Manufacturing lines require mechanical solutions to facilitate the consistent flow products to maximize throughput, and recirculating conveyors are a common part of these applications.
What are Recirculating Conveyors?
A recirculating conveyor is a piece of machinery that helps move products down a manufacturing line. It optimizes the production process by helping to move products quickly and without error — avoiding backups, redirections, and shutdowns.
Features of Recirculating Conveyors
The basic features of a recirculating conveyor are:
- At least two conveyor belts
- A motor to run the belts
- Side guides and dividers to control the flow of parts
A recirculating table is a type of conveyor that creates space for a product to accumulate, and controls the flow to the next process in the manufacturing line.
A type of accumulation conveyor, its belts must be low-friction, and can be made of either fabric, modular belt or plastic chain.
An accumulation conveyor is a type of recirculating conveyor that contains overflow and buffers items until a machine or operator downstream is ready to receive them, providing automated control of a product along a manufacturing line.
This type of conveyor is an excellent solution for handling overflow and buffering items along the line. It can smooth out fluctuations in product line rates, and singulate products while controlling outfeed rate. An accumulation conveyor is often regarded as crucial for when items from multiple lines must be merged into a unified line.
It requires low-friction belting, made of either fabric, urethane, modular belt or plastic chain.
Dorner has designed accumulation conveyors (also referred to as accumulation tables) that use multiple belts within the same frame to provide more accumulation space than traditional in-line conveyors.
Interfloor Conveyor system for Ingram Micro
Client: Ingram Micro Commerce & Lifecycle Services, Northampton DC
The Global Leader in Logistics, Commerce Enablement & Device Lifecycle Services.
Ingram Micro Commerce & Lifecycle Services provides supply chain solutions that connect supply and demand. From cross-border fulfilment to dropship and returns management, IT asset disposition, remarketing, distribution etc, their solutions drive growth, enhance ROI, and protect their clients.
They serve customers across a broad spectrum of industries — from fast-growing brands to Global 2000 enterprises — and are dedicated to facilitating their customers success through their global warehousing network, world-class technology, strategic partnerships and decades of expertise in the logistics and fulfilment for technology and eCommerce products, customer support and ITAD industries.
Ingram Micro required a solution to streamline the packing and dispatch element of their Daventry operation and utilise space with a brand-new 3 tier mezzanine. The system requirement was to handle boxes, cartons and poly bags from all 3 mezzanine levels after they picked/packed and then deliver to the ground floor for consolidation prior to dispatch.
The Ground floor pick/pack operation is to be undertaken on standalone conveyors.
The client required the system to be fully reversible for replenishment and alternative operation, which required each line to have 3 different operating functions.
It was concluded during the consultation/design stage that keeping it simple is often the most practical and best method. Our design evolved such that each of the mezzanine floor systems operated independently from each other albeit managed and controlled from a common control panel. The control panel, through the HMI, allowed each line to be independently controlled and operated completely autonomous from the others. This reduced the overall risk, simplified the operation and provided flexibility during planned maintenance.
The Ground floor packing belt conveyors had their own standalone control box.
CSL opted to use proven equipment and designs, which had been utilised on countless installations on past successful projects.
Level 2 and 3 were identical in design and both required to handle the full product range inclusive of poly bags. Each level consisted of a 20m long packing conveyor belt, which fed onto an AmbaFlex Ambaveyor slat conveyor, which provided a small footprint radius to fit within the special constraints. Following in the need for a compact footprint, products are delivered to the ground floor via an AmbaFlex Spiral – the most compact spiral on the market.
Level 1 pick did not include the requirement for handling polybags, only cartons and totes. For this level, CSL utilised a 20m packing conveyor belt feeding some powered roller conveyor. The design of the solution and space suited the use of a decline belt conveyor to deliver the product to the ground floor.
All of the 3 mezzanine levels, had sections of conveyor which sited off the mezzanine floor area and CSL designed and supplied a multi-tier support structure encompassing all three levels.
The client wanted the system to have 3 modes: decline to dispatch, reverse incline for stock replenishment and a back up mode in case of a system issue, the line can be reversed and ran out to clear the line into wheeled magnums.
A spokesperson from Ingram Micro commented that “the new conveyor system matched the brief and the benefits will be quickly realised, the new CSL system will speed up interfloor product transits allowing for an increased throughput with lower operating costs”.
Plastic modular belts reach new heights
Two new modular belt solutions from Habasit bring new possibilities for industrial packaging applications, especially in applications where space is at a premium. The HabasitLINK M2592 raised deck radius belt saves up to 5 times the space needed for a traditional radius conveyor. The HabasitLINK M0870 HighGrip Micropitch delivers 50 per cent lower minimum transfer distance, enabling use of grip top plastic belts on nosebar applications with a knife edge down to 6 mm.
Conveyors for use in the packaging industry face several challenges including limited floor space for machines, meaning belts must operate in tight spaces and at tight angles. It is crucial that conveyors are optimised for the space, so they don’t harm production layout. Furthermore, the relatively large transfers achievable with traditional grip top modular belts led to many customers being unable to take advantage of modular belts. The two new products from Habasit help to overcome these limitations.
“Plastic modular belts with a grip top feature are ideally suited for incline and decline solutions. However, until now they were unavailable for tight transfer conveyors,” explained Anders Nilsson, R&D portfolio manager for HabasitLINK. “The new M0870 HighGrip Micropitch 0.3” provides reliable product positioning with no slippage and transfers as narrow as 23 mm, a 50 per cent reduction compared to other grip-top modular belts.
“With its high grip surface, this micropitch belt also allows for higher operating speeds in some applications because of the reduced product slippage on the belt. It also copes better than traditional modular belts in incline and decline applications.”
The second novelty by Habasit is the M2592 Radius Raised Deck 1”, which allows to optimize line layout and reduce the conveyor system footprint.
“We understand that, for many businesses, space is at a premium and this has caused problems in finding suitable plastic modular belts for packaging applications,” continued Nilsson. “The M2592 space saver belt allows customers to save up to five times the floor space compared to alternative solutions. This permits increased flexibility in terms of plant and production layout.
“Furthermore, thanks to the raised deck surface, customers can transport products with a wide range of sizes, from small boxes to wide pans, without interference from lateral wearstrips. This is in addition to the fact that it is one of the most robust belts available for radius applications, enabling longer conveyors and less drives and delivering an overall lower cost.
“Finally, it is worth noting that plastic belts emit less noise when transporting crates and pans compared to using rollers or chains. This facilitates a better working environment while also helping to protect the pans and crates being transferred from damage,” concluded Nilsson.
Conveyor and Automation Upgrade for 25% Efficiency Boost in Receiving and Sortation
Industry: Home Entertainment DC in Spartanburg, South Carolina
Challenge: Redesign receiving and sorting system to reduce manual hand scans and improve sortation accuracy.
Solution: Custom-Built Sorting System to improve efficiency by 25%
Equipment: Hytrol E24EZ Conveyor, Modsort Divert and Transfer Conveyor, SICK 6-Axis Barcode Scanner + Sizing Station
Challenge: Speed It Up and Sort It Out
Our home entertainment client, DISH Network in Spartanburg, South Carolina, was looking for an automated solution to optimize their receiving and sorting process.
Originally, they had packages coming in on two gravity conveyors, where they were stopped and scanned by hand before being manually sorted and unboxed.
“Here in receiving it’s a very labor-intense process,” says DISH Network Engineer Jimmy Pollard.
“We needed to be able to take that labor and put it to a more value-added process. So we went out to AEC seeking to improve automation in the receiving department.”
Solution: Scanning the Horizon
To streamline DISH Network’s process into the modern age of receiving and sorting, we teamed with System Plast to design and pair our Hytrol Roller Conveyor with their Modsort Divert and Transfer mods with a SICK 6-Axis Barcode Scanner and Sizing Station.
The new system brings in multiple sizes and weights of packages on two separate conveyors, which are then automatically positioned onto a single conveyor using the Modsort modules.
Lined up along a single rail, the packages are then fed into a multi-surface scan tunnel for sizing and barcode scanning.
“What makes this process a more reliable sort is when it goes through the scan tunnel, it doesn’t have to search the entire contents of the width of the conveyor to find the box,” says AEC Material Handling Specialist Brian Hester.
“You’ve sent it to a fixed edge, which makes it a faster, more reliable scan.”
Once the packages have passed through the scan tunnel, non-accepted packages are sent down a side conveyor while accepted packages are once again split up into two conveyors.
From there, they are sent through a proprietary cutting machine, coming out the other end ready to be manually unloaded and sorted.
Saving Valuable Time and Resources
“The only people on the line now are the people putting packages onto the conveyors within the trailers. And then people further down the line are emptying the contents out of the boxes,” says AEC Material Handling Specialist Brian Hester.
“Everything between those two pieces is all automated.”
Hytrol’s E24EZ Low-Voltage Conveyor
Safety was also increased through the use and integration of Hytrol’s E24EZ Conveyor with the Modsort module which runs on 24 volts.
This low-voltage solution allows packages to be moved deliberately and evenly along the conveyor without the risks inherit to a gravity conveyor system, or the need for additional safety applications.
“The existing conveyor was built on a 24-Volt DC platform. So we knew we could utilize the 24 DC architecture of the System Plast Modsort without the additional safety guarding that would normally go around it,” says AEC President Darin Boik.
“Using the E24Z was definitely a time and cost saving benefit for all.”
Just a 4-Day Install to Live Operation
Over the course of just four days, starting on a Thursday evening, the old system was removed and the new system in place.
On Tuesday morning, the packages were ready to roll.
Result: 25% Boost to Overall Process Efficiency
With the new system from AEC in place, DISH Network was able to increase efficiency as well as safety, while still saving money.
“Now the automated scan system is placed exactly where we used to have people that hand-scanned product. This change allows us to move people to a more value-added process,” says Pollard.
“Automating this piece saves the company money – and by doing that we save our customers money and time.”
Repeat Business is a Testimony to Success
By integrating these various systems so successfully, AEC was brought on to provide the same custom material handling solution for DISH Network’s facility in El Paso, Texas.
“Because of the lessons we learned, we were able to finish that project in just 3 days with the same installer, so it worked out really well,” says Hester.
From Concept to Completion
As DISH Network’s single point of contact for AEC, Hester was there from “cradle to grave” on the project.
From development and layout to equipment selection and installation, only one project manager handles everything for our client. And the result?
25% Boost in Efficiency and Improved Safety
“With the design and automation supplied by AEC, we found that we improved our overall process by 25% in efficiency,” says DISH Network Engineering Manager, Robert Russel.
“Now that it’s automated, we’ve achieved improved sortation accuracy and minimized touchpoints.”
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