There are a lot of ways to give products the ideal spacing that they require. The method that we use the most is drop down indexing. Rather than stopping and starting the conveyors, we use a section of conveyor that drops down to temporarily stop products while continuously moving the conveyor. It is a handy piece of technology, but you have to make sure that it doesn’t cause undue stress to packages.
The drop down indexer stays down until the timing is right for the conveyor to pop up and allow the package to travel forward. A friction belted roller essentially grabs it and speeds it along the belt to put space between it and the package behind it. This gives the indexer enough time to drop back down before it accidentally feeds two boxes.
An important thing to watch out for is a backed-up line of boxes. The indexer itself uses free-rotating rollers in the belting to counteract forward pressure, but the conveyor prior to the indexer might not. If boxes start to pile up from the indexer onto the previous conveyor, the boxes at the front of the line could be placed under tremendous pressure.
When the indexer pops up with this pressure, the leading box could burst forward violently causing box collisions and timing errors. A good way to keep this from happening is by installing belting with relief rollers on the conveyors prior to the indexer. This takes excessive forward friction out of the picture.
Another way to prevent damage to both your products and your indexer is by knowing what the structure of your indexer is rated for. We have had people request indexers meant to carry a certain amount of weight, only to have them load far more on the frame.
If the system wasn’t made with large boxes in mind, the force on the indexer and the torque created by other boxes on the line could damage the frame and even the piston system.
Treat your indexer right, and it should work well and have a longer operational life. There is no better tool for preparing your products to be labeled or weighed by a conveyor scale.