What Is Conveyor System? – Working, And Types

What is the Conveyor system?

A conveyor system is a fast and efficient mechanical handling apparatus for automatically transporting loads and materials within an area. A conveyor system may use a belt, wheels, rollers, or a chain to transport objects.

A conveyor system is a common piece of mechanical handling equipment that moves materials from one location to another. Conveyors are especially useful in applications involving the transport of heavy or bulky materials.

Conveyor systems allow quick and efficient transport for a wide variety of materials, which makes them very popular in the material handling and packaging industries. They also have popular consumer applications, as they are often found in supermarkets and airports, constituting the final leg of item/ bag delivery to customers.

Many kinds of conveying systems are available and are used according to the various needs of different industries. There are chain conveyors (floor and overhead) as well. Chain conveyors consist of enclosed tracks, I-Beam, towline, power & free, and hand pushed trolleys.

This system minimizes human error, lowers workplace risks, and reduces labor costs among other benefits. They are useful in helping to move bulky or heavy items from one point to another.

How do conveyor systems Work?

Typically, conveyor systems consist of a belt stretched across two or more pulleys. The belt forms a closed loop around the pulleys so it can continually rotate. One pulley, known as the drive pulley, drives or tows the belt, moving items from one location to another.

The most common conveyor system designs use a rotor to power the drive pulley and belt. The belt remains attached to the rotor through the friction between the two surfaces. For the belt to move effectively, both the drive pulley and idler must run in the same direction, either clockwise or counterclockwise.

While conventional conveyor systems such as moving walkways and grocery store conveyors are straight, sometimes, the unit needs to turn to deliver the items to the proper location. For the turns, there are unique cone-shaped wheels or rotors which allow the belt to follow a bend or twist without getting tangled.

conveyor system

Benefits of using a conveyor system

  • Can safely transport materials from one level to another through elevated conveyors
  • Can be installed in most situations while usually being able to add value and increase the safety of the workplace due to automation, failsafe, and safeguards
  • Conveyors can move high quantities of items in various shapes, sizes, and weights
  • Have advanced safety features that prevent accidents and injuries while increasing throughput of the system
  • Variety of options to run the conveying systems, including the hydraulic, mechanical, and fully automated systems which are equipped to fit individual needs

Types of conveyor systems

As we touched on briefly earlier there is a wide range of conveyor systems that can be used and which conveyor you use or purchase depends on what you need the conveyor system to do. For example, it wouldn’t make much sense to use a roller conveyor to speed up people’s walk between two different terminals at an airport, that’s where it would be best to use a belt conveyor.

1. Belt Conveyors

Belt conveyors are the most common and simplest form of conveyor and can have variable speeds. They have a moving belt that rests on a steel frame that supports the belt and the materials being moved. Ones that have a supporting frame underneath are referred to as sliding style. When the belt is supported by closely placed rollers, it is called a roller belt style.


  • One of the cheapest conveyors
  • Simple and easy to use
  • Can have changes in elevation
  • Can be loaded from any place along the belt


  • The simplicity means very limited features
  • Belt can be difficult to clean and generally does not leave a very successful result
  • Sticky material can get stuck on the belt and transfer to the return side, the rolls, idlers and pulleys

2. Gravity Roller Conveyors

Gravity roller conveyors have a set of equally spaced rollers connected to a side frame. The position of the rollers provides a surface to place materials for movement. If a gravity roller conveyor is tilted or mounted at an angle, materials move by gravity.

Though pieces of varying sizes can be loaded on a gravity roller conveyor, workers need to be cautious of larger materials running into smaller ones. Gravity roller conveyors are used by shipping companies to load and unload trucks.


  • Can use gravity for moving the product on a decline angle
  • No power means less cost and more environmentally friendly
  • Quite modular and can be utilized in many ways
  • Fairly low maintenance


  • Products may end up being damaged when moved by gravity
  • Heavy and therefore not very portable
  • No control of conveyor speed

3. Chain Conveyors

Chain conveyors can have two or several sets of chains that make contact with the bottom of items to be moved. The materials rest on the chains as they are moved. Chain-driven conveyors are ideal for items with uneven bottom surfaces or ones that are very heavy. Ones that have a heavy frame can have pallets placed directly on them. Due to the types of items chain conveyors move, they operate very slowly.

4. Motorized Roller Conveyors

Motorized roller conveyors use motors, placed along with the conveyor frame, to power evenly spaced rollers. The design is similar to a gravity conveyor with the addition of motors. The number of motors is dependent on the load to be moved and the overall design of the system.

The connection between the rollers can be a chain or belt. In some systems, there is a sensor that starts and stops the motor to avoid pieces getting packed together.

5. Slat Conveyors

Slat conveyors have the same design as chain conveyors with flat slats connected to the chain. In some ways, they are similar to belt conveyors with slats replacing the belt.

The slats have a very smooth surface that prevents damage or harm to items being moved, making them ideal for assembly applications. Since the surface is smooth and without obstructions, slat conveyors can be loaded and unloaded using robotic automation.

6. Overhead Trolley Systems

Overhead, trolley track systems can be manually or motor powered. They use an enclosed track or “I” beam and can move parts through finishing operations, drying booths, or supply assembly lines.

7. Monorail Conveyors

Monorail conveying systems have carriers to move materials and are ideal for use over long distances. Rails are suspended from the structure of the building and have power supplied by signal lines from conductor lines inside the mounting rails. Monorail conveyors make use of the space above the production area. In some designs, the carriers lower to the level of production and then go up, out of the way.

8. Power and Free Conveyors

Power and free conveying systems are designed to move parts through the production and assembly process. Items being assembled move from workstation to workstation. They stop at each station to be worked on and then move on. Power and free systems are a special form of the overhead conveying system.

9. Inverted Conveyors

Inverted conveyors are floor mounted and can be used as power and free conveyors. They normally have a drive system that does not involve a belt or chain.

10. Paternoster Conveyors

Paternoster conveyors are a vertical conveying system that uses equal spaced load carriers connected to a chain drive, which moves in a continuous loop. They are also known as platform conveyors.

11. Chute Conveyors

Chute conveyors have a smooth flat surface made of wood, metal, or plastic that is set on an angle in a frame, which can be straight, spiral, or circular. Items are slid down the surface.

12. Screw Conveyors

Screw conveyors are used to moving bulk substances such as granular products, chips, and loose materials. The central part of a screw conveyor is a rotating helicoid on a shaft inside a pipe. Screw conveyors are known as an auger, helix, and spiral conveyors. The blades of the screw flights are designed to carry the material upwards.

13. Pneumatic Conveyors

Pneumatic conveyors transport bulk materials using a pressurized gas that pushes the material through a sealed pipeline. As the pressure builds in the pipeline, powders or granular materials are lifted and moved through the pipe.

14. Vibratory Conveyors

A vibrating conveyor uses vibrations to move materials along a conveying trough and is ideal for materials such as grains, various solids, vegetables being picked in a field, and quarried rocks.

The agitations and constant motion gently move products through the use of vibration cycles. Each form of vibratory conveyor has a specific design to fit its function with ones for mining being radically different from those made for harvesting and food production.

Conveyor System Video