Revolutionizing Material Handling: The Impact Of Smart Conveyors

Industrial workhorses are conveyors. Put AC induction motors with set speeds and continuous belts out of your mind. The speed and sophistication with which modern conveyors can place components is mind-boggling. Among the available options are omnidirectional conveyors, small portions of direct-drive conveyors, and automated systems that propel individual carts across powered tracks. Many processes rely on conveyors to get things done, including butchering, packaging, and palletizing.

Production is where it all starts. Since the elusive batch of one has manufacturers chasing after it, processing ever-smaller amounts has supplanted the previous business strategy of storing warehouses with enormous numbers of a single item. 

Naturally, the manufactured goods must be transported to another manufacturing facility for further processing, to resellers, or, finally, to the end user. Quite simply, these figures are mind-boggling. Take Amazon Prime as an example; in 2017, it sent over 5 billion products. The secret ingredient to make all the magic happen is conveyor technology.

According to analysts, after reaching $8.3 billion in 2016, the worldwide conveyor market is expected to soar to $12.3 billion by 2022. This is equivalent to a CAGR of almost 7.5%, twice as high as the anticipated world economic growth for 2018.

Conveyor Smart Features

Smart conveyors are superior to traditional conveyors in many ways. They provide product tracking, collision avoidance, energy efficiency, predictive maintenance, and downtime reduction.

1. Monitoring Products

Smart conveyor systems may monitor the location, velocity, and orientation of certain items in real-time. They also have more complex uses, such as keeping track of when you get to the discharge station.

On the other hand, traditional conveyor systems look for items on the conveyor in its entirety. They cannot monitor the precise location of each product or the velocity of any given commodity. For instance, when considering merely belt speed, it is assumed that all materials, whether on or off the belt, would similarly move at this pace.

2. Preventing Collisions

Smart conveyor systems also benefit from AI-supported collision-free mobility. It is also possible to employ product monitoring characteristics like speed and location to align materials that are similar to one another.

This becomes necessary if the substance being conveyed is delicate or easily broken.

3. Reducing Energy Use

Because AI can detect specific materials and adjust the conveyor speed output based on the conveyor load, smart conveyor systems offer great potential for energy-efficient systems. In addition, when there is low demand, the AI may turn off the conveyors to save power.

In that area, which technological subsector is expanding at the quickest rate? Automated conveyors use motion control to provide millimeter-scale programmability in placement.

Advancement in Direct Drive Technology

In production, precision-moving conveyors are necessary. Stopping a part in front of an image sensor for inspection or presenting it to a robotic arm for a pick-and-place operation are two examples of when this can be necessary. With the help of motion control systems, components may be quickly and reliably positioned.

The quick and accurate motion needed for industrial applications may be achieved by traditional gear motors working closed loops, but there are better options than these. Whether you’re on the floor of a factory or warehouse or inside a machine, footprint is always an important issue in an industrial setting. The motor, gearhead, connection, and feedback system take up a lot of room, are expensive, require more maintenance, and have more potential failure sites.

The strategy can affect efficiency as well. Backlash can be introduced by gearheads. Motor shaft-load couplings can introduce wind up and compliance, reducing responsiveness and precision. Another option is direct-drive motors.

A direct-drive motor incorporates the motor into the system. Instead of using a connection to connect the motor shaft to the conveyor’s drive wheel, the motor shaft doubles as the drive wheel’s axle. This method maximizes torque while removing compliance. More design freedom, which is especially useful for frameless direct-drive motors. Unhoused rotors and stators are the initial components of frameless motors.

“The major benefit of frameless torque motors is that they can be incorporated into the conveyor, either at the ends of rollers or inside the roller,” remarks Ken Wyman, VP of marketing at Allied Motion Technologies (Amherst, New York). This method frequently results in the smallest design, with or without additional gearing stages.”

While the design and installation of a frameless motor necessitate more knowledge than that of a contained motor, consumers may collaborate with their vendors to make the process more efficient.

Automated conveyor belts

Sorting, palletizing, and depalletizing are typical operations for traditional conveyor systems, which employ lengthy, intricate designs. Modern industrial organizations require more efficient, space-saving, and economical placement solutions due to floor space and time concerns. Using innovative conveyors and relatively inexpensive motion components, Active Roller Belt (ARB) technology can reliably and quickly achieve even complex placement.

The technology revolves around the roller belt, which is essentially a belt with a series of rollers placed at an angle in the direction of travel and spinning freely. The product is being transported on the rollers. Underneath the carryway, actuators control the rollers, which place the load in the belt’s global coordinate system while moving in the local coordinate system.

The conveyor allows for quick linear and rotational positioning of components and redirection across various angles ranging from 30° to 90°. Integrating machine vision sensors into the system allows for a far more compact and simplified method of sorting a stream of items than would be achievable with traditional conveyor technology.

Advanced technology for smart conveyors

Building a machine or assembly line to carry out the same operations repeatedly was the definition of automation for almost a hundred years. Although the machinery was pricey, it would serve the business well for many years once the return on investment (ROI) was calculated due to the lengthy product life cycles. A new paradigm has emerged in modern times. The demand for diversity among consumers necessitates automation and transportation technologies that enable firms to meet this demand.

Oliver Hyatt, iTrak product manager at MagneMotion (Devens, Massachusetts), notes that end customers are demanding quicker and more flexible equipment because they desire mass customization and personalization, especially in consumer packaged goods. “They must complete this task within their current manufacturing facilities as they are not increasing their footprints significantly.”

In the end!

Modern digital technology has enabled the manufacturing and industrial sectors to boost output with less effort and time spent on resources. Users can benefit from smart conveyor systems since they offer a conveyancing solution for managing the flow of materials between different areas and departments of a manufacturing plant. In addition, they give solutions for transporting various items utilizing a single system. Its incorporation with digital technology has several benefits, including product tracking.