Having Box Spacing Problems? Try Automatic Indexing

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Dec 5, 2014

In a modern plant, conveyor systems are becoming more of an expectation than a luxury, and where there are multiple conveyors, there are probably some choke points where boxes can get bunched up. The best way to solve this issue is through the use of  automatic indexing.

indexing conveyor

Drop down box indexer

If you are simply transporting boxes with your conveyors, tight quarters might not hurt (unless you are trying to converge lanes), but if you are doing any weighing or labeling, some sort of indexing is going to be a necessity.

Modern automatic labeling systems for boxes are fairly fast and accurate, but that doesn’t mean that they can just label a steady stream. With a print-and-apply system, the labeler needs time to print the next label before it can apply, so you are going to need to space out your product to give the labeler time. Also, certain label applicators require more room, like a front of box labeling applicator because it often requires an arm to swing out and then back between boxes.

Automatic weighing with conveyor scales or checkweighers requires spacing because you can only have one product being weighed at a time. Imagine two boxes back-to-back. At some point in the weighing process, you would have both of them on the scale. This would give you an excessively high weight reading that would be completely useless, and even worse, could damage your load cell.

Box Indexing Video

So what are your options?

The deceptively cheap way is to have employees space boxes by hand, but this doesn’t always turn out as planned and paying someone to do it is an accumulating cost. You could also use “traffic cop” sensors to start and stop your conveyors. This works well for the most part, but it could wear your motors out faster, increasing maintenance costs. Some companies use higher speed conveyor sections to put distance between boxes, but this can take up more floor space than necessary depending on required spacing.

indexing conveyor

Dual Indexers that feed product onto a merging conveyor

The best way that we have found is to use an indexer conveyor. Our solution is to use a conveyor mounted on a pneumatic cylinder which drops at one end allowing boxes to run into a retaining bulk head. The conveyor can then pivot up and down, allowing only one box at a time to get by. It often uses roller conveyor which relieves the box from friction and utilizes a small speed-up roller which pulls the box away from the one behind it when it is released. Indexing is a very sound method that is capable of giving you exact spacing.

We have dealt with systems that use all of these methods, so if you have any questions about indexing and how it could help your process, get in contact with us.

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