Most conveyor drives compete on a uniform speed vs. torque curve, but some are much quieter than others.
A new conveyor system from SmartMove Modular Conveyors, Fall River, Mass.,
recently has been adapted to applications that require moving product extremely quietly and efficiently. “Increasingly, conveyors are moving off the factory floor and being installed in office-type environments such as pharmacies and long-term care facilities,” says Chris Caron, national director. “Our customers can now enjoy low-noise conveyors that are simple to install, consume minimum power, maintain long life cycles, and are safe for online operators.”
To achieve this system, customers no longer need to use a traditional design approach where they select the components that a conveyor manufacturer assembles and installs as a finished unit. While typical, this method requires the customer have a higher than average knowledge of conveyor system design and operation. Often the outcome is a conveyor that does not operate even according to the customer’s own specifications.
Another approach, which Modular Conveyors recommends, is to design and build a complete ‘off the shelf’ but modular system.
SmartMove Conveyor produces a full line of assembled conveyor systems like the one
above for a variety of markets, including product assembly, automated packaging,
industrial and manufacturing inspection, numerous sorting functions, and online testing.
Each system is modular in design, produces low noise, and
includes the company’s safe Snap-Link Belting system.
Keep it simple
The modular design approach has been around for quite some time. SmartMove
conveyors, for example, use an engineered modular frame, a non-tensioning drive
system, self-lubricated belts, and ‘safety-yellow’ polypropylene belts with electrostatic
discharge (ESD) properties required for electronics assembly and testing.
These modular conveyor systems are shipped fully assembled in a variety of in-stock
sizes. Units range from 2 to 60 ft long. They are also available from 6 to 30-in. wide, in
3-in. increments. Multi-level configurations are available as well. SmartMove Modular
Conveyors select specific motion control systems to help simplify the installation. “We
fit our conveyor systems with motors and controls made by Oriental Motor,
located in Torrance, California,” says Caron. These units are variable speed, direct-drive
brushless dc motors that typically consume less power than competitive motors with the
same speed and torque ranges.
They use standard 110-115VAC single-phase supplies. Just “plug and play” to
obtain speeds to 200 fpm with loads to 200 lb. Oriental Motor’s AXU Series
includes the motor and drive unit. Caron says, “Energy usage has become increasingly
important in designing next generation conveyors for the industries we address.” The
series most often used on these conveyors combines a compact 3.15-in. square brushless
dc motor frame size with a speed control unit that consumes less than 25W. Other
available motors include frame sizes from 2.36 to 3.54-in., ranging from 1/75 hp (10W)
to 1/8 hp (90W). Rated torque for the series is from 0.4 to 260 lb-in., and speed range is
from 0.56 to 2000 rpm.
The Oriental Motor AXU Series variable- speed control system is available in a variety of
specifications and component sizes to meet all of SmartMove Conveyors’ needs. This
system is the AXU425A-GN.
Quiet and long running
According to Caron, every conveyor system designed by the company uses Oriental
Motor components, even when customers ask for the least expensive motors. “We find
that the whisper-quiet operation of these motors has become vital to customers, especially
those who place conveyors in office-like environments.”
The appropriate motors and speed controllers are selected early in the design cycle. High
quality components help to keep the systems up and running for years without
maintenance or repair. For instance, as a reliability test, Modular Conveyors continuously
ran a conveyor system using Oriental Motor variable speed components in their lab for
four years and never experienced a breakdown at any level.
The company’s Snap-Link Belting system considerably improves conveyor system
reliability. It reduces wear and tear on every component in the system. For example,
when a conveyor overloads or jams, the belt separates and stops the line. This ensures
that the motor, speed control system, and belting components are never overstressed.
Stopping the system by separating the belt lets an operator reach into the system to
correct the problem without being harmed.
In contrast, a standard belt and motor system could seriously injure an operator when the
line kicked back into operation after a jam was released. But the Snap-Link system has no
such hazard. Here, after the jam clears, the belt returns back to operation in just a few
minutes. Further, during an overhead jam, the separated belt reduces the chances of
components backing up and falling off the conveyor.
The low-noise motor and the self-lubricated belts help keep sound pollution to a
minimum and better conforms to OSHA’s strict regulations. Also, lower noise levels
reduce operator fatigue and make it easier for them to be more aware of jams or backups.
Says Caron, “We’ve taken into consideration many concerns with these situations,
including safety, low-noise generation, and a need for long-life components. Since we
manufacture and sell our conveyors fully assembled, we have to balance these issues,
while providing a device that works within customer specifications for weight
Filed Under: Factory automation, Conveyors, Motion control • motor controls