A Guide to Roller Conveyors

Whether you’re shipping out orders or moving materials through manufacturing processes, your business will benefit from the right roller conveyor for the task at hand. This guide on roller conveyors will help you select the best option for your unique needs. Let’s roll straight in!

What is a Roller Conveyor?

A roller conveyor is a material handling system that uses a series of rotating cylinders to move goods or materials along a path. These rollers are mounted on a frame and can be powered (by motors) or unpowered (gravity fed), allowing items to roll along the surface with minimal effort.

Gravity Roller Conveyors

Roller Width and Pitch

The width of the rollers and the pitch – the distance between each roller – are critical for conveyor efficiency. Proper selection ensures items are supported adequately and move smoothly, preventing jams or damage.

Tighter Pitch: A tighter roller pitch is beneficial for smaller items or products that require more support and stability during transportation. It minimises the risk of items getting stuck or falling between the rollers, ensuring smooth and uninterrupted movement. Industries such as food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, and packaging often benefit from tighter pitches to handle smaller packages or containers with precision.

Wider Pitch: A wider roller pitch is suitable for larger items or products with irregular shapes that require more space between rollers. It allows for easier movement and reduces the risk of jams or obstructions, particularly for bulky or irregularly shaped items. Industries such as manufacturing, automotive, and construction often utilise wider pitches to accommodate larger components or products.

Types of Roller Conveyor Systems

Roller conveyors are available in various configurations to meet different operational needs. The two main types are:

Gravity Roller Conveyors

Gravity roller conveyors rely on the natural force of gravity to move materials along the conveyor path. As goods are placed on the rollers, they roll downhill to their destination without the need for external power. These conveyors are ideal for applications where a gentle slope and manual loading/unloading suffice.

Typical Applications

  • Warehousing and Distribution Centres – For order fulfilment and shipping operations.
  • Manufacturing Facilities – For assembly lines, product staging, and material transfer.
  • Retail – For stock replenishment, sorting, and order picking processes.
  • Airport Baggage Handling – For efficient luggage transport and sorting.
Gravity Roller Conveyors

Powered Roller Conveyors

Powered roller conveyors utilise motors to drive the rollers. These conveyors offer greater flexibility, making them suitable for high volume and automated operations. They can be customised with features such as sensors and programmable logic controllers (PLCs) for precise handling.

Typical Applications

  • Distribution and Fulfilment Centres – Sorting, merging, and diverting parcels and packages for shipping and distribution.
  • Manufacturing Facilities – Moving components, parts, and assemblies between production stages for assembly, inspection, or packaging.
  • Food and Beverage Processing – Handling trays, containers, and packages in food processing and packaging operations.
  • Automotive Industry – Transporting automotive components, parts, and assemblies along assembly lines for manufacturing and assembly processes.
powered roller conveyor system

Powered vs Gravity Conveyors

While both types have their advantages, choosing between powered and gravity roller conveyors depends on several factors – for example: your required throughput, budget, and the level of automation desired. Gravity conveyors are cost effective and low maintenance but are limited in their capabilities compared to powered systems, which offer greater control and efficiency.

end of line roller conveyors

The Top 5 Benefits of Using a Roller Conveyor

  1. Efficiency: Roller conveyors streamline material handling processes, reducing manual labour and increasing throughput.
  2. Safety: Prevents accidents caused by heavy lifting and moving heavy objects.
  3. Scalability: Easily expandable and reconfigurable, they can grow and adapt to changing business needs.
  4. Durable and Hygienic: Our stainless steel roller conveyors are built to withstand harsh industrial environments and heavy usage, as well as being easy to clean.
  5. Cost Effective: With minimal maintenance required and a long service life, roller conveyors offer a high return on investment over time.

Choose the Right Roller Conveyor for Your Business at Unitech

At Unitech Conveyors, we specialise in designing and manufacturing stainless steel conveyor systems tailored to your specific needs. With our expertise and a broad range of roller conveyor options, we’ll ensure that you choose the right system for all your handling processes. We’re here to help drive your business forward in today’s competitive market.

Contact us today on 01543 675800 to learn more about our stainless steel conveyor systems. We’re always happy to advise you and answer any queries you may have.

The Role of Conveyors in the Food Industry

Conveyors are the backbone of material handling in the food industry. These mechanical workhorses play a pivotal role in transporting raw ingredients through various stages of production until they reach the packaged products lining our shelves. As a UK specialist of conveyor systems, we’re here to shed some more light on them and how they can play an important part in your food business if you decide to make an investment.

The Foundation of Conveyors in Food Processing

The evolution of conveyors in the food industry can be traced back to the early 20th century when the assembly line concept gained traction. Factories sought ways to optimise production processes, and conveyors emerged as a groundbreaking solution. The conveyor belt, a simple yet ingenious invention, revolutionised material handling, enabling a continuous flow of goods and reducing the reliance on manual labour.

Fast forward to the present day, and conveyors have become indispensable in the food industry. The diversity of conveyor types allows for tailored solutions, each serving a unique purpose. But what types are there to choose from?

Types of Conveyors Used in the Food Industry

Belt Conveyors

Belt conveyors consist of a continuous belt and are available in various configurations to handle a diverse range of food products. Unitech specialises in three distinct types: modular belt conveyors, PU (Polyurethane) belt conveyors, and wire belt conveyors.

Modular belt conveyors feature interlocking plastic modules that link together, forming a continuous belt. The modular structure makes cleaning and maintenance easy as each section can be quickly replaced, helping to minimise downtime.

PU belt conveyors use belts made of polyurethane, a durable material known for its resistance to abrasion and ease of cleaning. PU belts are preferred for their smooth and non-porous surfaces, making them ideal for transporting sensitive food products while ensuring high hygiene standards.

Wire belt conveyors utilise a mesh of interlinked metal wires to form a continuous belt. These conveyors are well-suited for handling items with high temperatures or those requiring air circulation. Ideal for bakery and confectionary products.

pu conveyor belt blue

Roller Conveyors

Employing a series of rollers to move materials, roller conveyors are particularly efficient for handling heavier loads. They play a crucial role in the packaging stages of food production, providing an efficient means of transporting boxes, cartons, and loaded pallets.

Depending on your requirements, these conveyors can be either powered or non-powered. Powered roller conveyors are equipped with motors, enabling automated movement for improved throughput. In contrast, non-powered roller conveyors rely on gravity or manual force, offering a cost effective solution suitable for less demanding applications.

Gravity Roller Conveyors

Spiral Conveyors

Spiral conveyors represent a unique and innovative solution in the world of material handling, particularly in the food industry where space optimization is crucial. These conveyors are designed in a helical shape, allowing them to move products vertically or in a spiral pattern between different levels of a facility.

The primary advantage of spiral conveyors lies in their ability to conserve floor space, making them invaluable for facilities with limited square footage.

spiral conveyors

Chain Indexing Conveyors

Chain indexing conveyors operate using a chain mechanism that moves materials in a controlled, indexed manner. These conveyors are particularly effective for assembly lines and ‘start – stop’ applications, where products are moved in a series of steps rather than a continuous flow.

chain indexing conveyors

Vibratory Conveyors

As the name suggests, vibratory conveyors use vibrations to move materials along a trough. These conveyors are particularly effective for delicate products such as fruit, vegetables, snack foods, cereals and grains. The vibratory motion is designed to help prevent damage during transport.

Vibratory Conveyors

How Food Conveyors Can Help Your Business

So you’ve chosen the type of conveyor(s) that’s suitable for your business. What should you expect in return?

Quite a lot actually! For example, one of the biggest advantages of a conveyor system lies in its ability to replace manual labour. Not only does this reduce the likelihood of errors in sorting, packing etc –  it means you can optimise your workforce, reallocating human resources to more complex and value added tasks. 

Modern conveyor systems are also highly adaptable to different layouts and production requirements. So whether it’s a straight-line configuration you require or a complex network of curves and elevations, conveyors can be customised to meet the unique needs of each food manufacturing facility.

Reduced manual handling, minimal downtime, and a continuous production flow are all things that can help improve the efficiency and cost savings of your production line.

Ensuring Food Safety and Quality

In the food industry, maintaining the highest standards of safety and quality is not just a regulatory requirement but a fundamental responsibility. Food conveyors play a crucial role in achieving these objectives, contributing to the integrity of the entire production process.

One of the primary challenges in food processing is the risk of contamination. Food conveyors address this concern by minimising human contact with the products. Unlike manual handling, which can introduce unwanted elements into the production line, conveyor systems create a controlled and hygienic environment. The surfaces of conveyor belts are designed to be easily cleaned and sanitised, reducing the chances of bacterial growth and cross-contamination.

Furthermore, the use of conveyors allows for the implementation of advanced technologies such as checkweighing and metal detector systems. These systems can be seamlessly integrated into the conveyor line, providing an additional layer of protection against foreign objects and ensuring that only products meeting stringent quality criteria move forward in the production process.

poultry conveyor system

What Food Businesses Use Conveyors?

Conveyors are widely employed in different businesses, ranging from small-scale operations to large industrial facilities. Here are some examples of food businesses that often use conveyors:

  • Bakeries for transporting dough, baked goods, and other bakery ingredients.
  • Beverage Industry – for moving cans, bottles and soft drinks.
  • Dairy Industry – for handling dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yoghurt.
  • Meat and Poultry Plants – for transporting raw meat, poultry and processed meat products.
  • Fruit and Vegetable Processing – for the movement of fruits and vegetables during washing, sorting, cutting, and packaging processes.
  • Seafood Processing Plants – for handling fish, shellfish, and other seafood products.
  • Snack Food Manufacturing – for handling snack foods such as crisps and nuts.
  • Frozen Food Production – for handling a wide range of frozen food products.
  • Confectionery Industry – for transporting chocolate, sweets and other confectionery items.
  • Grain and Cereal Processing – for safely moving grains and cereals.

What Role Does Unitech Play?

So we now know what role conveyors play in the food industry, but how do we play our part? At Unitech, we are able to provide all the conveyor systems we mentioned above in order to help grow your business. Get in touch with us today for a quote on any of our conveyors or simply contact us on 01543 675800 for more information. We’ll be happy to help.

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