By Kate Nadeau, mk North America, Inc.
When you think of a conveyor you may think of a simple device, maybe with a belt or a set of rollers or both, designed to move product from one point to another. Or maybe you think of the check out counter at the grocery store. Or perhaps a scene in a TV show or even a video game.
Conveyors are all around us. They are prevalent in industrial, commercial, and retail environments. You can even find them in the agricultural, travel, tourism, entertainment, and food service industries.
Conveyors can be simple or complex machines. They can be designed to complete one specific task or a variety of tasks. In this article we are going to take a look at a specific type of conveyor system, called pallet-handling conveyors and how these conveyors can revolutionize and transform industrial conveyor applications.
What is a Pallet-Handling Conveyor System?
Before we can explore how pallet-handling conveyor systems can optimize, streamline, and increase production capacity it is important to define what exactly we are talking about. In this instance we are looking at what is technically referred to as a “workpiece pallet”. This is vastly different from a shipping pallet. A workpiece pallet is generally constructed out of a base plate which can be aluminum, steel, or even a plastic composite. They range in sizes from about 200 x 200 mm to over 1,200 x 1,200 mm. On the bottom of this base are runners or wear surfaces, designed to be replaced, which are in contact with the conveyor surface. The edges of the base plate can be framed with plastic or aluminum extrusion or left plain. The edges typically will have some sort of bumper, reliefs for engaging with stopping modules, as well as various other optional component. The pallet is also outfitted with locating bushings. The top surface of the base plate is designed to carry the product or workpiece, having been machined to accommodate the workpiece and any tooling necessary to hold it.
Conveying a product on a workpiece pallet provides a stable and consistent platform, which can easily be stopped, located, and rotated on the conveyor, making it easier to convey odd shaped or irregular products with ease. Furthermore, the product can easily be assembled and tested while on the pallet. All these features are what helps streamline and optimize the material handling process.
So now that we know what type of pallet we are discussing, what is a pallet-handling conveyor system? It is, to put it simply, a conveyor system designed to handle workpiece pallets. Timing belt, accumulating roller chain, flat top chain and driven roller are all conveyor types used in these systems. The workpiece pallet is typically conveyed on a dual strand version of one or multiple types of these conveyors, with the center of the conveyor being open to allow for stops, locates, and rotates to be mounted.
What Are Pallet Conveyor Stops, Locates and Rotates?
These components: pallet stops and queues, lift and located and lift and rotates, are commonly referred to as “system modules” and they are what takes a pallet conveyor from ordinary to extraordinary. These are the pallet-handling system modules that will help increase throughput and capacity through handling optimization. Pallets can be positively located, thus allowing the product to be worked on while it is still on the conveyor, either by a robot or human operator. The pallet, and thus workpiece, can also be rotated if necessary, thus increasing efficiency. Pallet stops allow for pallets to be accumulated or metered into the next process. They provide the required singulation between pallets for the locating and rotating modules, as well as transfer modules.
What are Transfer Modules?
In pallet-handling conveyor systems, transfer modules are what move the pallet between various elevations, mainlines and spur lines. They can maintain the pallet’s leading edge or transfer it at 90° thus changing the leading edge. They can send pallets to multiple levels of conveyors or off to different stations or processes along the production line. Some common transfer modules are vertical transfer units (VTUs) and right-angle transfers. The vast majority, but not all, transfer modules include a short section of conveyor and an actuator. Typically, the actuator is a pneumatic device, which is also true for the stops, locates and rotates. In addition to providing a means of presenting an empty pallet to the start of a system, transfer modules are responsible for significantly streamlining operations.
What About Concerns Over Pneumatic Devices?
Pneumatic devices are very commonplace in today’s manufacturing facilities; but as the concern over their energy inefficiencies and noise pollution rises it is important to be aware of alternatives. VersaMove from mk North America is an industry best pallet-handling conveyor system and one of the few conveyor manufacturers that offer an all-electric pallet-handling solution.
Ready to Get Started Optimizing and Streamlining Your Product or Assembly Processes?
It’s simple. If you are ready to get started, then contact mk North America. mk’s knowledgeable VersaMove applications engineers are ready to assist. They can review proposed layouts, make suggestions, and provide a quote. Don’t have a layout? That’s okay too. One of mk’s application engineers can help with that too, or you can access 3D models on your own with mk’s CAD360 conveyor configurator.
mk North America, Inc. has been providing conveyor, pallet-handling and aluminum extrusion solutions in the United States, Canada, and Mexico since 1988. VersaMove is a registered trademark of mk North America, Inc.
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