Conveyor Solutions: Expert Insights for Your Automation Demands

Glossary of Conveyor System Terms

By Katie

June 25, 2024
multicolored suitcases on a curved conveyor

Conveyor Lingo Made Simple

Conveyor systems are the backbone of modern industrial operations, seamlessly propelling materials through the intricate stages of production and distribution. Mastering the terminology linked with conveyor systems isn’t just beneficial—it’s essential for operators and customers alike, ensuring peak performance, safety, and streamlined maintenance practices. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll unravel key conveyor system terms to illuminate their pivotal role in industrial efficiency and equip you with the knowledge to navigate these essential tools confidently.

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Conveyor System Basics

Conveyor: A mechanical device used to transport materials from one point to another, typically consisting of a frame, belt or chain, rollers, pulleys, and a motor.

Types of Conveyors: There are several types of conveyors:

Belt Conveyors: Utilize a continuous belt to transport materials. Common applications include moving bulk materials such as grains, coal, and minerals in mining and agriculture.

Roller Conveyors: Use rollers mounted on a frame to move items. These types of conveyors are ideal for assembly lines and warehouses, roller conveyors are used to transport boxes, totes, and pallets.

Chain Conveyors: Employ chains to move materials along a path. They are effective in heavy-duty applications like automotive production lines and steel manufacturing.

Components: Major components include:

Belts: Made from materials like rubber, PVC, or steel. Used in food processing, packaging, and logistics for continuous material handling.

Rollers: Support and guide the conveyor belt or load. Found in airports for baggage handling and in distribution centers for parcel sorting.

Pulleys: Provide driving force and support for the belt. Critical in mining operations for transporting ore and in construction for handling aggregates.

Motors: Power the conveyor system to move materials. Essential in manufacturing facilities for assembly processes and in warehouses for order fulfillment.

Key Conveyor System Terms

Belt: Continuous loop of material used for conveying. Applications include transporting luggage at airports and moving parcels in distribution centers.

Rollers: Cylindrical components that support and guide the conveyor belt or load. Used in manufacturing for transporting automotive parts and in retail for moving apparel.

Pulleys: Mechanisms that drive and redirect the belt. Found in recycling plants for handling waste materials and in agriculture for conveying harvested crops.

Motors: Provide power to drive the conveyor system. Used in pharmaceutical manufacturing for moving medications and in mining for transporting extracted minerals.

Idlers: Rollers that support the belt and maintain proper tension. Essential in construction for transporting concrete and in food processing for moving packaged goods.

Bearing: Components that reduce friction between moving parts. Found in automotive assembly lines for transporting vehicle components and in airports for handling cargo.

Drive Systems: Transmit power to the conveyor belt. Critical in e-commerce fulfillment centers for moving goods and in manufacturing for assembly line operations.

Tensioning Devices: Maintain proper tension in the conveyor belt. Used in automotive manufacturing for transporting car parts and in logistics for parcel distribution.

Speed Control: Regulate the speed of the conveyor system. Important in textile manufacturing for moving fabrics and in warehouses for sorting merchandise.

Guarding: Safety barriers to protect operators from moving parts. Found in airports to ensure safe baggage handling and in manufacturing facilities for worker safety.

Advanced Conveyor System Terms

Accumulation: A method that allows products to be collected on the conveyor without stopping the entire system. In MDR conveyors, zones of rollers can stop or slow down individually to manage product flow.

Actuator: A mechanical device in MDR conveyors that moves or controls a mechanism or system. It can be electric, hydraulic, or pneumatic.

Belt Tracking: Techniques to keep conveyor belts aligned and centered. Critical in mining operations for continuous material flow and in food processing for hygiene.

Control Card (Zone Controller): A circuit board used to control the speed and operation of the motorized rollers within a conveyor zone. It manages functions such as starting, stopping, and speed control.

Conveyor Zone: A section of the conveyor controlled independently, often equipped with its own motorized roller and control card, allowing for precise control of product movement.

Drive Roller: The powered roller in an MDR system that drives the other rollers in its zone through the use of O-rings or belts.

DC Motor: A motor that operates on direct current (DC) electricity, commonly used in motorized rollers for their efficiency and control.

Diverters: Devices that redirect products to different lanes or destinations. Found in parcel sorting centers for routing packages and in airports for baggage handling.

E-Stop (Emergency Stop): A safety mechanism to shut down the conveyor immediately in case of an emergency.

FPM (Feet Per Minute): Unit of measurement for providing the speed rating.

Indexing: The process of moving products in a step-by-step manner, often used in applications where products need to be precisely positioned.

Live Roller: A roller that is powered and drives the motion of conveyed items. In MDR conveyors, these are typically motorized rollers.

Logic Controller: A device used to control the operation of the conveyor system, often programmable for handling complex tasks and integrating with other systems.

Merge Conveyors: Systems that merge multiple conveyor lines into a single line. Essential in manufacturing for optimizing production flow and in logistics for improving efficiency.

Motor Driven Roller (MDR): A type of roller that contains a built-in motor, allowing for precise control and efficiency in conveying applications.

Photo Eye Sensor: A type of sensor that uses light to detect the presence or absence of objects on the conveyor, commonly used for accumulation and control functions.

Poly-V Belt: A type of drive belt with multiple V-shaped ribs running longitudinally. Used for transmitting power between the motorized roller and the driven rollers in MDR conveyors.

Pressure Roller: A roller that presses against the belt or the surface of conveyed products to ensure proper contact and movement.

Sortation Systems: Technologies for sorting items based on destination. Used in retail distribution centers for order fulfillment and in postal services for mail sorting.

Speed Control: The capability to adjust the speed of the motorized rollers, allowing for precise control over the movement of products on the conveyor.

Splicing: Methods for joining conveyor belts together. Found in agriculture for handling crops and in heavy industry for transporting bulk materials.

Staging: The act of temporarily holding products on the conveyor before moving them forward, often used in accumulation zones.

Transfer: The process of moving products from one conveyor or conveyor zone to another, often involving a change in direction or level.

Troughing: Shaping belts to carry materials efficiently. Used in construction for handling aggregates and in agriculture for transporting grains.

Turnkey Solution: A complete solution provided by a single supplier, including design, manufacturing, installation, and integration of the MDR conveyor system.

Zero Pressure Accumulation (ZPA): A method of accumulation where products do not touch each other while waiting to move forward, reducing the risk of damage and improving flow control.

Zone Controller: see Control Card

Typical Conveyor Add-Ons

90-Degree Transfers: a 90-degree transfer conveyor is an essential piece of equipment for many manufacturing and distribution processes. A right-angle transfer conveyor is the perfect solution when products need to be sorted or transferred at a 90-degree angle.

Lift Gates: The MDR lift gate is an innovative, easy-to-use gate that allows temporary access through conveyor lines.


  • Omnidirectional: The omnidirectional sorter is capable of both receiving products from any direction and then sorting them in any direction at high rates within a compact footprint.
  • Cross-Sorter: A cross-belt sorter is a type of automated sorting system used in logistics, distribution centers, and warehouses to efficiently sort a wide range of items, such as packages, parcels, and items of various sizes and shapes. The name “cross-belt” refers to the technology’s use of a series of small belts that are mounted on individual carriers or carts.

Safety and Maintenance Terms

multicolored suitcases on a curved conveyor

Lockout/Tagout: Procedures to de-energize and lock equipment during maintenance. Essential in manufacturing to prevent accidents and ensure worker safety.

Preventive Maintenance: Scheduled inspections and tasks to prevent breakdowns. Critical in food processing to maintain hygiene and in automotive for equipment reliability.

Lubrication: Applying lubricants to reduce friction and wear. Found in logistics for conveyor longevity and in pharmaceuticals for product integrity.

Wear Parts: Components that require regular replacement due to wear. Used in mining for handling abrasive materials and in recycling for managing waste.


Understanding the terminology associated with conveyor systems is essential for maximizing efficiency, ensuring safety, and extending the lifespan of equipment. Whether you are exploring options for a new conveyor system or seeking to optimize an existing one, familiarity with these terms empowers you to make informed decisions and effectively communicate with industry professionals.

At Russell Conveyor & Equipment, we specialize in providing tailored conveyor solutions designed to meet your specific needs. Contact us today to learn more about how our expertise can enhance your operations.

Additional Resources

For further reading on conveyor systems and related topics, explore our blog or reach out to our team here.

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Katie Andrews Content Manager
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About Russell Conveyor & Equipment

Russell Conveyor and Equipment has been in business for over 20 years. We specialize in conveyor systems and material handling solutions. Russell is a family-owned business, and we take pride in our customer service and quality products.

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