The shopfloors of the world have been transformed and improved no end by the advent of digital technology. Every assembly line, every production system and process has been touched by automation, computerisation and improved monitoring so that our factories and workshops are ever-more efficient and safe.
The conveyor belt, which has been with us for a couple of centuries now, is no stranger to improved technology either. As the backbone (almost literally) of most factories, the conveyor belt should be one of the first machines to receive innovations and process improvements, and it often is.
Here are just a few of the recent additions and innovations to conveyor belt technology that have made workplaces safer and more productive.
Pacing conveyor belt systems
These conveyor belts space out products, materials or components evenly along the belt. This is perfect for factories in which different outputs and belts merge so that component B arrives a second after component A, allowing the workers to pick and assemble them in an ordered rhythm.
There are many conveyor belts that use chain attachments nowadays. These attachments mean that objects and products can be moved and manipulated by the belt whilst travelling along it, so they are, for example, placed at the right angle to undertake the next stage of their journey.
If it’s important that components or materials are kept flat to the surface of the belt, then vacuum conveyors are perfect. Perforations in the belt draw air through to suck the objects flat. These belts are also useful for conveyors that slope upwards, or even have to turn upside-down.
Magnetic conveyor belts
Very important in the food industry, these conveyor belts use magnets to detect metal contaminants in food as it’s being processed. Once detected, the belt stops and the contaminated item can be rejected, either automatically or by a worker.
Backlit conveyor belts
Backlit conveyor belts are used in many industries and can reduce the error rate in production lines by up to 66%. The belts are lit up and so operatives can make visual inspections of components and products much more clearly as the contract between the belt and the item is vastly enhanced.
Conveyor belts of the future
Technology is always going to improve, that goes without saying, so even though our current generation of belts is the best we’ve ever had, they’re only going to get better too. There are several improvements that we can expect to see in the next few years.
Intelligent belts and rollers
Sensors embedded in individual rollers can weigh products or take other measurements from them as they pass, which will help to reduce error and enhance the quality and consistency of the output.
Faster belts to enhance productivity
Conveyor belts that are worked upon by humans tend to need speed limits applying to them – humans can only work so fast, and they are also at risk of injury from fast-moving machinery. With more and more industrial processes becoming automated, we may see faster belts being worked on by other machines – no fatigue, no lapse of concentration, no problems!