwell Automation 842E-CM Ethernet/IP CIP encoder provides feedback on the CIP network to gear the servo axes to the bottom conveyor for both speed and position control.
Global packaging solutions specialist, tna, launched the new tna roflo VM 3 high throw vibratory conveyor. The unique high throw design achieves the gentle transfer of sticky confectionery and difficult products, such as loose leaf fresh produce, through increased vertical motion to improve product throughput and line efficiency. These products often suffer from clumping and tend to stick to regular vibratory conveyors. This can slow down, or even stop, product distribution, drastically reducing line efficiency. To prevent this from occurring, this conveyor utilizes an innovative reaction base design, combined with an intelligent microprocessor, which achieves a much greater stroke length at a lower frequency.
Cambridge Engineered Solutions introduced the next generation of their strongest, most open metal belt, designed with a new and improved clinched edge. Stronger and more advanced than its predecessor, patent pending DURAFLEX EDGE is set to help reduce your downtime and improve your bottom line. The new line reduces edge breakage and bends with a true hinge in both directions, eliminating friction and metal fatigue and ensuring proper tracking. The company boasts excellent durability that ensures longer belt life. Also, because of its open metal design, the belt remains easy to clean with increased carrying capacity and tighter transfer capability.
Intelligrated announced the release of new performance monitoring enhancements to I-Watch sorter maintenance software. The upgraded I-Watch software enables Intelligrated technicians to complete regular, remote analyses of machine performance and condition information for IntelliSort sliding shoe sorters. I-Watch now transmits 145 sorter performance data points daily, including wear characteristics, operational statistics as well as maintenance alarms and events, to Intelligrated’s Customer Service & Support team. Technical service technicians complete regular reviews of this data to identify abnormalities, quickly diagnose and resolve problems and advise customer maintenance teams on steps they can take to maximize system utilization and extend the life of each sorter.
The new Devcon R-Flex Belt Repair Kit from ITW Polymers Adhesives North America is formulated to quickly repair tears, gouges and holes in styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR) heavy weight conveyor belts. Offering excellent abrasion resistance as well as superior adhesion, the R-Flex urethane compound is easy to mix and cures quickly — the repaired belt can be back in service just 90 minutes after application. In addition to the R-Flex resin and curing agent, each kit includes a 2-part surface conditioner, a mix bucket, a wooden paddle, a scrub pad, gloves, paper towels and a plastic spatula. R-Flex, which has a 2-year shelf life, mixes as liquid and within 3-4 minutes becomes non-sagging, self-leveling putty.
The new AquaGard 7100 Series Stainless Steel Flexible Chain Conveyor from Dorner can twist and turn into the tightest of spaces. The flexibility is ideal for product routing in wipe down sanitary applications in the food, packaging and pharmaceutical industries. As the footprint around machinery, production areas and plants continues to shrink, the AquaGard 7100 Series Stainless Steel Flexible Chain Conveyor is a great option to maximize available space. The conveyor is engineered to make tight turns, and be configured for inclines and declines to provide the ultimate in flexibility for customers. The innovative design includes powered micro pitch transfer modules and side transfer modules for maximum performance.