What is a converging conveyor?
To converge means “to come together from different directions,” and that is exactly what this system does. It takes multiple lines of product and combines them into one to adjust for machines down the line.
Many high-volume environments run multiple conveyor lines, but don’t have the amount of machinery to, for example, weigh or check products for metal in each line individually. One such environment is a plant where product is dispensed into vacuum-sealed packages.
Bags are often filled with multiple lines side-by-side and multiple bags are often filled at the same time on each conveyor. Picture three filling lines side-by-side where machines fill two packages deep on each line. Every time the machines dispense product, six bags are filled and then move forward.
These six bags now need to be placed onto one line.
The converging conveyor accomplishes this through the careful use of gates and photo eyes.
The converging system stops the incoming packages using either some sort of gate or a photo eye trigger that stops the conveyor (like a traffic cop).
With a combination of intuitive HMI (human-machine interface), detailed software design, and photo eyes, the converging system can open gates to let one line go at a time.
Once the product from one line passes a set of photo eyes, another line opens to release its products, and this repeats as further product comes to the converging conveyor. These products are guided towards a single conveyor by product guide rails. This allows for seamless transition from these 6 vacuum-sealed packages onto one conveyor before the next cycle of packages arrives.
Basically, it all comes down to very precise timing in the software and the gates and to careful photo eye placement.
If you have a vacuum packaging machine or anything with multiple lines, a converging conveyor might be exactly what you are looking for, but make sure that you buy from someone who knows how to set the system up right!
When we start a discussion on the topic of converging conveyors we really have multiple topics to look at.
There are merging conveyors; this is where two or more conveyors would merge product or cases into a single line.
There are line convergers where you would take multiple products on a conveyor and put them in single file for weighing and/or labeling.
You need to be able to control the incoming product that is being added to the central conveyor. If you do not control boxes entering your main conveyor, you will end up with a jammed conveyor. Traffic cops are widely used to make sure there is a space for the incoming box.
In the line converger application either gates and/or push diverts are used to stop and move product in order to get the product in single file order.
Basically what we are doing is controlling the incoming product using photo eyes, traffic cops, stop gates, diverts and of course some type of an HMI, whether it is a computer or a PLC makes no difference, the unit needs a brain to run the sequence.
In the last few years, there has been a lot of work done in merging, turning, placing and timing product with different belting. We have developed a number of these systems. Merging a box onto a central conveyor can often be done with directional belting. Line converging can even at times be done with a series of belts, insuring singular product being delivered for weighing and/or labeling.
A clear understanding of the end goal of the application will drive the engineering solutions that need to be addressed.
Please give detailed thought to the objective when investigating possible solutions.
A converging conveyor is simply a handy piece of machinery that allows you to combine multiple lanes of product into one lane/conveyor without backing up the process or congesting product flow. It is a simple idea, but converging conveyors are often customized to fit very specific criteria.
For example, in a plant where there is a lot of vacuum packing, there is a specific type of converging conveyor that comes in handy.
In many vacuum-packing operations, the same lines are used to package various products that require different sized packages.
This requires them to change parts, such as dies, on the filling and sealing machines in the line, but there is no reason that their converging conveyor should have to undergo the same rigorous changes!
A common option with converging conveyors is a set of pneumatically powered gates that stop products.
These gates can then open one at a time, allowing a product to move forward while being guided towards the single conveyor without running into another product.
What happens when you want to use one conveyor for different side-by-side products, but their sizes don’t match the gates you have installed?
This brings another option for converging conveyors. The use of gates that are comprised of different pneumatic paddles allows you to adjust to different product sizes. This allows you, for example, to have a gate that is composed of four 2-inch paddles that can be adjusted to the product.
To describe how this works, suppose a vacuum packaging machine has filled four, 2 inch -square containers side-by-side and they now need to be converged.
It makes sense that each one can be stopped by a different paddle and released one by one. Now, the factory has changed the dies on their machines to fill two, 4-inch packages side-by-side.
Without major adjustments, software allows the converging conveyor to adapt by assigning two of the 2-inch paddles to each container. The two containers are released one at a time when the two paddles lift simultaneously for one and then the other shortly after.
This just shows that converging conveyors are capable of combining lines in a very customizable fashion and are capable of meeting even the most complex requirements.
Where there is a will, there is a way.
Most often, a smooth transition with relative speed is desired when transferring products from one conveyor system to another.
This is sometimes accomplished by ejectors or plungers pushing the product at a 90-degree angle from one smooth top belt to another moving in another direction.
This could be the result of a scanned label directing the action, a photo eye activation, or simply a timed response.
In some cases, product is dropped in place from one conveyor to another. This is of course sometimes driven by the space available and type of product you are dealing with.
When fluid motion is desired, an embedded roller-top type of belting is more frequently utilized.
These rollers could be in straight file, angled at 90-degrees, or 45-degrees for easy and controlled product movement.
With employment of such various types of plastic belting, you can visualize how product can be positioned to the left, the right, or to the center of a conveyor for a desired activity.
For example, the surface rollers can be gliding across a stable surface providing movement of the product as desired.
Another possibility is the rollers crossing powered belt in a sub location causing diversity in the product movement at that location.
Sometimes a product could be moving down segments of powered or gravity rollers and need to transition to another direction, this can be done to some degree with the same concepts, however, plastic belting can be more cost efficient and simplistic.
In some cases, products may need to be merged and positioned in singular or multiple rows. Often times, this is accomplished simply by mechanical diversion activity as well as multiple segments of belting traveling in the same direction on the same shaft.
At various times, transition rollers or directional divert wheels or rollers could be designed to rise between the belting segments to reposition or transport the product entirely in another direction.
The way to merge conveyor systems vary from simple mechanical diverts, timed or controlled articulation, variations in belt surface movement, or even robotic interaction. As stated in the beginning; where there is a will, there is a way.