Many facilities rely heavily on conveyors and similar material handling systems to transport goods from one area of the building to another. When managed properly, conveyors substantially boost efficiency and productivity—but it’s important to understand that conveyor management includes choosing the right system to begin with.
Conveyors come in significantly different models, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution available. Determining the “best” conveyor for a given facility depends on a number of factors, such as available space, the company’s budget, and the type of materials that must be handled.
If you’re interested in purchasing a material handling system for your facility, then you owe it to yourself to become acquainted with different kinds of conveyors currently on the market and the benefits unique to each type. Here we’ll focus on two specific types: the enclosed track powered monorail, and the power and free conveyor system.
- Enclosed Track Powered Monorail
This variety of conveyor system can confer a number of production advantages, and, for that reason, it is currently in wide use on assembly lines and industrial paint facilities—to mention just a few environments where it is commonly found—across the globe.
It is not a recent innovation, as examples of this design were in use a hundred years ago. If you have ever visited a dry cleaning establishment, then you are probably familiar with the basic design of this conveyor type: a single track, rising and falling like a roller coaster, along which the user can easily push articles of clothing up or down the line.
An enclosed track monorail system consists of an overhead track that holds a conveyor chain, from which is suspended a series of pendants that bear the products to be processed. The monorail can curve vertically and horizontally without interfering with its ability to convey loads smoothly.
The Enclosed Track Monorail System vs. the I-Beam Conveyor
The enclosed track monorail system strongly resembles the traditional I-beam monorail conveyor—an old standby of the automotive industry, which features heavy beams characterized by an I-shaped cross-section.
However, the enclosed track monorail offers several advantages over the I-beam conveyor. The enclosed track conveyor is more lightweight and poses fewer installation challenges. It’s also more flexible, offering the designer a greater range of options when mapping out its configuration.
Additionally, the fact that the track is enclosed, rather than open to the atmosphere, makes it less susceptible to collecting dust and other airborne pollutants. This is an especially important consideration for industrial paint applications, where particulate matter can easily mar the applied coating.
Other Benefits of an Enclosed Track Monorail System
What can this system do for your facility and your bottom line? Let’s take a closer look:
- Low Maintenance Requirements
Compared with many other types of conveyor systems, enclosed track monorail systems have relatively few components that need ongoing maintenance. In the long run, this saves a significant amount of money that would otherwise be squandered on downtime and repair costs.
- Minimal Operating Costs
It doesn’t take much to keep an enclosed track monorail system in prime working condition. That’s why so many of these conveyor systems last for years; sometimes even decades.
- Variable Traffic Direction
These conveyor systems can transport materials in both directions, which provides the facility with additional options for directing the flow of traffic.
- Moves Vertically and Horizontally
Monorails can be shaped into a surprisingly wide variety of configurations. They can move around sharp corners. They can also slope upward or downward to avoid interference with other equipment. This gives facility managers a generous range of options when it comes to installing their enclosed track monorail system.
- Saves Floor Space
Like all overhead systems, the enclosed track monorail saves valuable floor space by suspending materials in the air and minimizing interference with the activities of personnel and equipment on the ground.
- Minimizes Manual Handling
Any material handling scheme is vulnerable if it requires manual handling. Human beings can easily drop or otherwise damage objects while carrying them from one area to another, or by holding them in place to apply paint and perform similar tasks. The enclosed track monorail system sharply reduces the need for human personnel to handle valuable materials.
- Weight Capacity
Depending on the specific model in question, these conveyors can be expected to carry 75 lbs of material on each pendant. Advanced models may be able to convey up to 300 lbs without risk of damaging the system.
The Powered Monorail
Many monorail systems of this nature rely on manual push-pull action to convey the materials along the line. For an added productivity boost, facility managers should consider motorizing their systems with drive units. This provides the extra benefit of further reducing the need for manual handling. When you need a highly efficient automated conveyor system, your best bet may be to opt for an enclosed track powered monorail.
- Power and Free Conveyor Systems
A power and free conveyor derives its name from its dual-track design. It consists of two conveyor tracks, one positioned above the other. The upper track is the “power” track, a rivetless chain that runs continuously so long as the system is on. The lower track—which is unpowered, or “free”—holds a collection of trolleys from which the materials are suspended.
The system also includes a number of “pusher dogs,” which are small devices attached to the power chain. These carry the pendants through the system in concert with the movement of the chain. However, if the trolley encounters an obstacle during its journey, the pusher dog is designed to disengage from the track so the trolley can stop without encountering resistance from the power chain. This makes it a simple matter to allow multiple pendants to accumulate at a specific point of the system when necessary.
In general, power and free systems have overhead tracks, but, in some instances, the tracks are on the floor. This latter type is often called an inverted power and free system, and it is commonly used to transport delicate or freshly painted materials that could be harmed by particulate matter falling from an overhead conveyor.
Benefits of a Power and Free Conveyor System
Why bother with a power and free setup? It can provide a number of significant advantages; let’s explore some of them.
- Optimal space utilization
Because these systems are (usually) positioned overhead, they require minimal floor space—an important benefit for crowded facilities with little room to spare.
- Modest Maintenance Requirements
Featuring a fairly uncomplicated design, power and free systems tend to have relatively few parts that are prone to breakage or malfunction. Their electrical systems are reasonably simple as well.
These systems often find their way into facilities where high-volume, heavy-duty material handling applications are needed.
- Consistent Product Orientation
With power and free systems, it’s possible to ensure that materials stay oriented properly (e.g., facing the right direction) throughout their journey across the facility. This helps standardize production processes like applying paint.
Power and free systems can be semi-automatic or fully automated—the optimal configuration depends on the type of materials and the needs of the business. A fully automatic power and free system is capable of very high productivity.
Contact Richards-Wilcox Hardware (rwconveyor.com) when you need a first-rate conveyor system that your facility will be able to rely on for years. Our product catalog includes a variety of enclosed track monorail and power and free conveyor systems.