Dec 2, 2014

Aluminum vs. Stainless Steel: Choosing Conveyor Scale Construction

When looking for a good conveyor scale, you might not realize that the choice of construction materials and methods is one of the most important factors in your decision. A simple option for your structure material can make all the difference. When looking at materials for our conveyor scales, the materials we offer are aluminum and stainless steel. Let’s investigate why you should choose one versus the other.

Conveyor Scale

Stainless Steel Conveyor Scale

Mild/ painted steel can fill a similar role as aluminum and stainless, but it doesn’t have the same versatility in various environments that they can boast. It doesn’t have the same resistance to rust and corrosion that stainless steel or aluminum does, depending on the environment. That is why mild steel has to be painted and repainted periodically to protect the metal’s surface from various elements.

When you compare stainless steel (in our case, Grade 304 or optionally Grade 316) and aluminum, there are some characteristic differences to account for. Stainless steel has an ultimate strength that is a good deal higher than that of aluminum, meaning that it will take much more to fracture. This means that stainless steel is also more durable to work with because stainless steel will yield enough when bending, but it won’t form cracks as quickly as aluminum will. At the same time, aluminum is quite a bit lighter than stainless steel which offers many advantages in itself..

Stainless steel can handle higher pH levels than aluminum can when it comes to corrosion resistance. For this reason and in addition to various food safety regulations, we designate stainless steel as our choice in direct food contact construction because it is able to stand up to the usage and cleaning practices used in the food industry.

Does this mean that aluminum is to be avoided with conveyor scales? Not necessarily. Aluminum conveyor scales are a lightweight and durable alternative to processes that require a different type of corrosion resistance. For example, a conveyor scale weighing small boxes or packages could easily be made out of aluminum because it wouldn’t require corrosive chemical cleaning. Aluminum is a little more affordable than stainless steel, so this would be a wise economic choice for many companies.

Neither material is inherently a bad choice, but you have to know the proper use for each to make the best decision. Getting a quality conveyor scale requires quality design decisions, and we are always willing to help with that.

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Oct 30, 2014

Chaotic Product Labeling: Conveyor vs. Manual Scale

While many production lines run consistent product, there are also a good handful of plants that require chaotic product flow from their lines. In this case, chaotic product flow is referencing different types of product running on the same line rather than a uniform product. When comparing conveyor scales and manual scales, each method has unique benefits for chaotic product, so we’re going to examine the differences between them.

Manual Scales

When it comes to the standard weighing situation, conveyor scales tend to take the cake, but there are still situations where manual weighing might be a realistic solution. Think of a plant that handles offal products as an example. The offal is the leftover parts which are unused for standard cuts of meat, like the tongue, heart, or other organs. They are usually shipped to various other countries or places specializing in some sort of ethnic cuisine, so it is important that they are documented well.

Manual Box Labeler

Manual Box Labeler with Scale

The offal handling is a smaller operation, and with so many different destinations and products, it is almost easier to manually weigh and label the boxes. This lets you be very specific with each box of offal that you handle.

If you combine a manual scale with a labeling printer and controller, you can have a fairly efficient manual labeling system. You can weigh a box and input the product type into the controller to print out a specific label for that product. With the right operator, this can be very quick like an automated system, but it is lacking in consistency. Label placement isn’t necessarily uniform and handling time varies with employees.

Conveyor Scales

On the flip side of things, if you take the same operation and you size it up to a much larger scale, manual weighing just won’t cut it. This is where pre-identification would come in handy.

Conveyor Scale

In-Motion Conveyor Scale with Stainless Steel Frame

If you have a chaotic flow of products that requires speedy handling, a conveyor scale is a necessity. When paired with an automatic labeler, it can find the product weight and have it printed on the label quickly and consistently. The question then becomes, “how do you accurately label different products without stopping the lines to make labeling adjustments?”

With pre-identification scanners, you can scan boxes or barcodes before they get to the labeling section. These preliminary codes or labels can tell the controller what the product is so that it can pass on that information to the labeler. A print-and-apply system can then print out a specific label to match that product and affix it to the box/package. This requires no human involvement besides a little monitoring and maintenance every once and a while, making it the obvious choice for a larger operation.

There are reasons to consider both of these options, and we have systems available for both situations, so look around our blog or contact us to find out what might work out best for your operation.

Manual-Box-Labeling-Cover

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Oct 29, 2014

Flow Scales: The Best Way to Weigh Bulk Product

While we spend a lot of focus on conveyor scales and checkweighers, they aren’t the only in-motion scale variants that we work with. The flow scale is a specific type of conveyor scale that comes in very useful when you aren’t really looking for individual weights as much as accumulated weights.

Flow Scale to Weight Bulk or Aggregate Product

Flow Scale to Weight Bulk or Aggregate Product

The design of a flow scale is very similar to any other conveyor scale, but it handles the weighing process and the data that it processes quite differently. With a conveyor scale, the normal way of operating requires that only one product passes over the scale at a time. The scale takes a number of weight readings as the product passes over it, and that allows the system to come up with an accurate weight average to assign to that product.

On the other hand, flow scales are perfect for a plant that doesn’t need the weight of every product but still wants to know their daily totals. There are many industries, such as particle or aggregate product type, where this could specifically come in handy.

When working with bulk product where weighing each individual piece is a useless endeavor, a flow scale is a great fit. Things like bacon bits or anything that comes in small chunks or pieces can’t be weighed on an individual basis because that would take a ridiculous amount of time and there wouldn’t be any gain out of it.

The flow scale works by taking weight readings every time a whole scale length has passed. This means that the scale weighs a scale’s length in product for every reading before allowing a new scale’s length in product to take its place. Summing all of these readings up gives you a total weight of the throughput for a given period of time.

Having these weight totals helps a plant to understand its throughput which can in turn help management to know how efficiently their processes are working. With small product, there are many steps where you can lose product, so this data can aid in the analysis of those points of loss.

Having data is important in any business, so if you deal with bulk product, this might be a good solution if you don’t have the information you are looking for.

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Oct 28, 2014

Making a Turn with Box Conveyor Systems

We build conveyor systems for numerous different products, but some of the most interesting conveyor designs come into play when we are just handling boxes. Most industries handle boxes at some point or another, and moving them around can demand some inventive maneuvers in certain plants.

In any given plant, you will find obstructions like pillars, walls, and other mechanical systems that a box conveyor might have to navigate around. This takes thinking outside of the box (no pun intended) and implementing different kinds of belting, structures, and mechanisms.

Box Conveyor 180-deg

Making a 180-deg turn with a box conveyor

A common solution to this problem is to use multiple conveyors that run perpendicular to one another to go around obstacles. This is a fairly simple solution, but you are limited to 90 degree turns in between conveyors.

If that doesn’t sound like an elegant enough solution, there is always the possibility of using a radius conveyor. A radius conveyor uses special modular belting which allows it to curve around the desired angle. This offers a much smoother turn, and it offers the possibility of turning a variety of angles. It is easier to make a 180 degree turn in smaller space using the previous method, but we have been able to minimize the radius to a point where it can make relatively sharp turns. It’s possible that these turns change the orientation of your product in a way that interferes with a labeling process, but there are ways to deal with that as well.

You can use a roller wheel for 90 degree rotations. When a box contacts one of these wheels, the leading edge is held against it by the conveyor flow and the box spins around it until it has made a 90 degree turn. At that point, the conveyor naturally pulls the box away from the roller. In order to use a multiple conveyor system and retain product orientation while transferring between conveyors, you might need something like a speedup roller at the end of each conveyor. This would “grab” the box and launch it onto the next conveyor. Without it, the box would be pulled in two different directions at the transition, causing it to turn and alter with orientation.

If subtle orientation adjustments are needed after a conveyor transition, you can use angled roller belting and a guard rail. Angled roller belting can push a box diagonally on the conveyor. If you use this to drive the box towards a guide rail, it will straighten itself out once it makes contact with the side. Sometimes, you might even want to add small rollers to the guide rail to prevent friction between it and the box.

With conveyor systems, there are often many ways to reach one solution, but there are often ways that fit certain plants better than others. Regardless, even in a complex space, there is likely a way to solve your box handling woes.

Box Turning & Indexing Video

Box Turning & Indexing Video

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Oct 24, 2014

Singulating Conveyors for Converging Product Lanes

When it comes to filling packages, bags, and pouches with batched or small-pieced product, automatic filling systems have become the standard. They make filling fast and consistent, but they can cause some difficulty when it comes to product handling afterwards. A singulating conveyor can solve this problem.

Singulator-Conveyor-Merger

Singulating Conveyor contains individual belts which permit individual product lines to advance while other lines are held back. Once a space opens up, the stopped belts will advance the product. The merging conveyor ensures all products are directed to the center of the belt.

The way most filling machines work is that they fill several packages at a time, which means they are often closely arranged in rows and columns. Having products adjacent to each other on the conveyor makes performing any sort of automatic weighing, labeling, or sorting operations difficult. There are multiple ways of solving this dilemma, but one good way of converging and spacing these products is with the use of a singulating conveyor.

To understand the problem, imagine a checkweigher rejecting packages of product. The checkweigher needs to weigh each package and determine if its weight falls within a certain tolerance. If you have two packages side-by-side, the checkweigher’s weighment becomes invalid. Both would be weighed simultaneously as a “single” product. There is no way to know what either of the packages’ specific weights are so the out-of-spec packages can be rejected. Even if you did, it would be very difficult to reject one or the other.

Singulating Conveyor - gates will permit product to go through at specific intervals thereby ensuring products are in a single file line.

Singulating Conveyor – gates will permit product to go through at specific intervals thereby ensuring products are in a single file line.

With our singulating conveyors, you can take all of these adjacent packages and automatically arrange them into a single, well-spaced line. The singulator conveyor uses a system of multiple belts and motors so that it has the ability to start and stop different belts independently. This allows it to move one column of product at a time so that it can eliminate rows of product. They pass onto an out-feed conveyor where product guides can align each package into a neat single-file line.

The only problem left is that filling and roll stock machines commonly need to fill different sizes and numbers of bags throughout a day, so the system needs to be able to accommodate variability. This is actually very simple with some adjustments, using the system controls. Presets can allow you to easily switch from singulating two packages side-by-side to three or more side-by-side. This is done by activating different belts at different times, and the transition is virtually seamless.

The controller also lets you adjust the time that the singulator will allow between stopping and starting a different set of belts. This permits it to be fine-tuned so that packages aren’t moving too early and jamming with other packages at the product guides.

We have a number of systems that relate to filling packaged product because it is a common practice for many companies.

See our Singulating Conveyors.

Singulating Conveyor Video

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