Conveyor Technologies for Industrial Ovens | ITS TECH TALK
Selecting the right technology for a continuous process conveyor oven requires analysis and expertise
Author: Matt McWhirter, Applications Engineer for ITS Industrial Products Division
Matt received his bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Northern Illinois University and has a background in industrial automation technology.
As more and more companies seek to automate their processes and facilities, a conveyor oven is a small, yet important cog in the wheel of customer product manufacturing. While batch processing will always have its place, continuous process conveyor ovens are in high demand and in the world of material handling,
There are more than a handful of conveyor types to choose from:
- Belt conveyors
- Chain conveyors
- Roller conveyors (powered, gravity)
- Elevators/Elevating conveyors
- Feed systems (vibratory, centrifugal, etc.)
- Pneumatic conveyors
- Vacuum conveyors
Note: This is not intended to be an exhaustive list
However, many of these conveyor types are not viable solutions in the presence of heat. High process temperatures limit conveyance materials and eventually dictate that conveyor drive components (i.e. bearings, drive chain, and motors) must be located outside of the heated zone completely. There is a reason that flat wire and woven mesh belt conveyors, as well as various chain and roller type conveyors are used extensively by thermal processing experts.
Flat Wire Belt Conveyors
Flat wire mesh belts are the most commonly used conveyor in thermal processing environments for these reasons:
- High strength-to-weight ratio
- Easy to clean
- Vibration and shock absorbent
- High open area – particularly desirable in convection applications
- Wide range of widths available
- Configurable with attachments (flights, lane dividers, edge guards, etc.)
- Flexibility for different product sizes
With an appropriate material selection, flat wire belt conveyors are operable to 1,000°F and beyond. Commercially available and relatively inexpensive metals are commonly used. Most often, belt support through the oven is provided by a herringbone slide bed, allowing for even wear across the belt Depending on the application, these conveyors can be designed where either the belt or the slidebed is the wear item.
Woven Wire Belt Conveyors
Many of the advantages inherent to flat wire belts are also found in woven wire belts, including high strength-to-weight ratio (but with higher load capacities than flat wire), configurability (and customizability), and increased surface area for conveyance of smaller parts.
- Higher cost
- Lower open area affecting heating efficiency
- Need for belt tracking.
Chains are typically employed in heavy load applications, and can be either rolling or sliding/drag types.
At lower temperatures, rolling contact may be ideal, but at elevated temperatures, tight tolerance roller/bearing components seize up from thermal expansion and lubricant that won’t lubricate above 500°F.
There are hundreds of chain styles, many designed specifically for a single industry or application. Attachment-style chains allow for attachment of customized part fixtures.
Advantages of using chain conveyors include:
- Ease of maintenance and replacement
- Many available styles
Depending on processing temperature, roller conveyors will often be designed with shaft bearings mounted on the outside of the oven/furnace to protect power transmission components (chain, bearings, motors).
Roller conveyors are also typically used in heavy loading applications, and offer flexibility in motion, and accumulation of product.
Note: Speed can often dictate what type of conveyance can be used in an application.
Selecting the Right Type of Conveyor Starts with Selecting the Right Oven Manufacturer
Because there are many different variables that need to be considered when configuring the right conveyor type for your industrial oven, connecting with a partner like ITS is a smart decision.
We’ll start by asking you about your process, including variables like:
- Product weight, throughput, geometry
- Process requirements
- Floorspace requirements
- Control and communication requirements
- How much flexibility are you looking for in terms of processing other products/different rates, future expectations?
You may want to come to the table with a set of questions, like:
- What are some examples of similar equipment that you have delivered to suppliers?
- What will be my operational equipment cost and are there any front-end opportunities to reduce it?
- What kind of maintenance schedule is typical?
- What kind of issues can develop with this type of equipment over time?
Of course, as a prospective buyer, it is important to seek and evaluate bids from several different suppliers. As a general rule of thumb, it is not unusual to realize a larger return on investment with a higher initial investment cost
The Sales Engineers at ITS will help you look at the total cost of ownership of your new conveyor oven purchase. Call the ITS Sales Team at 414-672-7700 today, for a no obligation discussion of your situation and needs.