The Conveying Compass: Types of Conveyors in Factory Automation

Conveyors vary to fit use, yet fast and smart are the trends that support increased throughput.

Mark Dinges, Product manager for assembly automation at Bosch Rexroth

June 11, 2024

3 Min Read
evolving conveyors
Tom Werner for Stone via Getty Images

At a Glance

  • Conveyors are evolving to meet the needs of Industry 4.0.
  • Understanding the different types of conveyors is critical for OEMS to streamline and optimize their processes.
  • Conveyors will remain a necessary component in modern assemblies.

Despite the everchanging ecosystem that is today’s modern assembly line, certain established processes remain the bedrock of operational efficiency, namely, conveyors. Their adoption in, and amidst the transition to, Industry 4.0 is clear. What’s perhaps not as evident are their unique use cases and strengths. Various types of conveyors serve certain purposes and while the utilization of high-speed smart conveyance is increasing as market demands shift, more traditional transfer systems remain a key component in OEMs reaching a desired throughput. What is being produced and how much are foundational to guiding conveyor decisions so let’s take at several of the most common options and where they should be used based on those factors. 

Belt Conveyors


Belt conveyors, whether they’re flat or toothed, have a wide range of applications. Generally, they’re perfect for transporting smaller, lighter components. Many of them include electrically conductive coatings, which are ideal for medical assembly where the processes must meet certain standards, including electrostatic discharge (ESD.) These conveyors are also perfect for “clean” applications like electronics, which is a market that’s constantly shifting and further places an onus on OEMs to be flexible in meeting end-user demands.

Flattop Chains


Where belt conveyors are typically used in straight line processes, flattop chains allow OEMs to construct modular systems that curve and bend, which is a key factor in manufacturers looking to optimize their factory floor. Flattop chains help maintain leading-edge pallet orientation throughout the process and the chain caps commonly overlap each other, which makes them very fastener-friendly. Flattop chains can typically handle heavier payloads than belt conveyors and are utilized in a wide range of industries, including consumer packaged goods (CPG.)

Roller Chains


Roller chains are available in a variety of designs and can be leveraged in the most complex applications. The power-and-free design creates a low-friction surface, allowing roller chains to convey heavier loads. Most roller chains are also bi-directional, making them suitable for reversing applications in EV battery production and material handling.

Powered Roller Conveyors


These conveyors typically have the highest payload capacities and offer the most extensive conveyance solutions. They can have a significant impact for OEMs who are transitioning from manual to semi or fully automated processes, as they cut-down on manual workforce strain and increase throughput on a wide-scale. They’re also very quiet in operation and have low maintenance requirements.

These four types are part of the evolution of conveyors, which represent a microcosm of the advancements in assembly processes. They’re a cornerstone in maintaining efficiency and as end-user needs continue to develop, so too do conveyors, as evidenced in unique adaptions like spiral/helix designs and the aforementioned high-speed smart conveyance, which transfers pallets at increasingly higher speeds. Understanding the different types and uses of conveyors is critical for OEMs to both streamline and optimize their processes to not only achieve a desired production goal, but also to be flexible enough to shift and adapt to meet shifting demands. As such, it’s clear that conveyors will remain a necessary and useful component to today’s modern assemblies.

About the Author(s)

Mark Dinges

Product manager for assembly automation at Bosch Rexroth, Bosch Rexroth

Mark Dinges is an experienced product manager with over 20 years of demonstrated history of working in the industrial automation industry. An alumnus of EU Business School and Grand Valley State University, Mark has been a strong product and project management professional at Bosch Rexroth over varying assembly technologies since joining the company in 2001.

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