Archive: Jan 2020

Components of Incline, Alpine, and Spiral Conveyors — Similarities & Differences

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Conveyors facilitate the transport of in-process goods and parts through various workstations in a manufacturing or production facility. Different conveyor systems offer different advantages, including varying degrees of human access, use of horizontal and vertical space, and movement control. 

Alpine conveyors, incline conveyors, and spiral conveyors are three of the most commonly employed types of conveyors in the industrial sector. In the following article, we’ll discuss the components of each type of conveyor system, its benefits, and how it compares to the other two systems.

What Are Incline Conveyors?

Incline conveyors are simpler conveyance systems used in industrial facilities to move materials and products across different heights. Depending on where the goods need to go next in the production process, these conveyors can be configured to move them to a different height within a floor, to a different floor, or across the current floor to a different location. 

Some of the most commonly employed incline conveyor configurations include:

  • Side-gripping elevators/lowerators
  • Side-gripping rinsing conveyors (also known as rinsers)

These conveyor systems feature two parallel gripper chains with attached gripper components that allow them to gently hold products during conveying, elevating, and lowering operations throughout the facility. They are highly customizable, allowing for changes to the distance between the chains to accommodate different product sizes and the gripper component—in regard to style and construction material—to suit different product types. Additionally, their design accounts for product jams; if a product becomes lodged, the individual gripper component detaches from the moving chain, allowing all other products to move forward and preventing damage to the other system components. 

Incline Conveyor Applications

As one of the most commonly used types of conveyors, incline conveyors can be found in facilities across industry. They are often employed in the manufacture of goods for the following industries:

  • Food and beverage
  • General manufacturing
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Transportation

Incline Conveyor Benefits

By using incline conveyors, industry professionals benefit from:

  • Easier conveyor control. Incline conveyors allow operators to control the speed with fixed and variable speed controls. The machinery can also reverse the direction of movement at the push of a button. 
  • Heavier material handling capabilities. Incline conveyors accommodate heavy and bulky goods, reducing the need for human workers to manually carry these objects.
  • Safer transport of breakable items. While incline conveyors can feature almost any diagonal angle, they are precisely configured to keep goods safe from damage during transport. 
  • Longer production capacities. Incline conveyor systems are suitable for use in longer loading and unloading operations. 

What Are Alpine Conveyors?

Alpine conveyors are compact, spiral-shaped structures that are suitable for use in limited space environments. Depending on the exact requirements of the material handling application—e.g., production quantity, movement speed, and lowering and/or lifting conditions—they can employ a variety of different designs, such as: 

  • Single or double configurations
  • Return or top running chains
  • In-line or off-line accumulation
  • Inclining or declining elevation 

Alpine Conveyor Applications

Due to their narrow footprint, alpine conveyors allow for material conveyance without taking up significant space in the work environment. Facilities in nearly every industry—including automation, food handling, dairy and cheese manufacturing, and metalworking—employ these conveyors to streamline production and assembly. Typical use cases include:

  • Allowing for extended testing and processing time for parts and products
  • Enabling product movement and access at different levels for simultaneous processing
  • Product buffering and storage during downtime, machinery maintenance, and automated machinery reprogramming
  • Reducing bottlenecks in product flow at the end of the processing and finishing lines

Alpine Conveyor Benefits

Alpine conveyors offer several unique benefits, including:

  • Higher process consistency. In buffering or accumulating sections, alpine conveyors keep individual materials and components in order. This quality is particularly important for complex fabrication and assembly operations. 
  • Better damage prevention. Alpine conveyors feature a gentler slope that minimizes the risk of product damage during changes in elevation. 
  • Greater production/space efficiency. As alpine conveyors allow for the use of vertical space in a facility, they can fit larger production operations in the same space as other conveyor systems. 
  • Versatile production capacity. By adding or removing levels to an alpine conveyor system, facilities can increase or decrease production levels to suit the current production demand.

Differences and Similarities to Incline Conveyors

Similar to alpine conveyors, incline conveyors accommodate changes in elevation during production operations. However, there are differences in how and why industry professionals would use each type of conveyor. 

  • Incline conveyor systems are used primarily to move objects within a facility to different heights, floors, and locations.
  • Alpine conveyor systems allow for multiple layers of production to optimize the usage of facility space.  


What Are Spiral Conveyors?

Spiral conveyors gradually change the elevation of transported goods by moving them along an upward or downward spiral path. They can be very compact to minimize the use of horizontal space in confined facilities. 

Types of Spiral Conveyors

There are two main types of spiral conveyance systems:

  1. Drum spiral conveyors. These conveyors have modular belts that twist around a centralized drum structure.
  2. Spiral conveyors with drum-free external drives. These conveyors have an external drive that moves the conveyor belt. Compared to drum spiral conveyors, they offer better durability and longer service lives. 

Differences and Similarities to Alpine Conveyors and Incline Conveyors

Spiral conveyors differ from alpine and incline conveyors in that they are not suitable for production operations that require the horizontal transport of goods. They are primarily used for conveyance operations in very limited space facilities. 

Quality Incline Conveyor Products From Houston Products

Houston Products, Inc. is a manufacturer of high-quality side-gripping incline conveyor components. We offer the following product solutions: 

  • Full gripper chain assemblies, including a stainless or carbon steel base chain with the customer’s choice of gripper
  • Standard and custom rubber grippers for maintenance and repair operations

Contact Us Today for additional information about our chain gripper products.