Beverage companies continue to expand their multi-pack offerings, and whether the beverages are held together in a six-pack, 18-pack, 24-pack or 36-pack, warehouse conveyors must be flexible enough to handle all package sizes. Not only do the machines need to be flexible, companies also are demanding higher speeds to move as many products as possible.
“We are constantly innovating and expanding applications,” says Phil Miller, president of AmbaFlex, Granbury, Texas. “Everybody wants to go faster, higher volumes and higher throughput rates.”
To meet those stringent manufacturer demands, AmbaFlex manufactures a spiral conveyor line called SpiralVeyor and an accumulation table called AccuVeyor. Both machines can handle a range of products and leave only a small footprint on the warehouse floor.
“Spirals allow customers to utilize the entire cubic space within the facilities,” Miller says. “It allows us to go higher, and it runs at the same speeds as traditional conveyors.”
The SpiralVeyor family of conveyors can handle anything from a single bottle to oversized products. The SpiralVeyor SV is used most often in the beverage industry, and the flow can be elevated up or down, or reversed.
SpiralVeyor SV can load up to 80 products per feet and has belt speeds up to 300 feet per minute. Depending on the case size, 8-inch wide, 16-inch wide, and 24-inch wide conveyor belts are available.
In addition to SpiralVeyor SV, SpiralVeyor SVX-DL is designed to elevate packed items in two or three separated parallel flows. An important feature of the SpiralVeyor SVX-DL is that each belt operates independently, so while one belt is elevating up, one belt can be bringing products down.
The company’s newest member of the SpiralVeyor family is SpiralVeyor SV 300, a “slim line” conveyor. The concept was developed because packaging line integrators wanted a SpiralVeyor with a smaller footprint, the company says.
AmbaFlex’s Hybrid Belt I and II are an available option for the SpiralVeyor family. Both Hybrid Belt I and II offer rolling friction radially and vertically, which means the forces resulting from gravity loads also are carried by a rolling surface, the company says. The main difference between the two Hybrid Belts is Hybrid Belt I has one roller bearing on each slat rolling in a special groove, and Hybrid Belt II has two roller bearings on each slat.
“Our hybrids created a different way to capture that bearing, and that allows us to go higher and secure heavier loads to a higher elevation,” Miller says. “In even more aggressive situations, we put two bearings on every slat … we can go even higher and extend our spirals on the lower end to do an S-type shape and configurations on the floor.”
More beverage companies are lightweighting bottles, cans and cases. Accumulation tables that work with conveyor systems are being retooled to handle a variety of lighter weight packages with care.
“As materials are not as strong, thinner and much easier to tear, the whole handling of the case needs to be gentler,” says Tim Kraus, product manager at Intelligrated, Mason, Ohio. “We need to have more powered and guided transitions rather than, in the past, using fixed angle diverts.”
Powered angle diverts use a “swing arm that has a power belt on it that will guide cases rather than pushing them over,” Kraus says. This reduces the damage to cases exponentially, he adds.
Intelligrated offers the Accumat family of conveyors to move products quickly and safely. Accumat conveyors transport full cases of product, and are typically used before feeding a palletizer, Kraus says.
The Accumat Accumulation Conveyor is used frequently in beverage facilities, he says. The conveyor is a roller-less, zero-pressure accumulation conveyor that uses a modular plastic belt as the conveying medium. The belt is supported by a chain track that is divided into accumulation sizes, each 4-feet long. The machine is capable of speeds faster than 250 feet per minute and is available with a stainless steel construction.
“The modular plastic belt gives the manufacturing and distribution advantages in terms of the low cost of ownership,” Kraus says. “There is not nearly the amount of maintenance with this modular plastic belting that there is with a rolling type conveyor or belt conveyor. You basically get it installed and commissioned, turn it on and run it.
“It will be a little more upfront on the initial purchase, but there’s payback because there’s no ongoing maintenance,” he says.
Intelligrated also offers the Accumat Belt Curve, particularly suited for high-speed beverage applications, the company says.
Accumat Belt Curve has a large, radius design, is sprocket driven, and the modular plastic belt allows for high-speed operation. The belt curve moves cases in either 30-, 45-, 60- or 180-degree configurations. It also is capable of speeds up to 300 feet per minute. Accumat conveyors can move and sort a range of case and package sizes. At the end of the day, Kraus says, beverage companies want the machines to be flexible, fast and efficient.
“Within our company portfolio, we’ve got all sorts of ranges of capacities, anywhere from the lowest, which is the case level, and then we go all the way up to full-pallet handling,” Kraus says. “Companies want more flexibility to be able to handle multiple packages because you don’t know which direction or how the product size is going to change.” BI