Out with the old and in with the new is a common phrase and common practice for most people in today's world. For example if your toaster stops working, what are you going to do? Chances are you will probably just throw it away and buy a new toaster... out with the old, in with the new. A toaster is a relatively inexpensive item, so replacing it makes the most sense. However, this constant shuffle of throwing away the old and replacing it with new can get extremely expensive. If your car is having a problem, more than likely you aren't going to just throw it away and get a new one. It's too expensive for that. In most cases, you find out what the problem is and have it fixed. I would like to teach you how you can treat your conveyor system more like your car and less like your toaster. Certain types of conveyor are easily retrofitted with newer technologies, and once complete, can make your old system perform nearly as well as new. Retrofitting what you already own is often just a fraction of the cost of replacing it with new conveyor, and you can also gain new functionality. I applied this line of thought to an existing conveyor system and provided the customer with a low cost retrofit that greatly increased functionality, dependability, and accuracy. I had a section of narrow, belt-driven, live roller conveyor on which the customer wanted to accumulate product. The cost to rip the conveyor out and replace it with new conveyor was too expensive, but with a little out of the box thinking, I designed a cost-effective retrofit. The conveyor frame supports and double grooved rollers remained relatively untouched. The existing AC drive and all components were removed. I installed 24V motorized drive rollers (MDRs) and accumulation drive cards to the existing conveyor frame and had a fully functional 24V zero pressure accumulation conveyor instead of a live roller conveyor. [caption id="attachment_3488" align="alignright" width="405"] Example of a retrofitted conveyor on which the motorized drive roller (MDR) was mounted below the frame and banded up to the conveying rollers; the MDRs were mounted below the frame to allow for minimal down time so they could be fully wired and tested before removal of the old drive system.[/caption] I have used this same concept of retrofitting with MDRs several times but customized the retrofit to meet the needs of specific areas within the conveyor system. For example, at a merge point I had the same type of conveyor but it was a longer conveyor run and only needed a marginal amount of accumulation for the merge to operate smoothly. At this particular area, instead of removing the existing AC drive, I kept it in place but removed the drive force from the last 10 feet of conveyor and installed MDRs and accumulation cards to allow the merge to operate efficiently. In this application, the advantages of retrofitting versus replacing with a new system, include:
- About half the cost of replacing with new conveyor
- 24V conveyor provided a green solution with lower power requirements
- Flexibility of powered rollers for changing speeds for gapping and accumulating as needed
- Reduced installation cost and time (no need for tear out and install of new conveyor)
One of the few disadvantages of a retrofitting is the system can require a higher level of maintenance since the parts are not new. However, this can be prevented by performing any necessary maintenance while retrofitting your old system and by performing regular, preventative maintenance on the entire material handling system, including both old and new equipment. Regardless of any disadvantages, if retrofitting is appropriate for your next project, the benefits can far outweigh the negatives, so the next time you're looking to purchase a new conveyor system, look into retrofitting your old one instead. In the end, you could wind up saving almost half the cost, while still achieving the needs and functionality you desire.
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