Belt conveyors are a convenient tool to reduce labor and speed up materials handling. Review your operations to see where they can fit in.
The belt conveyor consists of a belt that rides on a flat steel bed or set of rollers. It may have legs or may be designed to be placed directly on the floor. A gear motor is used to power the belt. This is usually variable speed to adapt to the materials that are handled. Some conveyors can operate in either direction to help with loading or unloading.
Belt conveyors come in many styles and sizes. They can have a belt that is flat, troughed or with flights. For most horticultural uses, a light to medium duty unit will give good service. Widths of 4-24 inches and lengths up to 200 feet are available.
One of the most popular types of conveyors is the multi-section conveyor. It is made up of one section with a drive unit and several additional modular sections that can be added to provide the desired length. These sections are connected with gears or belts so that the power unit drives all the sections. These work well for moving pots from one bench to another when they need to be spaced or for loading plants onto a long truck bed. It takes about 5 to 10 minutes to set up a 75-foot unit.
If bulk materials need to be handled, as when filling a potting machine, a belt conveyor can be fitted with flights or formed into a trough. This works well, as long as the material is not too wet. Side rails and a hopper at the bottom can be added to increase capacity. If the conveyor is to be moved frequently, a carriage with pneumatic tires and a winch will make the job easier.
A belt conveyor is often used for potting or transplanting operations. Filled containers are placed on one end of a slow-moving belt. Workers, standing or sitting beside the belt, stick plants as the container moves past. A variable-speed motor is needed to adjust the belt speed for different conditions. Production is usually greater than with most other methods because workers do not have to walk to get materials and the belt paces the worker to keep up with the constant flow of flats or pots. Working height of the top of belt for a person standing is 32-40 inches depending on height of container. Working height for operator sitting is 28-33 inches.
John is an agricultural engineer, an emeritus extension professor at the University of Connecticut and a regular contributor to Greenhouse Management. He is an author, consultant and certified technical service provider doing greenhouse energy audits for USDA grant programs in New England. [email protected]
Check out more from this issue and find you next story to read.Type of material –Size of containers or rate of flow – Weight of materials –Distance to be transported –Vertical distance – Power unit –Variable speed –Belt material –Support for the conveyor –Weight of conveyor sections –Maintenance – Accessories –Cost –