What is an Indexing Conveyor?
Indexing Conveyors move products in a series of steps rather than a continuous flow. The reason for this is so that a machine or worker can carry out a required function on a work piece, a product inspected under a camera for defects, or a barcode read by a scanner. Indexing operations can vary in indexing length, speed, and direction. You will see a lot of indexing conveyors on Medical Device machinery built by OEM machine builders in the Automation industry
Special purpose built indexing conveyor with pucks on the belt. Each puck will index to a specific point via a stepper or servomotor in the machine cycle so where a function is carried out on the part it is conveying
Typical Indexing Conveyor Examples
- Inspection stations either automated as part of a machine cycle or manual for visual inspection. In an automated example, a robotic machine may be placing chips onto a PCB. In a manual example, a worker is working at a visual inspection station and via a button trigger will call for product. The conveyor then presents product for the worker upon which they carry out a function.
- Label application. These systems have a labeller applicator and the conveyor part either of the same machine, or as independent machines for applying labels to various different products that need them. For example, strawberry punnets you buy in the shop have labels displaying their country or origin and the best before date. Punnets are filled in the packing factory and then the lids sealed. Then the punnets index along the conveyor 1 at a time under the labeller to apply the punnet label. The labeller and the conveyor will be interlocked to keep them running in harmony
- Liquid filling and capping. This is one of the most widely used applications for indexing conveyors. In bottling plants, no matter the liquid, indexing conveyor are used to present the bottles under the filling head in the same position every time. Because of the high accuracy needed in these applications, as we cannot waste liquid, conveyors are tracked via an encoder on the motor or a cam counter on the conveyor drive roller. By creating a closed loop, the conveyor index is always consistent and accurate