What is an accumulation conveyor?

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An accumulation conveyor is a specialized material transport mechanism that is used in applications where goods require queuing or accumulation at some point in the transport route. Similar in many ways to a conventional roller conveyor, the accumulation conveyor differs in that it includes mechanisms that allow sections of the conveyor to be slowed down or stopped completely to allow goods to be picked up at that point. This is typically accomplished by dividing the conveyor into short, individually driven sections that include sensors and drive clutches, which allows individual sections to be operated, slowed down or stopped at will. This functionality is commonly used in situations where palletizing, sorting or sealing operations require goods to accumulate on the conveyor rather than constantly flowing.

Roller conveyors are material transport mechanisms commonly used in a wide variety of shipping facilities. This mechanism normally consists of a steel frame with a series of cylindrical rollers arranged sequentially within its outer members. Generally, the rollers are positioned so that they are in constant contact with each other. This allows a single driven roller to transfer its motion to all rollers in the series, thus driving the entire conveyor. In this way, a load that has been placed on the conveyor at any point will be transported along the entire length of the conveyor on the moving rollers.

This arrangement works well in situations where goods must move from one point to another without any stopping for intermediate action to be taken. Where such stops are required, however, an accumulation conveyor is typically used. These machines are in many ways similar to their conventional siblings, with a continuous run of rollers along the length of the conveyor. The main difference between the accumulation conveyor and conventional types is a series of individual sections or zones that are created along the conveyor route.

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A single motor usually drives the entire conveyor, with each individual zone having two drive points, one at each end of the section. The first point, which is equipped with a remotely controlled clutch, actuates that section, and the final actuation point is used to transfer the actuation to the next section. In this way, the entire accumulation conveyor is driven simultaneously with the ability – because of the clutches – to stop a specific section of the belt when needed. Stops are carried out through motion or pressure sensors located at strategic points along the conveyor route. This allows goods on the belt to be queued at a defined point when actions such as loading, palletizing or gluing boxes are required.

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