Conveyor 101: Handling packages the Easy Way Versus the Hard Way
February 26, 2013
When manufacturing customers come to us with a carton or case handling application, one of the first things to determine is how the cartons will travel on the conveyor. The easy way refers to packages traveling (with the narrow edge leading) on the long axis, and the hard way refers to packages traveling (wide edge leading) on the short axis.
On a packaging line, it is common for packages to be handled on any axis. Packaging machines on a production line dictate the orientation of the package coming into and out of the equipment. In fact many packages are run both ways on a conveyor system.
This issue with easy way or hard way product traveling has to do with the guide rail settings.
When traveling the easy way, packages stay aligned because chain friction carries the packages in a positive direction. Guide rail positions are more forgiving on easy-way package conveyance. While easy-way package travel offers reliable conveyance, it may limit buffering capabilities depending on the length of the package.
Packages traveling the hard way have fewer margins for positive tracking. This is because the chain friction wants to turn the product to lead with the narrow edge whenever the package feels friction from the rails or when the product transfers from one conveyor to another. The product may get pulled unevenly from the conveyors letting one corner catch and pull away, turning the package to keep it running straight. Guide rail adjustments must have much closer tolerances on hard-way package conveying. The guide rail settings must be slightly less than the diagonal measurement of the package so it remains oriented throughout conveyance. A quick rule of thumb is that the rail opening should be a minimum of 15% - 20% smaller than the diagonal dimension of the package. Packages traveling the hard way have more conveyor length for accumulation and buffering than packages traveling the easy way mainly because of the shorter travel length of the package which allows for gaps between packages.
For more information on package manipulation, click below to visit the Nercon website.