What are Thermoplastic Conveyor Belts?

Thermoplastic conveyor belts are plastic conveyor belts using different kinds of thermoplastic polymers for varying usages across multiple manufacturing industries. Each type of thermoplastic polymer has different properties for temperature resistance, surface compounds, shape and resistance to abrasion. These specific properties are harnessed uniquely for the industry the thermoplastic belt will serve.

What is Thermoplastic Polymer?

The thermoplastic polymer is widely recognized as it accounts for at least 34% of all plastic usage worldwide. Specifically, the thermoplastic polymer is used across all industries, from water bottles to the Tupperware you use daily to store food and lunches.

A thermoplastic polymer forms when multiple ‘monomers’ are linked into chains. These ‘chains’ are linked together using electrical bonding, often referred to as the Van der Waal method, which weakly attracts the monomers together (copolymerized) to create the ‘bond’ and accompanying finished polymer. Each polymer chain varies depending on the linking compound it is chemically mixed with. For example, PU uses urethane compounds to link the monomers to create thermoplastic polyurethane.

What Types of Plastics Are Thermoplastic Belts Made From?

Each polymer compound varies in its properties and the elements for which it can perform and is used in conveyor belt solutions. For industrial conveyor belts, the specific types of thermoplastic polymers are; polyurethane (PU), polypropylene (PP), polyethene (PE) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

Polyurethane Belts (PU)

PU belts are manufactured following FDA-approved compounds and manufacturing methods to ensure that the thermoplastic conveyor belt is suitable for the food manufacturing industry. This belt can also be used across pharmaceutical, metal transportation and textile industries.

PU conveyor belts are used in these industries due to the key features of the thermoplastic polymer. PU belts have a good mid-range temperature resistance of between -30’C to 60’C, which allows the belt to perform in sub-zero freezing conditions, perfect for the pharmaceutical industry and manufacturing of chemicals and medicines, but also allows the belt to perform in extreme heat without melting, changing shape or tearing. Due to the chemical compounds of polyurethane conveyor belts, PU belting has a strong resistance to water, oils and cleaning materials, making it an easy-to-maintain belt perfect for food preparation and manufacturing belts.

Polypropylene Belts (PP)

Polypropylene conveyor belts are lightweight thermoplastic belts used for less harsh conditions than PU compatriots. PP conveyor belts perform within a smaller temperature threshold of between 10’c to 50’C.

The compound elements for PP belting allow for a superb cost-to-performance ratio, making the belt a cost-effective solution for businesses looking for thermoplastic belts in the food manufacturing industries. A key feature of the PP conveyor belt is its resistance to abrasion and wear and tear.  The PP belt is extremely hard and has high-strength compounds, making it a perfect conveyor belt for heavier conveying needs.

Polyethylene Belts (PE)

PE Belts are thermoplastic belt that isn’t manufactured for chemical, pharmaceutical or the initial stages of food processing or production. This conveyor belt is made for high-impact and heavy-duty conveying systems. With a high-density proportion due to the chain of polymers and ethylene compounds, the polyethene conveyor belt is best suited to modular conveyor belt systems.

The PE conveyor belt also makes for great usage in colder climates. Due to the way it’s manufactured, the polyethene belt is perfect for food packaging, bagged material moving and heavy-duty, large-circumference objects that must be conveyed from A-to-B efficiently and quickly. Furthermore, the PE conveyor belt is also FDA-approved and isn’t toxic after burning, allowing it to be recycled and re-purposed into other PE-required plastic objects.

Polyvinyl Chloride Belts (PVC)

PVC belts are one of the market’s most versatile thermoplastic conveyor belts. Traditionally, PVC belting is a corrugated surface to ensure perfect tracking guides when handling slippery or heavier products. This is to help avoid the product falling or slipping off the Polyvinyl chloride conveyor belt.

Due to the belt’s flexibility properties, PVC belts can be moulded and worked while remaining durable. This makes for a belt suitable specifically for construction industries. However, PVC is also used in food production as the PVC compound can be manufactured to FDA-approved food processing standards. The PVC conveyor belt also makes for a good flame-resistant and chemical-resistant plastic conveyor belt with a maximum operating temperature of up to 60’C.

Which Industries Use Thermoplastic Conveyor Belts

The beauty of the thermoplastic conveyor belt is the belt’s versatility. As already discussed, thermoplastic belts have a broad range of chemical compounds (polymer and monomer chains). Based on thermoplastic manufacturing and conveying requirements, varying belts can be manufactured to suit various industries. These industries are:

Food Production and Processing

Thermoplastic conveyor belts are a key component for the processing of foods. Therefore, when contacting foods, the plastic conveyor belt must meet FDA rules to process food legally.

Specifically, the regulations required to be met are CE1934/2004 for food contacting the conveyor belt and  CE2023/2006 for regulated food standard practices, while regulation  (UE) 10/2011 must also adhere to any plastic into contact with food materials.

Modular plastic belts are used during the packaging stage of food production; in most cases, this belt will not come into contact with the food.

Pharmaceutical and Medical 

Thermoplastic conveyor belts are commonly used to process and produce medicines for the pharmaceutical industry. This is due to the chemical compounds of thermoplastic belts being resistant to chemical intoxication, water, and abrasion.

As long as plastic conveyor belts are well maintained, there are no rules and regulations for manufacturing thermoplastic belts for the medical industry like the regulations for the food industry.

Textiles 

Thermoplastic belting is also used in the textile industry to transfer materials across conveyor systems.Plastic makes for a good conveyor system rather than a solid woven conveyor belt. This is due to the plastic belting’s soft and flat surface not connecting with the textiles being transferred and causing cross-contamination. Transferring textiles using thermoplastic belts makes for a swift and easy solution.

Metal and Heavy-Duty Transferring

Depending on the thermoplastic used, there are conveyor belts best suited for transferring metal and heavy-duty materials from one area to another with minimum effort required.

Modular plastic belts make for a great solution for heavy-duty conveying. However, all plastic conveyor belts are used in these industries due to their high-density properties and chemical makeup, making them resistant to abrasion and tears, unlike synthetic woven conveyor belts.

Finding the Right Thermoplastic Conveyor Belt Manufacturers

Due to the chemical makeup of the thermoplastic compounds, finding a thermoplastic belt manufacturer that understands each conveyor belt type’s science and chemical properties is extremely important for procurement teams.

A thermoplastic belt manufacturer will need to survey your factory situation and understand the environment in which the thermoplastic conveyor belt will work. As the customer, you must ensure that the supplier understands each chemical compound of the belts polymers and monomers, along with the science behind the reasoning for these belts to be used. If this isn’t the case, you must look elsewhere for a supplier that can provide you with reassurance and confidence that you’re receiving the right level of service from your conveyor belt manufacturer.

 

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