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BeltTensioningMethodsforSmallPackageConveyors

Whatsthebestsolution?

IndustrialWhitePaper
By:MichaelA.Hosch,P.E.

DornerMfg.Corp.
975CottonwoodAvenue
Hartland,WI53029USA
Phone:8003978664
www.Dorner.com

Overview:

Thiswhitepaperwillprovideanoverviewofthemostcommonlyusedmethodsforadjustingbelttensiononsmallpackage
conveyors.Theprimaryadvantagesanddisadvantagesofeachmethodwillalsobepresentedtoassistmanufacturersidentifythe
bestoptionfortheirspecificneeds.

TableofContents:

Overview

BeltTensioningforSmallPackageConveyorsAnIntroduction

BeltTensionMethods

JackScrewTension

RackandPinionTension

TipUpTailTension

PneumaticorSpringTension

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AdvantagesandDisadvantages

Conclusion

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BeltTensioningforSmallPackageBeltConveyorsAnIntroduction:

Smallpackagebeltconveyorsareusedforthousandsofapplicationsincountlessindustrialmarkets.Theseconveyorsmove
individualproductsthroughprocessingapplicationswherefunctionssuchasforming,molding,machining,gluingandassemblyare
performedonmetalorplasticproduct.Theseproductsthenmovetopackagingapplicationswheretheyareinsertedintotheir
individualpackageandsealed,wrapped,heatshrunk,orbandedbeforebeinggroupedandloadedintotheirshippingcontainer.The
useofsmallpackagebeltconveyorsforalloftheapplicationspresentedabovehasseveralbenefits.

Typically,theseconveyorshaveendrollersbetween1and2indiameter.Thisallowssmoothtransferfromprocesstoprocessfor
smallandoftenoddlyshapedproducts.Inaddition,smallpackagebeltconveyorsgenerallyhaveathinprofileandhaveatightbelt
widthtooverallwidthratio.Thisprovidestheabilityfortheconveyortofitintotightspaces,whichmaximizesavailablefloorspace
whileminimizingprotrusionsthatmayinterferewithoperators.

Althoughtheseconveyorsaresmall(astheirclassificationwouldimply)andtheirloadsaregenerallylight,theystillpresentsomeof
thesametechnicalandmaintenancechallengesasmuchlargerconveyorsonesuchchallengeisbelttensioning.ForboSiegling,a
leadingmanufactureroflightmaterialhandlingbelts,notesthefollowingrelativetobelttensioning;thecontactpressureofthebelt
onthedrivedrumrequiredtotransmiteffectivepullisproducedbyelongatingthebeltwithatensiontakeup.Withoutatension
takeupdevice,therewouldbenopressureonthedrivedrumandtheconveyorbeltwouldstop.Whilethisconceptissimple,how
thetensiontakeupmechanismisdesignedtocarryoutthisprocesscanbequitecomplicated.And,ifnotdoneproperly,canleadto
avarietyofresourcedrainingmaintenanceproblems,including:

Poororinconsistentbelttracking
Overtensioning,causingpoorbeltlife
Overtensioning,causingpoorbearinglife
Undertensioning,causingbeltslippage
Confusiontomaintenancestaffontensioningprocedures
Mechanismsthataredifficulttoaccessoradjust

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Alloftheissueslistedpreviouslycouldeasilyleadtoconveyorbeltshutdown,whichoftenforcesmachineandproductiondowntime
somethingthatobviouslyneedstobeavoidedintodaysbusy,24/7productionfacilities.

BeltTensionMethods:

Thereareseveralcommercialmethodsforprovidingandadjustingconveyorbelttension.Someconsistofstandardcomponentsthat
providethecapabilityofdesigningyourownconveyor.Othermethodsonlyexistindesignsavailableascompleteconveyorsfrom
conveyormanufactures.Inmostcases,thesemethodscanbecategorizedintothefollowingfourgroups:

1. JackScrewTension
2. RackandPinionTension
3. TipupTailTension
4. PneumaticorSpringTension

Letstakeamoredetailedlookateachofthesemethods,beginningwithJackScrewTension.

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JackScrewTension

Jackscrewtensionisthemostcommonbelttensioningmechanism.Howdoesitwork?Asshowninthefigurebelow(FigureA),the
tensiononthebeltisaccomplishedbyturningthescrewattheendofaconveyor.Thispushesthebearingblocktowardstheendof
theconveyor,whichaddstensiontothebelt.Thereisanother,identicaljackscrewlocatedontheoppositesideoftheroller.The
sameproceduremustbeperformedevenlyforbothrollers.Inmostconveyorinstallations,thistensionmechanismisalsousedto
adjustbelttracking.Jackscrewtensioningissimpletouseandiscommonlyinstalled,butalsopresentsanumberofdisadvantages
whichwellreviewingreaterdetaillaterinthispaper.

FigureA:
JackScrewTension

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RackandPinionTension

Rackandpiniontensionisaccomplishedbyincorporatingarackandpiniondeviceintotheconveyorframe.Anexampleofthis
mechanismisshownbelow(FigureB).Asyoullsee,tworacksareslideablymountedtotheconveyorframe.Turningthepinion
shaftthenpushesonthebearingblockstomovetherollerandaddbelttension.Generally,thepinionrunsthefullwidthofthe
frameandcontactsbothracks,whichmovesthebearingblocksevenlyandparallelwhileturningfromasinglepoint.Sincethe
bearingblocksmovetogether,anadditionaldeviceisneededforbelttracking.Thisbelttrackingdevicemaybeajackscreworcam,
whichistypicallymountedbetweentheracksandthebearingblock.Rackandpiniontensioningdoesnotdisturbbelttracking
if/whenabelttensionadjustmentisnecessary.

FigureB:
RackandPinionTension

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TipUpTailTension

Atipuptailisaccomplishedbyplacingtheendrollerofaconveyoronapivotmechanism.Anexampleofthismechanismisshown
below(FigureC).Usingthismethod,thepivotdevicegenerallyliftstheendrollerabovetheconveyorframe.Whenplacedinthe
lowerlockedposition,thetotalrollertorollerlengthoftheconveyorislongerthanitisintheupperposition.Thisextensioniswhat
providestensiontotheconveyorbelt.Thepivotmechanismmovestheentireendrollerperpendiculartotheconveyorframeand
doesnotneedaccessoradjustmentfrombothsidesoftheframe.Atipuptailmechanismwillnotprovidefinitebelttension
adjustmentitcanonlybesettooneposition.Overtime,asbeltsstretch,theywillrequireadjustment.Toaccomplishthis,adevice
suchasajackscrewwillneedtobeaddedforincrementaltensionadjustment.Thisjackscrewcanthenalsobeusedforbelt
trackingadjustment.

FigureC:
TipUpTailTension

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PneumaticorSpringTension

Pneumaticorspringtensionistypicallyusedonheavilyloadedorlongerconveyors.Itisaccomplishedbytheadditionofatleast
threerollerstotheundersideoftheconveyor.Anexampleofthismechanismisshownbelow(FigureD).Belttensionisachievedby
aconnectionofapneumaticcylinderoraspringloadeddevicetothelowertensionroller.Thecylinderwillpullthelowerroller
down,whichplacestensiononthebelt.Generally,onecylinderisconnectedtotheendsoftherollerbyacrossbracket.Thecylinder
willmovetheendsoftherollerevenlyandparallel.Onebenefitofthismechanismisthatitautomaticallycompensatesforbelt
stretch.Themethodscoveredpreviouslyinthispaperhavebeenstaticdevicesthatrequiremanualadjustmentovertime.Seeingas
longerandhigherloadconveyorshavemorebeltstretch,thisisthebestmethodforthosecircumstances.Belttrackingistypically
accomplishedbyaddingadevicesuchasajackscrewtothesnubrollersjustabovethetensionroller.

FigureD:
PneumaticTension

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AdvantagesandDisadvantagesofTensioningMethods:

Nowthatyouhaveabetterunderstandingofthemostcommonlyutilizedtensioningmethods,welltakeamoredetailedlookatthe
generaladvantagesanddisadvantagesofeach.

JackScrewTension

Advantages:

1. Lowcost.Thismethodhastheleastamountofcomponentsandthecomponentsaresimpleandreadilyavailable.
2. Familiarity.Thisisthemostcommonmethodoftensioningandmostmaintenancecrewsarefamiliarwithitsoperation,soit
cangenerallybefixedquickly.

Disadvantages:

1. Addedmaintenancetimeforbelttracking.Becausethejackscrewistheonlymethodofadjustment,itmustbeusedfor
bothtensioningandtracking.Onceaconveyorbeltrequiresretensioning,thejackscrewswillbeadjustedandthetracking
settingswillbedisturbed.Therefore,atrackingadjustmentmustbeperformedeventhoughitwasntrequired.Thiscauses
muchhighermaintenancetimesastrackingadjustmentcantakesubstantiallylongerthansimpletensioningalone.
2. Highriskofovertensioning.Inmostcases,thejackscrewadjustmentdeviceisasimplethreadedbolt.Threadedboltsare
designedtoapplyextremeforcetoclamporholddevices.Belttensionadjustmentsmadewithjackscrewsaredone
manually.And,withtheshallowpitchangleofthejackscrewthread,thereisverylittlefeedbacktotheoperatormaking
theadjustment.Theyareoftenunawareoftheextremeforcestheyareplacingonthebeltandthebearings.Unfortunately,
intime,thisovertensioningwillresultinreducedbearingandbeltlife.
3. Difficulttoaccessformaintenance.Inmanyconveyordesigns,thejackscrewislocatedattheendoftheconveyorroller
alongthesideoftheconveyorframe.Unfortunately,inmostapplications,theendoftheconveyorisplacedupagainst
anotherconveyorrollerorpieceofequipment,makingitnearlyimpossibletoaccesstheendofthejackscrewfor

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adjustment.Therefore,tomakeadjustments,theconveyormustberemovedfromitmounts,adjustedandthenreturned.
Thisdramaticallyincreasesmaintenancetimes.
4. Addswidthtotheconveyor.Ifnotlocatedontheendoftheconveyortail,thejackscrewmustthenbelocatedbehindthe
conveyorbearingblock,whichpushesthebearingblockforward(seeFigureA).Thismethodaddsconsiderablewidthtothe
overallconveyor,makingitmuchmoredifficulttoplacetheconveyorintotightapplications.Italsoprotrudesbeyondthe
conveyorsideframe,whichcreatesapotentialsafetyriskforoperators.
5. Requiresperiodicretensioning.Thismechanismdoesnotcompensateforthebeltstretchthatwilloccurovertimedueto
wearorheavyloads.Ifbeltslipoccurs,thejackscrewwillneedtoberetightenedandretrackedtotensionthebelt.

RackandPinionTension

Advantages:

1. Doesnotaffectbelttracking.Rackandpinionmechanismspushevenlyonthebearingblocksfromasinglepoint.Moving
thebearingblockstogetherensuresthatthetrackingadjustmentcompletedpreviouslydoesnotgetdisturbedbytheneed
toretension.Thisgreatlyshortensmaintenancetimes.
2. Easyaccessformaintenanceadjustment.Maintenanceadjustmentonarackandpinionsystemisdonefromthesideofthe
conveyorframe.Generally,thisareaismoreopenthantheend.Inaddition,thepinioncanbeaccessedfromeithersideof
theframe.Therefore,ifonesideisblockedbyanaccessory,theothersidemaybeopen.
3. Lowriskofovertensioning.Inarackandpinionmechanism,theamountoftensionplacedintotheconveyorbeltisdirectly
relatedtothemanualtorqueplacedonthepiniongear.Themechanicaladvantageofthispiniongearismuchlessthana
jackscrew.Thepinioncanbesizedsothatwhenitreachesthedesiredbelttension,itbecomesdifficulttoturn.This
minimizesthedesiretoovertensionthebelt,lengtheningconveyorbeltandbearinglife.
4. Compactdesign.Onlytheendofthepinionneedstobeaccessedbymaintenanceinarackandpiniondesign.Asaresult,the
remainderofthemechanismcanbebuiltinsidetheconveyorframe.Thisensurestheframeisnarrowanddoesnotprotrude
muchpastthebeltwidth,allowingtheconveyortobeplacedintotightspaceswhileeliminatingoperatorbumppoints.

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Disadvantages:

1. Requiresanaccurateframe.Sincethepremiseforthismechanismistomovethetwobearingblocksevenly,itiscriticalforit
tobeinstalledaccuratelyandparalleltotheroller.Customconveyorsgenerallydonotusethismethodforthatreason.
However,standardconveyorsthatusequalityengineeringandconsistentmanufacturingmethodsareabletoaccomplishthe
accuracyneeded.
2. Requiresperiodicretensioning.Thismechanismdoesnotcompensateforthebeltstretchthatwillhappenovertimedueto
wearorheavyloads.Ifbeltslipoccurs,therackandpinionwillneedtoberetightenedtotensionthebelt.

TipUpTailTension

Advantages:

1. Quickaccessforcleaning.Tipuptailtensionmechanismsaremostoftenutilizedonconveyorsusedinfoodapplications.For
theseapplications,itisimportanttohavefastandtoollessaccesstotheinsideoftheconveyorforcleaning.Tipuptails
providethisfunction.
2. Doesnotaffectbelttracking.Tipupmechanismsswingthebearingblocksevenlyintopositionfromasinglepoint.Moving
thebearingblockstogetherensuresthatthetrackingadjustmentthathasbeenpreviouslysetdoesnotgetdisturbedbythe
needtoretension.

Disadvantages:

1. Requiresanaccurateframe.Sincethepremiseforthismechanismistomovethetwobearingblocksevenly,itisrequired
thatitisinstalledaccuratelyandparalleltotheroller.
2. Onlysetsinitialtension.Atipuptailtensionsystemisasinglepositionsystem.Thepivotarmrotatestherollerintoone
positiononly.Therefore,thistensionsystemcanonlysetinitialtensionandcannotcompensateforbeltstretchovertime.
Toaccommodatethis,anadditionaldevicesuchasajackscrewmustbeaddedtothemechanism.

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3. Operatorsafetyhazards.Theuseofatipuptailmechanismcreatestwopotentialoperatorhazards.Thefirstisthepotential
toliftthetipuptailintotheupperpositionwhiletheconveyorisrunning.Ifthisisdone,theoperatorhasaccesstodriven
rollersinsidetheconveyorframe.CESafetyStandardsdictatethataccesstoequipmentshallonlybedoneusingatool.Ifthe
tailismanuallyactivated,itmayviolateCEandOSHAsafetystandards.ManuallyactivatedtipuptailsarepreferredinFood
conveyorapplications.Intheseapplications,theneedforsanitationoutweighsthepotentialsafetyrisks.Thesecondsafety
hazardwithtipuptailmechanismsisthepotentialpinchpointcreatedfromloweringthetailbackdownintoitstensioned
position.Thescissorsactioncreatedfromthepivotframetotheconveyorframecreatesadangerpoint.Ifnotproperly
designedorguarded,injurycouldoccur.

PneumaticorSpringTension

Advantages:

1. Automaticallytensionsthebelt.Withtheadditionofapneumaticcylinderorspringloadeddevice,thistension
mechanismmaintainsconstanttensionontheconveyorbelt.Thisisespeciallyimportantonlongerorheavilyloaded
conveyors.Retensionmaintenanceisnotrequireduntilthemechanismrunsoutoftravel.

Disadvantages:

1. Costly.Theadditionofthethreerollersandthetensionmechanismaddssignificantlytothecostoftheconveyor.
2. Longerbeltreplacementtime.Inthistensionmethod,thereturnconveyorbeltisinterwoventhroughthethreerollers.
Whenbeltreplacementisrequired,removaloftheuppertworollersisalsonecessary.Dependingonthedesignofthe
mechanism,thiscanaddsignificantlytothemaintenancetimetoreplaceawornoutbelt.Toincreasemaintenance
efficiency,asystemwithaquickreleasefeatureshouldbeutilized,whichprovideseasyaccesstothetoprollers.
3. Beltsurfacecontamination.Withthethreerollermechanism,thetoptworollerscontactthetoprunningsurfaceofthe
belt.Theserollerscanpickupdebrisandimbeditintothebeltsurface.Insomeapplicationsthismaynotbeanissue,but
infoodorfoodpackagingapplications,thisshouldbeavoided.

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Conclusion:

So,whichmethodofbelttensioningisbest?Ofcourse,thecorrectanswerdependsonthespecificapplicationathand.But,
generallyspeaking,inasituationwhereaoneoffcustomconveyorisbeingimplementedbynonconveyorpeoplethejackscrew
methodwouldmostlikelybesufficient.Ithasreadilyavailablecomponentstoaideinthedesignanditsalsosimpleand
inexpensive.

However,whenacompanyispurchasingaconveyorfromaconveyormanufacturer,theyshouldexpectmoreutilityfortheirmoney
andhigherqualitytechnology.Atechnologythatdecreasesmaintenancetimes,whileprolongingtheconveyorslifeandimproving
itsoverallfunction.ThetechnologythatmostregularlydeliversthesebenefitsistheRackandPinionmethod.

FormoredetailsaboutRackandPiniontensioning,oranyoftheothermethodspresentedinthispaper,pleasecallDornerMfg.
Corp.at18003978664orvisitDorner.com.

AboutDornerMfg.Corp.

BasedinHartland,Wis.,DornerMfg.Corp.isaworldleaderinthedesign,manufactureanddistributionofhighqualityconveyors
andrelatedequipment.Since1973,companiesfromaroundtheworldhaveturnedtoDornerforgreatlyimprovedefficiencyand
productivity.AdditionalinformationaboutthecompanycanbeobtainedonlineatDorner.com.

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