On the surface, all conveyor belts might seem interchangeable, but different types have different uses.
According to Ken Brakefield:
“Manufacturers and distributors relied heavily on human labor before the advent of conveyor belts. The manual handling of products placed worker safety and product quality in jeopardy. The simple system of rotating pulleys and belts streamlines product handling in every product-driven industry today.
“The technology used in conveyor belts is much more sophisticated than the simple belt systems of the past. Companies choose modern belts based on the use case. For example, a woven metal belt would not handle precious stones or delicate products well. Product-handling companies that understand different types of conveyor belts and their uses can choose the safest and most efficient belt systems for their needs.
“Consider some of the most widely used conveyor belt materials and their applications:
- Solid, general-use belts. The most common conveyor belts are general-use belts. These solid belts typically feature materials including rubber or a fabric such as nylon, polyester, neoprene, or nitrile. Belt properties determine the conveyor belt’s primary applications. For example, mining and milling industries commonly use rubber to handle bulk materials including raw ore and aggregates. Grocery stores commonly use PVC conveyor belts, and airports may use neoprene, polyester, or rubber for luggage handling.
“These materials may feature different coatings, thicknesses, and arrangements to deliver a range of handling properties. Some offer food safety ratings while others perform well in high temperatures. Other common properties of general-use belts may include high or low friction levels and specific bulk-handling structuring.
- Filter belts. Some belts allow particulates to pass through rather than ride along the conveyor system. Industries may use filter belts to drain excess liquid from parts or to filter out toxins. Water treatment companies often use these types of conveyor systems during water treatment processes. Manufacturers may use metal or synthetic fibers to create filter-capable belts.
- Woven metal belts. Woven belts feature interlinking chains of metal or wiring designed to allow airflow as an item moves along. Businesses commonly use woven belts to facilitate drying, cooling, and heating processes in the food, electronics, and glass-working industries, among others. Manufacturers may offer pre-fabricated woven belt designs or may custom design a woven belt to meet a customer’s specific application needs.
- Hinged belts. Hinged belts often feature metal construction. The hinged quality of the belt gives it a flat, solid surface capable of rotating around the pulley system via interlocking hinges. Companies use hinged belts for small product, scrap, and recycling applications. Metal hinged belts are durable and can stand up to rigorous use.
- Plastic interlocking belts. Plastic belts provide manufacturers and material handlers with a modular alternative to metal and fabric belts. Businesses may use plastic belts in food handling and packaging processes or in the automotive industry. Modular plastic belts work well in applications that require frequent cleaning and belt replacement.
“Conveyor belts fall into many categories, depending on the manufacturer. The application always dictates the materials, construction, and style of the belt used. Some are gentle enough to transport diamonds while others can handle the impact of routine bulk-steel handling…”