Conveyors are material handling systems that can move materials and products from one place to another. Due to this, they are an integral part of present-day manufacturing. There are several kinds of conveyor systems, each designed to move product or material from inlet to outlet. They find many uses in practically every industry, thanks to their many capabilities.
In this definitive article, our focus will be on vertical conveyors, i.e., the conveyors that carry products from one elevation to another. We will look at the different types, uses, designs, and basic functionalities of vertical conveyors and the common mistakes you must keep an eye out for while setting them up.
What Are Vertical Conveyors?
Vertical conveyors move objects and products from one elevation to the other, lowering and/or raising a load to varying levels in the supply line. They are different from conveyor elevators in the sense that vertical conveyors have their own national safety code, i.e., ANSI/ASME B20:1 Safety Standards for Conveyors .
Moreover, vertical conveyors aren’t built keeping in mind the same standards of passenger elevators. Typically, vertical conveyors lie between 2 horizontal conveyors and can keep movement constant via vertical offsets. They use belts, buckets, screws, carts-on-track, and other forms of conveying technology to move objects and products either up or down in elevation.
Vertical conveyors can be electrically-powered or gravity-actuated and save significantly more energy than inclined conveyors. They are commonly used in most industrial settings. They’re most beneficial for intermittent, low-frequency vertical transfers, with the exception of a few cases. Moreover, due to their minimal on-floor footprint, a lot of space can be optimized.
The most standard applications of vertical conveyors are for minimizing the floor space, vertical accumulation systems, tying multiple floors together, drop-off and pick-up points for vehicles, and several more specific use cases.
They are applicable in chemical processing, automotive manufacturing, airports, warehouse distribution, recycling, food packaging, and several other industries. Now, we look at some examples of these vertical conveyors to see how they excel in various settings.
Types of Vertical Conveyors
There are several different forms of vertical conveyors. You may come across many iterations of this basic design during your search, so various types are present on the list. In this section, we break down some of the most prevalent subcategories of vertical conveyors to help buyers understand which will be the most suited for their job.
A scissor lift conveyor is a high-strength resolute vertical conveyor that can move heavyweight objects up to 60-72” in height. While this particular conveyor lift system may not be practical and helpful for tall heights, they allow for vertical manipulation of objects that are too bulky for other conveying means, from capacities of 500-100,000 lbs.
They usually have a horizontal conveyor on the platform, which enables materials to convey off the scissor lift once it is in place. The typical movement rate for scissor lifts is 4 items per minute. However, this depends on how high the altitude change is and the application itself.
The discharge and feed ends can be multidirectional if needed. The horizontal conveyor's direction can be perpendicular or parallel to the scissor arms. They’re usually adopted in aerospace, metallurgy, automotive, and other high-weight applications.
Continuous Vertical Conveyor
The prime objective of continuous vertical conveyors is to keep the material continuously in motion via vertical sections of the supply line. They fulfill this goal by adopting shelves/trays/platforms that originate from a horizontal conveyor.
These sections move a vertical shaft upwards automatically and then deposit back onto another similar kind of horizontal conveyor. They’re relatively faster than the former types of conveyors as they can move up to 60 items in one minute. They can be easily controlled, have optional safety features, and are set up in S or C shapes.
They consume a small amount of carbon footprint while still delivering an outstanding capacity conveyor that keeps products in the horizontal orientation. Moreover, continuous vertical conveyors are extensively used throughout the industry to transport kegs, bags, trays, boxes, tires, rims, etc.
Spiral conveyors, also called bottle conveyors, are high throughput vertical conveyors that can move several items constantly in a spiraling motion. They don’t interrupt the conveying process, enabling materials and objects to move seamlessly from one elevation to another without transferring to other equipment.
They sport a high capacity of up to 3,000 lbs at 200 ft. per minute per conveyor, minimal operating footprint, and can be powered by only one drive (however, multitrack designs might require more power).
It’s vital to note that the objects will be slanted at every point on this conveyor system, so some materials like liquids should be contained, or they’ll spill. These vertical conveyors are perfect for multi-level transport, mezzanines, and applications like a bottle, snack food, carton, and box transport.
Vertical Screw Conveyor
The vertical screw conveyor/elevator is beneficial in conveying bulk, semi-solids, and semi-fluid materials up and down an upright shaft using a screw-shaped shaft called an auger. They consume a minimal footprint and are excellent at controlling a uniform rate of materials. This vertical conveyor elevator is mainly used in food and chemical production, wash water facilities, etc.
What are Vertical Reciprocating Conveyors?
Vertical reciprocating conveyors (VRCs), also known as reciprocating mezzanine lifts, carry items through a horizontal platform that can be powered or gravity actuated. This platform is typically a horizontal conveyor and can move up or down several levels to serve numerous floors.
There can be several conveyor platforms, which generally are in over-under or side-by-side arrangements. They can move almost 5 times in one minute, depending on the product's weight, height, and the number of stops.
Moreover, VRCs can discharge in all four directions. These conveyors can be the classic 4-column design or can be 2-column, or even without any columns, depending on the desired geometry.
This conveyor type provides a more controllable alternative to chutes and other dropping conveyor systems and can tackle complicated and fragile objects and materials. They help convey boxes, luggage, trays, pallets, totes, and other products where multiple levels need to be connected.
Basically, VRC is a type of vertical lift that resembles so much to another lift we are familiar with – the conveyor elevator . Unlike elevators, a VRC lifts cargo material instead of lifting people .
These lifting conveyors are the ideal solution for constructing flow racks in distribution centers. They can change the height of handling during operations. They can include different types of conveyors such as strip, roller, chain, and belt conveyors.
The inventory can be found on the shelves, and a lifting conveyor brings the item from a high place to a low place. Lifting devices allow you to reverse, lift, and tilt handled items. Within an assembly line, lifting conveyors will enable you to change transport direction, combine two transport lines, and change the orientation.
Lifting conveyors have the possibility of adapting conveyors to clients’ specific needs. They also have a robust design and permit swift assembly and delivery of conveyors. Different types of lifting conveyors include tilting conveyors and tipplers.
Tippers are devices used to alter the orientation of the transported objects and materials by toppling or tilting the transported item. Tilting conveyors are a group that lift on one side to allow seamless transition from one transporting line to the other to ensure connection to transport lines positioned on a lower or higher level.
However, most people fail to comprehend that VRCS aren’t elevators and mustn’t be used to carry people. Elevators are vertical conveyors that are typically used to lower and lift cargo. They can link two or more levels of transport lines based on the special conditions and requirements.
Elevator conveyors are powered by gasoline engines, electricity, or hand cracking. The continuous belt moves materials from one elevation or height to another. The cleats that hold the material as it goes up are why they call it an elevator because it “elevates” it to a higher point.
This apparent distinction of moving people vs. moving materials is actually a very significant difference between a VRC (lift) and an elevator. By being designed to carry just materials, VRCs get treated quite differently in the law’s eyes than elevators do.
For instance, VRCs are not required to meet the same safety standards as elevators because the former shouldn’t ever be used to transport people, while the latter can. This is excellent news for company owners as it indicates far fewer safety inspections than elevators call for.
Even though VRCs do not need to meet the elevator’s safety standards, they’re still relatively safe, provided they’re used properly. In the long run, VRCs actually make it much safer for workers responsible for material handling and freight lifts to work in factories.
How Do VRCs Work?
VRCs are economical and safe to lower and raise materials and objects in warehouses, factories, industrial plants, distribution facilities, institutions, or anywhere supplies or products required to be moved from one level to the other level. The main components of VRCs include a carriage, guide columns, and a hydraulic or mechanical actuating mechanism.
There are two kinds of VRCs or lifting solutions: Mechanical VRCs and Hydraulic VRCs. Both kinds are responsible for vertical lifts, freight lifts, and material handling. The difference between hydraulic and mechanical VRCs is quite simple. One is lifted by a mechanical hoist, and the other by hydraulics. The type of hoist may differ.
For example, the VRCs PWI builds utilize an electric hoist due to their seamless operation and enhanced efficiency. They also have distinctive capabilities. As far as lifting capabilities are concerned, the mechanical VRCs will provide you a much more extensive range than hydraulic VRCs. They also have a more extended lifespan than the latter.
The only drawback with mechanical VRCs is that they have a more significant upfront cost. With time, you’ll probably save money by selecting a mechanical VRC, which is the option most people will go with. While some VRCs may be mechanical and some may be hydraulic, they have the same purposes.
VRCs move freight from one floor to another floor. Mainly, VRCs are used as a fragment of mezzanines within a building or a warehouse. Usually, the load is kept on the platform of the VRC, and a gate door is shut behind it. The whole assembly is typically contained in a cage to ensure that your stuff does not try to escape when moved from one floor to the other.
Benefits of Vertical Reciprocating Conveyors
There are several advantages to using a VRC to lower and raise materials from one level to another:
- Conveniently move all sizes, shapes, and weights of loads.
- Patented, advanced safety features safeguard materials and workers.
- An economical and space-saving solution to transport materials, specifically when compared to inclined conveyors.
- Safer and better than using a forklift to move materials between different levels.
- Less pricey to install, maintain, and operate than elevators.
- Based on lifting capacity requirements, mechanical, hydraulic, fully automated, and package handling systems are available.
- Conforms to ASME B20.1 Safety Standards
- Customized to exact needs for through-floor, mezzanines, and other multi-level applications
- Can be installed in a new or building unused elevator shaft.
- Guaranteed code approval in each state.
5 Top Mistakes to Avoid While Setting Up a Lifting Conveyor System
Businesses depend on their conveyor systems to keep their work running. Lifting conveyor systems are the heart and soul of many operations, doing their jobs all day and night. As with most reliable systems, they’re also more or less ignored or taken for granted.
Even though several operations are entirely dependent on their conveyor systems, some take the effort and time to prevent or prepare for the worst-case scenario, such as a prolonged outage. When the system crashes, chaos is sure to follow. Workers are idle, shipments are delayed, customers are furious, and serious costs build up.
Consequently, you must implement the following ways to prevent some costly mistakes while setting up your lifting conveyor system properly. A multi-day conveyor breakdown can be catastrophic to the bottom line of a company. Here are five mistakes that most businesses tend to make when it comes to lifting conveyor systems and how to prevent them.
Even though the majority of warehouse operations do whatever they possibly can to comply with OSHA standards, most of those practices are related to procedures and processes. Sometimes, machine safety is compromised or overlooked.
This is undoubtedly true when operations are under a lot of pressure to accomplish the production objectives of cost minimization measures. When corners get cut, it is usually the equipment safety that suffers.
A basic safety inspection routine can be beneficial. Routine checking for simple things such as missing chain guards or detached pans under belt conveyors can avoid fines, injuries, accidents, lawsuits, worker’s comp claims, and OSHA shutdowns.
Frequent maintenance inspections are crucial.
In several operations, lift trucks and production machinery are on regular scrutiny and maintenance schedules. In contrast, conveyors only seem to draw attention when there is an issue.
A little bit of attentiveness and vigilance can create a massive difference in preventing breakdowns. Even things that seem benign may be signs of maintenance or repair issues. For instance, any unusual sounds or noises like squeaks can indicate that something is out of adjustment.
Tiny shavings on the floor below the belt are an indication that the belt is out of proportion and is wearing down needlessly. Keeping an eye out for such telltale signs and training your workers to do the same can keep significant breakdowns from occurring in the future.
Keep common parts handy.
Having your line down while waiting for a simple component can cost significantly more than keeping a stock of commonly used parts. Spare couplings for line shafts, bearings, motors, photo eyes, and other elements can save you significant downtime.
Compile a list of the most prevalently replaced, heavily used, or mission-critical parts in your conveyor systems and order them proactively.
Monitor your systems.
Overheated reducers or motors indicate that something has caused a system overload. For instance, motor temperature spikes can result from a conveyor being stacked with items that it wasn’t designed for.
In the short run, replacing the motor can lead to a massive breakdown time as very few companies keep a spare. Keeping an eye on temperatures can avoid a burned-out motor and intervene in future problems from overloading your conveyors.
Don’t ever delay or put off any maintenance.
People will overlook problems or establish workarounds until those issues become crucial. For instance, a forklift might raise a conveyor's leg. Your workers push the leg back into place to keep things in smooth operation. However, the conveyor is now improperly aligned.
Instead of paying a small amount of money to have a technical expert resolve this issue and readjust the conveyor, you are looking at huge repair bills down the road when your conveyor system fails ahead of time due to excessive wear and tear.