Conveyors are a common type of machine used to move materials and are found in many areas of industry and business. The technology can take a number of forms, and differences are primarily a matter of the exact mechanism by which the conveyor moves materials. Conveyors are used to move almost any kind of raw material, parts and finished products in factories, foods in processing plants, crops during harvesting, and packages in distribution centers. They can be passive or powered and may be designed to move its contents a few feet or several miles.

Passive conveyor technology relies on an outside force to move the object and merely provides a means for facilitating such movement. A very simple type of passive conveyor is a roller conveyor. A roller conveyor consists of a series of free-spinning rollers, usually made of metal and mounted on a frame much like rungs on a ladder, but much closer together. An object placed on the conveyor and given a small push glides quickly and easily along the rollers, which reduce friction. Conveyors of this type are common on trucks and in small business and on loading docks.

Powered systems make up the bulk of conveyor technology and take many forms. Powered roller conveyors work much the same way as passive rollers but use machines to spin the rollers that propel the object or package along. Complicated networks of such conveyors are found in package and mail distribution centers. Belt conveyors consist of a large belt that extends between and revolves around two or more cylinder-shaped pulleys. A typical check-out lane in a supermarket is a good example, although these types of conveyors can also be extremely large and are sometimes used to move mining products and wastes over distances of several miles.

Read more: What Are the Different Types of Conveyor Technology?