A grouping of different conveyor types

What do I mean? Well, obviously there are more differences than just bends, but the layout flexibility of certain types of conveyors is a pretty big factor when it comes to choosing the right solution for your application.

We all know that conveyor systems are essential for moving items efficiently in a variety of industries; but when it comes to choosing the right conveyor system, it can be tough to decide between tabletop conveyor, belt conveyor, and roller conveyor. All of them have their own unique advantages and disadvantages, and the best choice for your business will depend on your specific needs. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the differences and drawbacks of tabletop conveyors, belt conveyors, and roller conveyors; and some explore examples from different industries.

First, let’s talk about tabletop conveyors. Also known as “flat-top conveyors” or “plastic chain conveyors” the hallmark of these systems is that they convey product along a flat surface (plastic chain, mat top, or plastic slats). They are typically used in manufacturing and packaging operations to move products through various stages of the production process. These conveyors can be powered by a variety of means, including electric motors, pneumatic or hydraulic systems, or even manual operation, but that is rare. Usually used for small to medium-sized items, they have a lower weight capacity than belt conveyors and roller conveyors. BUT they are more versatile and can be adapted to different production environments, making them a great choice for packaging and manufacturing operations, such as the food and beverage industry where small bags of products need to be transported through different stages of the production process. Tabletop conveyors are the most flexible in terms of layout and design, so they can be integrated into existing production lines or used in tight spaces, like the pharmaceutical industry where space is often limited.

A tight radius tabletop conveyor bend.
Good luck making a belt conveyor fit in a radius like this FlexLink tabletop conveyor can!

But there are also some drawbacks to tabletop conveyors! Like that they can be slower than belt conveyors and roller conveyors and can only  handle lower weight capacities, which can be a problem for heavy duty manufacturing operations like automotive industry (except in bearings and machined parts where there is still a strong market). They also require more frequent cleaning and maintenance than the other options we are exploring.

On the other hand, belt conveyors are designed for heavy or bulky items, and high-volume production lines. They generally have a higher weight capacity than tabletop conveyors and are typically used in industrial and commercial applications like assembly lines, material handling, and packaging. A good example of how heavy duty belt conveyors can be is for the mining industry: belt conveyors are used to transport large amounts of ore, coal, and other materials over long distances. However, belt conveyors are less flexible in terms of layout and design, and they are generally more expensive than tabletop conveyors (when you are exploring the big ones anyway, belt conveyors for lightweight goods can actually be very economical), in terms of initial purchase and maintenance costs. They can also be noisier, which can be an issue in some applications such as the electronic industry where noise pollution is a concern.

Straight and simple is a perfect description of this belt conveyor.
Belt conveyors are very useful for straight runs, or those where you have room for larger radius bends.

Finally, roller conveyors use a series of rollers, typically made of steel or plastic, to move items along a conveyor surface. They are typically larger, have a higher weight capacity than tabletop conveyors and are suitable for high-volume production environments, such as in the manufacturing industry and warehousing industry, where large items need to be moved. They are also relatively quiet compared to other types of conveyors and are easy to clean. However, they are less flexible in terms of layout and design and are not recommended for items that are easily deformable. They can also be a bigger hazard when it comes to workplace injuries because there are more opportunities for employee extremities and clothes to get caught in the gaps between the rollers.

A roller conveyor.
Roller conveyors are the perfect fit for wide and heavy loads.

So yeah, the choice between a tabletop conveyor, a belt conveyor or a roller conveyor will depend on the specific application, the size and weight of the items to be conveyed, the production volume and the budget. But in my opinion, one of the biggest factors is that bend question. It is possible to get a radius in a belt conveyor or roller system, but it is MUCH easier to work with a curvaceous layout with a tabletop conveyor system.

Consider all the factors and consult with a conveyor expert, and you know a pretty good one, to determine the best conveyor system for your needs!

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