Conveyor belts can move just about anything, as long as they are the right conveyor belt for the product. A single manufacturing facility could have one of every major type of conveyor belt, reflecting all the changes that take place from raw materials to finished product. Let’s break down some of the different conveyor belts by looking at how their design reflects what they move.
Flat conveyor belts
These are what most people think of when they think about conveyor belts, because this is the type we see the most. Grocery stores, airport luggage carousels and quick-service sushi restaurants all put these in the public eye. These consumer use cases highlight flat conveyor belts’ versatility and reliability. They also show how flat conveyor belts can be linear (flat or angled) or curved, with the latter having interlocking curved pieces that glide against each other to take a turn. The belts themselves can be made of rubber, textiles or vinyl.
Flat linear conveyor belts can carry any solid. But if the belt curves, the tolerance between two segments could allow small particles or components to fall through, contaminating the belt or rollers and causing product losses.
Modular conveyor belts
Whereas a flat conveyor belt can be a single long stretch of material looped around rotors or a roller bed, modular conveyor belts are almost like a chain link fence, composed of many interlocking pieces. This lets them take turns at very high speeds with minimal friction. It also makes replacing conveyor belt parts and cleaning easy. A damaged unit of the belt can be swapped out with just a little downtime. And the whole belt can be washed, sprayed, sanitized, hosed down or whatever other cleaning process is necessary while still in place.
On the other hand, the modularity limits what the belt can carry. The dimensions of the “hole” in each unit set the minimum size of the product that can go on the belt. Powders or grains are definite no-go’s.
Cleated conveyor belts
Whereas flat and modular conveyor belts function as an integral unit, cleated conveyor belts segment the loads into “buckets.” This makes them ideal for products that are too small for a modular conveyor belt, or too easily dispersed for a flat conveyor belt – again, like powders or grains, as well as gravel, ores, screws and bolts, or potato chips.
The interlocking design of cleated conveyor belts lets them change direction horizontally or vertically without losing any of the material within. The design also minimizes slippage, which is a drawback of flat conveyor belts and therefore figures into the process of deciding which is best for a given application.
Mesh conveyor belts
Mesh conveyor belts allow fluids to pass through them. This could be important for filtering out materials of different sizes, to ensure airflow through the belt for moisture or temperature control, or to let liquids drain off of the items on the belt. These belts are almost always made of metal, which gives them a much wider range of operating temperatures than the belts listed above.
Conveyor belts are more than just the belts
This overview only talked about the belts themselves. But a conveyor belt system includes the rollers, rotors or bed that the belt travels on; the motor that drives the system; the material and design details of the belt; and the arrangement of the system as it makes it way through your facility.
If you’re not sure which belt is right for your needs, MDS is here to help. We offer conveyor belt parts and many specific types of belts, including forestry aggregate, endless food, sand and gravel aggregate, and much more. Our team will work with you to find a replacement belt, an upgrade or to build out a new system.