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Chains for conveyors: it’s all about forging strong links

11 March 2011

German chain manufacturer, iwis and its customer, the modular transfer specialist, Altratec Montagesysteme have formed a strong development partnership over the years. In this article we take a look at how the two companies have collaborated to develop reliable accumulation chains for continuous conveyor systems

Roller chain manufacturer iwis has developed special accumulation chains for continuous conveyor systems manufactured by the modular transfer systems specialist, Altratec Montagesysteme. These systems feature two continuously running synchronised conveyor chains, and allow workpiece carriers to be accumulated, separated, buffered and positioned at any point throughout the workflow, independently of the process cycle. The workpiece carriers or jigs can also be bolted to the conveyor chain for synchronised transport without accumulation. Headquartered in Schwieberdingen, Germany, Altratec also manufactures special accumulation conveyors referred to as ‘over-under’ conveyors with multiple tiers.

Workpiece carriers can be accumulated, separated, buffered and - if necessary - positioned at any point along the accumulator roller chain. In carry-and-return sections, these form a level surface and, at the end of the section, they are scanned for the presence of workpieces. Only then are empty carriers released for the return journey and run upside down along the return section. The flexibly joined carrier segments open when deflected in order to negotiate a radius and at this point engage positively with the chain. When they reach a workstation they are stopped, separated if necessary, and positioned.

Altratec’s long-standing chain supply partner iwis has developed a special-purpose accumulator chain with chain bolts that are extended on one side and fitted with additional running rollers. These 'bolt extensions' allow the carriers to be returned along the chain's return section, removing the need for additional conveying sections for the carrier returns.
Over-under conveyors offer particular advantages as they save space by returning the workpiece on the same conveyor. This also reduces the size and complexity of the control system software and hardware: fewer sensors and pneumatic components, no additional motors for lateral movement, and no angular transfer units and lifting stations are needed, thus reducing costs.

The length and width of the workpiece carriers are joined like a shutter system and can be varied as required by the transported workpieces using aluminium profile segments measuring 25 × 100mm. The continuous conveyor is suitable for heavy workpieces, has a long service life, and is unaffected by contamination with oils and cooling lubricants.

In addition to over-under conveyors, Altratec uses iwis chains in conventional continuous workpiece carrier conveyor systems, in curved accumulator chain systems using side bow chains, in modular belt and flat-top chain systems, and in side-plate chain conveyors. The partnership between the companies is not limited to off-the-shelf chain. For Altratec, iwis is an important source of expertise in its search for suitable chain products and in the development of new and existing materials handling technology.

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