Gravity Conveyor

Gravity Conveyor

Gravity Conveyor

Conveyors date back thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians used primitive rollers acting like a conveyor to move large stones for the pyramids. The concept was the same, but today’s gravity conveyors use far more sophisticated conveying methods.

Gravity Conveyor
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Gravity conveyors have no external motor to power items along the conveyor line. Instead, as the name suggests, products move using a combination of gravity and sometimes, human assistance. These conveyors use wheels or rollers on which items move.

Skatewheel Conveyors

A skatewheel conveyor consists of a series of wheels built into a metal frame. Most frames use aluminum or steel. The wheels are made using a wide variety of materials. These often depend on the product or material conveyed. Materials used for skatewheels include galvanized steel, heavy-duty plastic and polyurethane. An axle rod inserts into the skatewheels with spacers holding the wheels in place. The skatewheels arrange in a pattern, so a minimum number of wheels always maintain contact with the item moving down the conveyor. This allows easier movement for conveying items.

Because gravity moves the product on the conveyor, lightweight products work best. Some typical items that work well on gravity conveyors include:

  • Cartons
  • Trays
  • Totes

There are many benefits in using a skatewheel gravity conveyor. The wheels tend to turn easily, requiring less energy to get products moving. Each wheel is independent of each other allowing smooth movement on curves. These units work in larger conveyor systems using power conveyors, but also work as standalone units too. The skatewheel gravity conveyor works best in applications where items are moved short distances.

The skatewheel conveyor does not work in every application. A major issue with these conveyors is an inability to tolerate products not having a flat bottom. Items such as burlap bags, containers with a large lip on the bottom or barrels do not work well with this conveyor system. Dust, debris and damp environments create problems for skatewheels and frequently prevent the wheels from operating correctly.

Roller Conveyors

Gravity roller conveyors use the same principles to move products as the skatewheel conveyors. The major difference is the type of mechanism used to convey products. Unlike a skatewheel, the roller stretches across the width of the conveyor.

The roller provides more support across the width of the product compared to the skatewheel, which only supports the product at specific points. This allows roller conveyors the ability to carry heavier loads. The roller also allows items such as those unable to convey on a skatewheel conveyor (items with a lip or uneven loads) to convey easily. Roller conveyors work well, but the rollers cannot be spaced too far apart or the item being conveyed will have problems moving down the line.

These conveyors also work independently or part of a larger system. The construction of roller conveyors also allow for easy set-up/teardown for frequent changes.

Oversized loads do not work well on rollers.

However, roller conveyors work well for a variety of products including:

  • Blocks
  • Bins
  • Lumber
  • Bagged items (peanuts, coils, etc)

Gravity conveyors have many uses as standalone units for short distance material handling and as part of a larger conveyor system.

The flexibility of set-up/teardown offers many benefits.

Gravity Conveyor – The Rundown

  • Skatewheel and roller are the most common gravity conveyors
  • Can operate as a standalone or as part of a larger system
  • Cannot flow up inclines
  • Skatewheel excellent for lightweight items
  • Roller conveyors work well with barrels and heavier objects
  • Oversize loads cause problems
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