Accumulating, Gapping & Sorting: Automating Your Conveyor Systems


As a Hytrol Integration Partner, we were lucky enough to have Cliff Mullis, Director of Intelligent Solutions from Hytrol attend our recent sales meeting to give an in-depth training of some of Hytrol’s more advanced conveyor systems. While most people are familiar with traditional gravity and powered conveyors, when it comes to a completely automated solution you’ll want to consider accumulating, gapping and sortation conveyors.

Accumulation Conveyors

Accumulation conveyors do exactly what it sounds like – they accumulate or hold products in a determined zone. Accumulation can be accomplished in a couple of different ways:

  • Rollers can be turned off and on in a particular zone of the conveyor system
  • Stops can be raised to physically hold products and packages in place

Another unique aspect of the accumulation process is the amount of pressure that is allowed to build up as boxes accumulate. Accumulation conveyors can either allow zero-pressure or minimum pressure. Zero-pressure conveyors ensure that the boxes never actually touch each other while accumulating. Minimum pressure allows for light touching of boxes, and the drive pressure can be adjusted. Minimum pressure is less expensive than zero-pressure and they are also low maintenance.

Sortation Conveyors

As with accumulation conveyors, the function of sortation conveyors is pretty straightforward – they sort items. The manner in which they do it can differ vastly though. Sortation conveyor types include:

  • Sliding Shoe: Pictured to the right, “shoes” are attached to aluminum slats that slide across the conveyor gently moving the items off of the main line. Sliding shoe sortation conveyors are ideal for high-speed sortation of lighter products.
  • Narrow Belt: Rollers are raised between the conveyor’s narrow belts to raise the product off of the belts and move them off of the main conveyor line. Narrow belt sorters can take up less space than other sortation conveyors and can handle heavier loads than sliding shoe sorters.
  • Belted Pivot Wheel: These sortation conveyors contain dual series of wheels that pivot to take control of products and send them to other portions of the conveyor system. Even though they can run at up to 300fpm, they are extremely accurate and have minimal missed diverts.
  • Right Angle: Best for small to medium-sized products, these sorters have an actual pusher to move items off of the conveyor line. They’re great for sorting polybags or other non-traditional shaped items that may get hung up on other sortation conveyor types.

When using sortation conveyors to divert items into other conveyor lines, it is important to consider the size and angle of spurs that are used. Depending on the main line’s speed, and the size and weight of the packages being sorted, different spur angles are needed to prevent damage to the packages or items being sorted.

Gapping Conveyors

Gapping conveyors create the necessary space between products before reaching a sortation conveyor by using a system of belts or rollers moving at different speeds. In order for sortation conveyors to function properly, there needs to be space between products – either to ensure belts, rollers or pushers have time to reset, or to prevent packages from hitting each other during the sortation process. Gaps are also necessary when using a printing and labeling system as part of a fully automated shipping solution.

Not just any gap will do. It is critical to calculate the minimum gap needed between packages, determined by a formula that takes the overall package width into account.

When using an advanced conveyor system that incorporates accumulation, gapping and sortation conveyors, the controls are what can make or break the setup. Trust the conveyor experts at Conveyer & Caster – Equipment for Industry to design and supply a custom system and controls to help you automate your processes.

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