What, exactly, is a roller conveyor? If you’ve ever been through airport security, you’ve probably seen a roller conveyor. This conveyor type makes it easy to transport objects down a line, using either power, manual force or gravity. You’ve probably pushed your carry-on luggage and plastic bins down the rollers, until they eventually meet a conveyor belt. That’s just one of the uses for a roller conveyor—they’re used in many industries for similar purposes.
Origin of roller conveyors
The first patent for a roller conveyor was granted in 1908. Hymie Goddard of Indiana designed a roller conveyor that used internal ball bearings to transport goods down the conveyor line. It wasn’t until Henry Ford—famous for his assembly line manufacturing model—started using roller conveyors in 1913 that they became truly popular.
By the 1920s, roller conveyors were becoming quite popular. They could handle longer distances and heavier objects, which made them ideal for manufacturers and warehouses. By the time World War II rolled around, the lack of raw materials led to manufacturing innovation: the rollers were made from polymers and synthetic rollers. Not only did this make it possible to continue manufacturing during the war, but it kept maintenance costs down.
Today, roller conveyors use a variety of materials as well as computers to control the conveyor functions. As always, innovations are designed to increase efficiency while keeping costs down.
Types of roller conveyors
Here’s a closer look at the main types of roller conveyors. Think of the potential uses for these roller conveyors in your own operations:
- Manual: Manual roller conveyors are usually like the ones you see in airport security. You need to push the objects across the cylinders to move them down the line. While this isn’t very efficient for automated manufacturing processes, it makes it far easier to move heavy objects across distances. Since they’re completely manual, they require no power and less maintenance.
- Gravity: Gravity roller conveyors are structured with a decline. You place a box (or other object) at the top of the conveyor, and gravity helps move it down the line until it reaches the appropriate destination. They don’t require any electric power, either, so you’ll save on power and maintenance costs. One drawback to gravity roller conveyors is that you can’t control the speed at which the objects move, so if you’re shipping heavy or fragile items, they may get damaged.
- Powered: Powered roller conveyors can control the speed at which an item moves. They’re also better for transporting goods across long distances—it’s not practical to do so with manual roller conveyors. Plus, each conveyor can be separated into “zones,” with different controllers for each zone. This allows owners to fully regulate how fast an item moves across the conveyor belt. While they require more maintenance than other varieties, separate zones allow the rest of the system to keep running if one motor fails.
In short, roller conveyors are simple, convenient and effective ways to move heavy or large objects. To purchase your own, or to learn more about the uses of a roller conveyor, call M.B. McKee Company, Inc.
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