What are Modular Conveyor Belts?
Modular conveyor belts are a belting solution that is used in applications and industries where curves are needed within the belting.
This is traditionally a logistical requirement to ensure efficient use of space and facilities around the conveyor belt.
Furthermore, the modular belt uses positive drive to move the conveyor forward rather than using friction as a means of pulling the belt, like traditional conveyor belts use.
The modular conveyor belt uses sprockets underneath the belt to help it move forward. The key here is in the design of the belt to ensure the right number of sprockets are used to fit the belts requirements and ensure optimal performance.
What are Modular Conveyor Belts Made from?
Modular belts (often referred to as ‘Radius belts’, are made using segmented pieces of treated plastics that are connected together with hinges and rods.
The purpose of this is to allow the conveyor belt to run smoothly around corners without collapsing along the curves of the belt.
Modular conveyor belts are made this way for food and chemical industries. This belt material is easy to maintain and clean, making it very low maintenance.
Due to the construction of the modular belt, should a segment of the belt break, it is extremely efficient in fixing. The broken segment is removed from the belt, and a new segment added. This ensures the belt is low cost to maintain and does not need to be fully replaced should a piece of it break.
Modular Belt Plastic Types
As with any conveyor belt, the environment and requirements from the belt itself will determine the material used. Plastic module belts are no different. For example, the requirement for a post-oven biscuit production modular belt will be different to that of a plastic modular belt that is needed for cold chemical production and conveying.
Therefore, it’s important as the customer that you known your true requirements prior to engaging a modular belting designer. The types of plastic and material traditional used in modular conveyor belting is:
This material is used for belts that may be used in extremely hot temperatures of up to 100’C. The hardness of this material creates a strong pulling force, which is great for conveying heavier loads as it drives the belt forward.
Additionally, the Polyproplene belt has a strong resistance to chemicals, so cleaning and wipe down should be relatively easy to the belt operator.
This is the ‘all-rounder’ of plastic belt types. Typically strong, and can work in extreme temperatures at both ends of the spectrum; be it super cold, or extremely hot.
This material is again, typically hard, and has great pulling force, but it also has a reduced friction characteristic, which provides support to the rest of the conveyor belt and the product conveyed.
However, this belt is traditionally sensitive to impact, and can be damaged easier than other plastic module belts.
As a belt that is used in colder temperatures, this belting material also has a strength resistance to impact and blows. The belt can be used in areas of up to -75’C, and due to it’s strength resistance to impact, the belt has a much longer life-span to it’s counter parts.
What Industries Use Modular Conveyor Belts?
Modular conveyor belts are used in an array of industries due to their ability to be used in a range of temperatures, climates and manufacturing units. Typically modular belts are used in:
Towards the end of the cooling phase of biscuit production, where the biscuits have been packaged and are being distributed to lorries etc. to be shipped to customers, modular belting is used to move the heavy boxes to their final destination.
Across all industries that require cooling belts, the modular belting solution can be used in tandem with woven belting to help cool elements manufactured. Typically Polycetal and polyproplene belts are used in cooling systems as they posses a much higher performance in extremely cold temperatures.
Again, due to their ability to perform in extreme environments, and their resistance to chemical contamination, and abrasion, modular belting is seen as the ideal solution for chemical and medical production. The belt is often used in conveyor systems within pharmaceutical, and chemical industries.
Plastic module belts have to be FDA approved in order to be used in food production. This is to ensure there is no contamination when the food is being processed and manufactured through the conveyor line.
Polyethylene, and Polyproplene belting is traditionally the go-to plastic module belt for food production due to their ability to not contaminate the food, however, polycetal is not usually recommended.
Nylon material can be used in modular conveyor belts, too, and is FDA approved.
Nylon can be used in both warm and cold areas as it performs in temperatures ranging from -45’C to 160’C.
Nylon is a soft material with a good pulling force, and a high impact strength as well as great chemical resistance.
Key Characteristics of Modular Conveyor Belts
The pulling force is the force distribution throughout the belt and how power is shifted between curves to maintain an even force throughout the belt. This ensures there are no problems throughout the conveyor belt during production.
Belts that have a high impact strength are preferred due to their ability to absorb impact. A belt that can absorb blunt force or impact from materials traditionally has a longer lifespan than belts with a low impact strength. Modular belts that have a high impact strength tend to be used ahead of modular conveyor belts that do not posses high impact strength.
Strength is different to impact strength. By strength, this is meant as the strength by which the belt can use the force to conveyor heavy loads around the conveyor effectively and efficiently without causing collapses, or stoppages.
Resistance to Temperature
Modular conveyor belts can perform in very hot and cold temperatures due to the materials used, making them a first choice for both hot and cold installations.
Traditionally, modular conveyor belts use a combination of these our key characteristics with the materials they use to produce the conveyor belts that can perform in harsh environments to maximum capacity.
What Does Pulling Force Mean?
There is a serious science behind the design of a modular belt.
In a traditionally straight conveyor, the pulling force will be equally distributed throughout the entire belt ensuring no transversal force occurs along the belt.
In modular conveyor belts this is an entirely different prospect due to the belts curvature. In a radius belt, when the belt is pulled through a curve, the rows of the belt can come together causing a collapse of the transfer of force isn’t shifted correctly. If this were to happen, the traction force of the belt would need to be shifted to the outer curve to counteract the collapse of the inner curve.
The timing of this shift of force is key to ensuring a smooth conveyor solution and typically, the shift has started before the curve has begun to further safeguard the curve from collapsing.
The outer links of the modular belt carry the tangential force, this causes the radial force to take place along the curved section of the belting. As the belt weight and carry load (product being conveyed) must be pulled, the highest traction force occurs at the the end of the belt.
The strength of the modular belt will always be in the ‘straight pull’, therefore a conveyor designed with curves earlier on in the belt solution finalized with a straight track is always the preferred solution for the most effective radius belts.
Pro's of Using Modular Conveyor Belts
The use of positive drive means the modular belt is a more ‘user-friendly’ and flexible conveyor solution. Plastic modular belting is a low-tension solution, allowing the use of less pulley’s throughout the belt.
Furthermore, there is much more freedom in the design of a modular conveyor belt. For engineers and belting designers, the freedom of the modular belt is that it can, in theory, be wider than it is long and can maintain tracking in the process.
Historically, this belting type has been used to navigate curves and corners, and does so well when designed correctly; there isn’t another belting solution that can do this as well, for the same price. Woven belting can be manufactured to navigate curves similarly to Modular conveyors, however, this is cost-prohibitive in relation to the modular belt solution.
Finally, the belt is easy to maintain, clean and fix. This makes the belt an agile proposition and one many industry experts recommend given the requirements of the solution.