At Itoh Denki we always seek to be at the forefront of innovation in the technology areas we specialise in. But equally we are always respectful of our past, and the innovators who have gone before us, each of whom has left their mark on what we do now.
Ultimately, conveyors have always been used to solve a problem – the need to move heavy or multiple items from one place to another – and without them, many things we now take almost for granted may not exist.
Rudimentary conveying technologies were already in use to transport the materials which make up some of the most instantly recognisable buildings in the world, the pyramids of Egypt.
But their use only really started to burgeon from the 18th Century, when they were employed to load grain onto ships, and to remove coal from mines.
Amazingly, nobody thought to patent a product in this area until 1908.
Shortly after that, roller conveyors played a key role in the manufacture of the Ford Model T.
This was the precursor to massive growth in roller conveyor use in warehouses and factories, and it’s been an area of almost constant innovation since then.
Motor driven roller conveyors
The first motor-driven roller conveyors started to see service in the 1970s, forming the heart of advanced automated conveyor systems.
The replacement of conventional bulky external motor drive designs by a series of compact motors embedded directly into the rollers would deliver a series of highly impactful benefits.
Firstly, it allowed the flexibility to divide the conveyor into shorter, independent zones, instead of the long and cumbersome drive zones of externally driven conveyors. The placement of precise stops and placement points became possible, as did automated distancing between the items being conveyed.
These new systems were safer too. By dividing a long conveyor into shorter zones, the electrical power and the torque needed at any point of the line is drastically reduced. Current MDR conveyors are now typically standardised at 24Vdc.
Meanwhile, gears, chains and sprockets, which have to be covered to protect people working nearby, are replaced by simple pulleys connecting the rollers together, making installation and maintenance easier too.
The backbone of automation
The benefits of the motor roller drive conveyors would play an important role in the development of industry changing automated solutions for both logistics and factory applications.
Continued technological advances would enable this type of technology to transport a broader variety of items, ranging from a 10g envelope to a 1-tonne pallet.
More relevant than ever, motorised roller conveying remains a backbone of innovative warehouse and factory processes, playing a central role in facilities worldwide, in synergy with groundbreaking robotic applications.