Demand for intelligent and efficient conveyor systems

Custom designs of modern automated high-speed packaging line conveyors, such as this one from NCC Automated Systems, have lane switching and combining capabilities to speed up product flow and allow for easy switching of product sizes and SKUs. Photos courtesy of NCC Automation Systems
Whether a retrofit, retrofit or new installation, conveyor systems must accommodate existing automation systems, consume less energy and be smarter than ever – able to adapt to changes in product or packaging sizes within a shift. At the same time, cleanliness must meet FDA, USDA and 3-A dairy hygiene standards. Many conveyance projects are application specific and often require design work. Unfortunately, supply chain and labor issues can significantly delay custom-designed projects, so adequate planning and scheduling is required.
According to a recent Research and Markets study, “Conveyor Systems Market by Industry”, the global conveyor systems market size is expected to grow from US$9.4 billion in 2022 to US$12.7 billion in 2027, with a compound annual growth rate will be 6%. Key drivers include increased adoption of customized automated material handling solutions based on niche specifications across a variety of end-use industries, as well as the growing need to handle high volumes of goods, particularly in the consumer/retail, food and beverage markets.
According to the report, continued investment in research and development by conveyor system manufacturers and growing supply chain networks will drive demand for conveyor solutions over the forecast period. According to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, consumption of goods in developed countries will grow to approximately US$30 trillion by 2025. This growth is expected to increase industrial automation penetration and demand for efficient material handling systems.
Although some specialized applications in the food industry (e.g., bulk and dry foods) typically involve enclosed tubular conveyor systems (e.g., vacuum, drag, etc.), research shows that belt conveyors are expected to be the largest segment by type. and also one of the most popular segments. fastest growing markets. Belt conveyors can handle large volumes at significantly lower costs per ton-kilometer than other conveyors and can travel long distances more easily and at lower cost. While many food and beverage applications specifically use sealed tube conveyors to minimize dust and maintain cleanliness, research shows that belt conveyors work well with specialized food and beverage conveyor systems, especially in packaging and warehousing/in delivery system.
Regardless of conveyor type, cleanliness is a major factor in our industry. “Changing hygiene requirements continue to be a key topic of discussion among food and beverage manufacturers,” said Cheryl Miller, director of marketing at Multi-Conveyor. This means there is a great need for stainless steel building systems built to strict health codes such as the FDA, USDA or dairy agencies. Compliance may require flush bolt construction, protective pads and continuous welds, sanitary supports, patterned cleaning holes, stainless steel frames and specially rated power transmission components, and sanitary 3-A standards require actual certification.
ASGCO Complete Conveyor Solutions offers belts, idlers, primary and secondary belt cleaners, dust control, on-board devices and more, as well as maintenance and repair services, belt splicing and laser scanning. Marketing manager Ryan Chatman said food industry customers are looking for antimicrobial conveyor belts and edge belts to prevent food contamination.
For traditional belt conveyors, using edge drive belts can make sense for a number of reasons. (See FE Engineering R&D, June 9, 2021) FE interviews Kevin Mauger, President of SideDrive Conveyor. When asked why the company chose an edge-driven conveyor, Mauger suggested that the conveyor could be driven at multiple points to maintain even belt tension. Additionally, because there are no rotating rollers or cages, the conveyor is easier to clean, which helps reduce the risk of food contamination.
However, belt conveyors with independent rollers/motors have several advantages over conventional gearboxes and motors, especially from a hygiene point of view. Van der Graaf President Alexander Canaris pointed out some of the problems in an interview with FE Engineering’s R&D department a few years ago. Since the motor and gears are located inside the drum and are hermetically sealed, there are no gearboxes or external motors, eliminating the breeding ground for bacteria. Over time, the protection rating of these components has also increased to IP69K, allowing them to be washed with harsh chemicals. The roller assembly fits standard and thermoplastic conveyor belts with sprocket systems to provide position-controlled indexing.
ASGCO’s Excalibur Food Belt Cleaning System scrapes sticky dough off the belt before it can move any further, causing the belt to become skewed or get caught in bearings or other parts. The device can be used with other sticky substances such as chocolate or protein. Photo courtesy of ASGCO
Cleaning and minimizing downtime are of great importance these days, and cleaning in place (CIP) is becoming more of a necessity than a nice-to-have. Rick Leroux, vice president and general manager of Luxme International, Ltd., a manufacturer of tubular chain conveyors, sees growing interest in CIP conveyors. In addition, conveyors are often equipped with components to clean product contact parts to extend the intervals between cleaning cycles. As a result, equipment runs cleaner and lasts longer. The takeaway, Leroux said, was that longer intervals between multiple chemical cleanings before wet cleaning meant increased uptime and line productivity.
An example of a belt cleaning tool is the ASGCO Excalibur food grade belt cleaning system that was installed in a bakery in the Midwest. When installed on a conveyor belt, the stainless steel (SS) block prevents dough from being carried away. In bakeries, if this equipment is not installed, the return dough will not come off the belt, accumulate on the surface of the belt and end up on the return roller, causing belt movement and edge damage.
Tubular drag conveyor maker Cablevey is seeing growing interest from food and beverage manufacturers in transporting bulk ingredients and frozen foods, said Clint Hudson, director of sales. The benefit of using a tube conveyor to transport dry bulk products is that it minimizes dust and keeps the area around it clean. Hudson said interest in the company’s Clearview pipes is growing because processors can see what’s going on inside the product and visually inspect conveyors for cleanliness.
Leroux says attention to hygiene in packaging is just as important as in production. For example, he listed some key points:
Leroux also noted that processors are concerned about power consumption. They would rather see a 20-horsepower power unit than a 200-horsepower one. Food manufacturers are also looking for systems and equipment with low mechanical noise levels that meet plant clean air standards.
For new factories, it can be easy to select modular conveyor equipment and integrate it into a single system. However, when it comes time to upgrade or replace existing equipment, a custom design may be required, and most conveyor companies can use “custom” systems. Of course, one potential problem with custom equipment is the availability of materials and labor, which some suppliers still report as a problem in scheduling actual project completion dates.
“The vast majority of the products we sell are modular components designed to meet a wide range of customer needs,” Cablevey’s Hudson said. “However, some customers have very specific requirements that our components cannot meet. Our engineering department provides design services to meet these specific needs. Custom components take longer to reach customers than our off-the-shelf products, but delivery times are generally acceptable ”
Most conveyor needs can be met with a system tailored to a specific plant or plant. ASGCO provides a full range of design and engineering services,” Chatman said. Through its wide range of partners, ASGCO can significantly reduce supply chain bottlenecks and deliver products and services on time.
“All markets, not just food and beverage, are facing unforeseen challenges due to the impacts of supply chain collapse and pandemic-induced labor shortages,” Multi-Conveyor’s Miller said. “Both of these anomalies lead to an increase in demand for finished products. goods, which means: “We need something, and we needed it yesterday.” The packaging industry has been ordering equipment for many years, with a turnaround time of approximately two months. The current global manufacturing situation is not going to spin out of control anytime soon. Planning ahead for plant expansion equipment, knowing that supplies will be well above normal levels, should be a priority for all FMCG companies.
“However, we also offer two pre-engineered standard conveyors for more timely delivery,” Miller adds. The Success Series offers standard, simple, straight chains that do not require flushing. The processor selects predefined widths and curves and provides length options. Multi-Conveyor also offers Slim-Fit sanitary flush systems in preset lengths and widths. Miller said that despite higher demand, they are still more affordable than custom conveyor solutions.
Multi-Conveyor recently installed a system to process frozen bagged chicken. As with most modern developments, flexibility is key to keeping the product moving. Issues faced by this application include:
Some products require only two packaging machines to deliver the product in two lanes directly to the X-ray system. If one bagger fails, the product will be transferred to a third bagger and transported to the transfer machine, which will then be positioned to deliver the bags to an alternate conveyor path in case of downtime. The bagger is now empty.
Some products require three packaging machines to achieve the required throughput. The third packer delivers the product to a transfer machine, which distributes the bags evenly between the top two backup conveyors of the packer channels. The third flow of the packaging machine then enters the corresponding up/down servo connection on each lane. The servo belt on the lower level product allows bags from the upper level to fall into the hole created by the servo belt.
Multi-conveyor control systems and bag handling conveyors are part of a larger overall system that also includes everything from two case loading lines to single unloading streams, full case indexing and consolidation, metal detectors, an overhead roller conveyor and then a palletizing line. . CPU. The bag and box system is controlled by a PLC and includes more than three dozen variable frequency drives and several servos.
Planning large material handling systems often involves more than simply placing or positioning conveyors in a layout. In addition to meeting the physical specifications of the plant, conveyors must also meet electrical specifications, have compatible materials, and meet corrosion, service load, wear, sanitation and material transfer integrity requirements, Leroux said. A custom designed conveyor is usually a better product designed to provide higher long-term value to the processor because it is specifically designed to meet the needs of a specific application.
The application of a smart conveyor really depends on what the food processor wants in a particular application. To empty a large bag of powder or granular material into a container, you may simply need to turn the scale function on or off. However, Chatman says automation is an important factor in making conveyor systems more efficient. The driving force behind automation is ultimately to improve the quality of the finished product and the speed of the system.
Multi-Conveyor uses operator-control technology communication covering functional design. “We use HMIs and servo drives to provide faster and more efficient changeovers for different packaging, cartoning and palletizing line configurations,” says Miller. “Flexibility in product shape, weight and size is coupled with increased productivity and future expansion.” communication systems.
Leroux said that while smart conveyors are available from several vendors, they have not yet reached a high level of adoption due to the capital costs of incorporating the smart components and associated management packages required to use the data collected from the conveyors.
However, he says the main driver for the food industry to make conveyors smarter is the need to track and verify the cleaning process using hygienic CIP applications at the point of destruction, RTE or transfer to packaging.
As part of the cleaning program, smart conveyors need to record a batch SKU and associate that SKU with water temperature, soak time, spray pressure, water temperature, and wet cleaning solution conductivity for each alkali, acid, and sanitizer for the sanitization cycle. Cleaning stage. Leroux says the sensors can also monitor air temperature and drying time during the forced thermal air drying phase.
Validation of consistently repeated and carefully executed sanitation cycles can be used to confirm that there is no change to a proven sanitation process. Intelligent CIP monitoring alerts the operator and can abort/abort the cleaning cycle if cleaning parameters do not meet the parameters and protocols specified by the food manufacturer. This control eliminates the need for food producers to deal with substandard batches that must be rejected. This prevents bacteria or allergens from being introduced into the final product prior to packaging from improperly cleaned equipment, thereby reducing the risk of a product recall.
“Smart conveyors enable gentle handling and high productivity in ready-to-eat food production,” FE, October 12, 2021.
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Post time: Oct-13-2023