Global Material Handling System Integrators
 
 

AC/DC: Selecting AC Powered Conveyor vs. DC Powered Conveyor

 
Conveyors can be complicated to understand until you break them down into their individual components and understand what they do for your system. A good place to start when understanding your conveyor system is AC (alternating current) powered conveyor versus DC (direct current) powered conveyor, so you can choose which solution best fits your facility’s needs. There are benefits to both types of power in conveyor applications, and it is up to the engineer and client to come to a best fit solution whether using AC, DC, or a combination of the two.

AC Power

AC powered ZiPline Conveyor For a long time, AC power was the most common power source in the material handling industry, as well as office buildings and our homes.  AC power is powerful and versatile, and its voltage can be changed easily. However, it can be dangerous if not properly turned off during maintenance procedures. If you touched a high voltage power source, you will likely get hurt, killed, or think you got struck by lightning. Below is a list of conditions that might lead you to using AC powered conveyor in your material handling facility.
  1. Conveyor runs: AC power can be distributed more efficiently over long distances, so it’s a good option if your facility has long runs of conveyor.
  2. Budget constraints: Oftentimes the implementation of a new system can mean a tight budget, making AC powered conveyors a good option. They have lower up-front costs when a large number of conveyors are required.
  3. Large product: If your product is large and heavy, AC motors have greater drive force.
  4. Changing SKUs: When you look to tweak your facility to fit a different product line (most commonly seen in manufacturing), AC motors can use VFDs to vary the speeds of the drives, making it easier to change how your layout performs.

DC Power

ZiPline DC powered conveyor Using DC power in material handling is a fairly new way of moving product down the line. It is usually used in the form of 24V DC and is used in motorized rollers (MDRs).  Hytrol uses DC in their Pancake motors. Bastian solutions primarily uses 24V DC power to run our ZiPline conveyor systems. Below are some instances when implementing DC powered conveyor might make the most sense.
  1. Noise reduction: If your facility is converting to a safer and quieter environment, DC powered conveyor is a good option. It is quieter when operating, making it safer for employees, and overall DC power is likely to cause injury due to electric shock.
  2. Sustainability: If your company is applying for LEED certification, then 24V DC is an economical and more efficient use of power, especially considering its ability to turn motors off for individual zones while no products are being transported.
  3. Small product: Small products, up to 50 pounds, are ideal for 24V DC conveyor, which will transport them more efficiently than AC powered conveyor.
  4. Maintenance: Systems with 24V MDR or pancake motors are often low maintenance and easy-to-repair. These motors drive rollers with lightweight bands that are easy to remove and replace and can be done within minutes, resulting in less downtime.
  5. Flexibility: If changes are forecasted within the facility at a later date, 24V powered conveyors are easy to customize and can be easily changed, allowing for more cost-effective changes. In a word, they’re more scalable.
  6. Simple controls: A facility looking to start up in material handling can use 24V without the need of a PLC. Hytrol’s E24 EZ logic cards can achieve basic transfer logic and accumulation logic using internal components.
In summary, with the increasing need for easily implemented distribution facilities, 24V DC conveyor is a popular option. It offers increased safety, ease of use, and energy efficiency. AC power, on the other hand, can deliver high power at a reasonable cost. Both have their place and should be explored when designing your next conveyor system. If you have questions or would like help selecting between AC or DC powered conveyor, please contact us. We are ready to help you with your future material handling needs.

Author: Gregg Durham

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