One of the most common types of conveyor lines is the assembly line.
Conveyors are a common type of machine used to move materials and are found in many areas of industry and business. The technology can take many forms and the differences are primarily a matter of the exact mechanism by which the conveyor moves materials. Conveyors are used to move almost any type of raw material, parts and finished products in factories, food in processing plants, crops during harvest and packaging in distribution centers. They can be passive or powered and can be designed to move their content a few meters or several kilometers.
Conveyor lines move materials or products from one defined location to another along an assembly line.
Passive transport technology relies on an external force to move the object and only provides a means to facilitate that movement. A very simple type of passive conveyor is a roller conveyor. A roller belt consists of a series of rotating rollers, usually made of metal and mounted on a structure similar to the rungs of a ladder, but much closer together. An object placed on the belt and with a small push slides quickly and easily along the rollers, which reduces friction. This type of transport is common on trucks, small businesses and loading docks.
Electrical systems make up the bulk of conveyor technology and take many forms. Electric roller conveyors work in the same way as passive rollers, but they use machines to turn the rollers that propel the object or package. Complicated networks of such carriers are found in parcel and mail distribution centers. Belt conveyors consist of a large belt that spans and rotates around two or more cylindrical pulleys. A typical checkout lane in a supermarket is a good example, although these types of conveyors can also be extremely large and are sometimes used to transport mining products and waste over distances of several kilometers.
Another common type of conveyor is the bucket conveyor, which consists of a series of containers interconnected in series and the machinery to move them in a rotating cycle. Bucket conveyors typically carry material from one place to another, where the material is dumped, and then back to the source to be refilled. Chain conveyors are conveyors that use machines and gears to move a long loop of chain. The chain can have frames, to which parts or goods are attached, or be mounted high with hooks.
Many types of modern conveyor technology have been developed for specific purposes. Conveyor technology is at the heart of the assembly line, one of the most important developments in the history of the industry. Magnetic conveyors, monorail conveyors and even pneumatic conveyors, which use jets of compressed air to move materials, are common in the industry today.
Other forms of transportation technology were also developed over the centuries. Screw conveyors, based on the Archimedes screw principle dating from ancient Greece, consist of a large propeller fixed around a central axis. The entire assembly is encased in a tight fitting cylinder. Material fed into the propeller at one end is moved towards the other end as the propeller rotates.
Timber chutes, a primitive transport technology, used the power of flowing water and gravity to transport logs along wooden chutes, from logging areas in mountainous areas to rivers or sawmills in valleys and coastal areas. They were primarily used in the American West, although logging canals have also been used historically in other parts of the world. Some of them were up to 60 miles (100 km).