Contributed by Bob Reusch
Technical Sales Support Engineer, Ammeraal Beltech Inc.
Beltline Reprint March 2005
The overall belting market share for lightweight conveyor belting has increased modestly over the past several decades. The primary reasons for the increase are process automation, market globalization, and competition.
Process automation has resulted in increased demands on belting that often require the properties of a lightweight belt design. The move toward faster process and transport speeds, combined with compliance to increasingly strict standards in areas such as noise and sanitation, has also favored the growth of lightweight belting.
Lightweight Belt Categories
The lightweight belting market is primarily made up of thermoplastic covered, solid plastic, lightweight rubber, and nonwoven belting. Each of these categories offers unique properties and advantages as summarized below.
Thermoplastic coatings that can be melted and rehardened while retaining the material physical properties characterize this segment of belting. This property provides the unique advantage of high quality heat welded splices and the ability to configure belts for specific applications by adding a variety of belt accessories. The most common covers are PVC, polyurethane, and polyolefin. These cover materials provide a wide range of properties such as cut/abrasion resistance, chemical resistance, oil/fat resistance, product release, high/low friction, impact resistance, and sanitation. These types of belts are used in the following industries:
1. Food Processing: Industries such as bakery, confectionery, snack foods, meat and poultry, dairy, fruits and vegetables, and seafood are some examples of where lightweight belting is utilized. Automation of the manufacturing processes has led to small pulleys and process conditions that lend themselves to the flexibility and versatility of lightweight belting. The thermoplastic, heat-welded splices provide superior reliability, flexibility, and sanitary properties.
2. Unit Package Handling: Conveyors in post office, distribution centers and airports are becoming lighter and faster, while requirements for noise are becoming more stringent. This favors the longitudinally flexible, low friction/ low-noise polyester fabrics used in certain lightweight belt constructions.
3. Other Industries: Other major industries that utilize lightweight belting are pharmaceutical, treadmill, electronics, plastics, bottling/canning, textile, wood/paper, and tobacco.
Solid extruded plastic belts offer unique advantages for a number of industries. Since they are offered with no reinforcing fabric, they exhibit the highest hygiene level of any belt available. They are available in extremely durable and cut-resistant versions that together with the hygienic qualities make this belt ideal for many meat and poultry applications. The combination of properties (durability, hygiene, splicing) makes this style useful in other industries such as bakery, cereal, general food processing, glass, brick and many other related industries.
These belts have thermoset rubber covers that differentiate themselves from the thermoplastic covers. Typical rubber types used are natural, SBR, neoprene, and nitrile. These belts are used in many of the same applications
as the thermoplastic belts; however, the rubber properties such as low temperature flexibility, grip characteristics, durability, and other physical properties make them suitable for a variety of applications.
Lightweight rubber belts can be found in many industries including unit package handling (general material transfer, metering, incline/decline, etc.), food processing, corrugated industry, and general industrial use.
The fabric bases in the belts described above are standard woven types. Needle-punched (nonwoven) fabrics offer additional belt properties. A base of nonwoven material creates an impact-resistant construction. Uncoated
versions also offer a gentle surface for handling sensitive products. The unit package handling industry utilizes high volumes of this belt style for low noise, low fray, and impact resistance.