Thermoplastic Conveyor Belts – Everything You Need to Know

What are Thermoplastic Conveyor Belts?

Thermoplastic conveyor belts are forms of plastic conveyor belts using different kinds of thermoplastic polymers for varying usages across multiple manufacturing industries.

Each type of thermoplastic polymer has a different properties for temperature resistance, surface compounds, shape and resistance to abrasion and these specific properties are harnessed uniquely for the industry the thermoplastic belt will serve. 

What is Thermoplastic Polymer?

Thermoplastic polymer is widely recognized as it accounts for at least 34% of all plastic usage worldwide. 

Specifically, thermoplastic polymer is used across all industries from water bottles, to the tupperware you use on a daily basis to store food and lunches. 

In a nutshell a thermoplastic polymer forms when multiple ‘monomers’ are linked together 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 link compound is is chemically mixed with For example, PU using urethane compounds to link the monomers together to create the thermoplastic polyurethane. 

What Types of Plastics Are Thermoplastic Belts Made From?

Each polymer compound varies in it’s 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), polyproplene (PP), polyethelene (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 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 heats without melting, changing shape or tearing.

Due to the chemical compounds of polyurethane conveyor belts, PU belting has a very strong resistance to water, oils and cleaning materials, making it an easy-to-maintain belt perfect for food preparation and manufacturing belts. 

Polyproplene Belts (PP)

Polyproplene conveyor belts are a lightweight thermoplastic belt used for less harsh conditions to that of it’s PU compatriot. PP conveyor belts perform within a smaller temperature threshold of between 10’c to 50’C. 

The compound elements for PP belting allows 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 very high strength compounds, making it a perfect conveyor belt for heavier conveying needs.

Polyethylene Belts (PE)

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

The PE conveyor belt also makes for great usage in colder climates and due to the way it’s manufactured, the polyethylene 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 most versatile thermoplastic conveyor belts on the market. Traditionally, PVC belting as 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 belts flexibility properties, PVC belts can be moulded and worked will 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 standards for food processing.

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 belts versatility. As already discussed, thermoplastic belts have a broad range of chemical compounds (polymer and monomer chains). Based on the manufacturing and conveying requirements from the thermoplastic, varying types of thermoplastic belts can be manufactured to suit an array of industries. These industries are:

Food Production and Processing

Thermoplastic conveyor belts are a key component for the processing of foods. Therefore, when coming into contact with foods, it’s imperative that the plastic conveyor belt meets FDA rules in order to legally be allowed to process food.

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 be adhered too for any plastic that comes into contact with food materials.

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

Pharmaceutical and Medical 

For the processing and production of medicines for the pharmaceutical industry, thermoplastic conveyor belts are a commonly used belt. 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 industries 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. The transferring of textiles using thermoplastic belts makes for a swift and easy solution.

Metal and Heavy Duty Transferring

Depending on the type of thermoplastic used, there are conveyor belts best suited for the transferring of 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 forms of plastic conveyor belts be used in these types of 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 the science and chemical properties of each conveyor belt type is extremely important for procurement teams.

A thermoplastic belt manufacturer will need to survey your factory situation, and understand the environment with which the thermoplastic conveyor belt will work in. 

When looking for a thermoplastic belt supplier, 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 will be able to provide you with reassurance and confidence that you’re receiving the right level of service from your conveyor belt manufacturer.

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