Stainless Steel vs Aluminum: Which Is the Better Conveyor Material?

stainless steel vs aluminum conveyor belt material factory manufacturing

In 2018, the United States' manufacturing industry accounted for $2.33 trillion of the United States' gross domestic product, or GDP. That makes up about 11.6% of our economy.

With so much competition in the manufacturing industry, you can't afford to cut corners on the equipment you need to boost production. You need the right equipment.

The right manufacturing equipment will help you reduce down-time, increase output and grow the bottom line.

When it comes to your production line, you need a high quality conveyor system that gets the job done and never break down. Keep reading to see some considerations for your system.

Is an aluminum or stainless steel conveyor is the right choice for your business?


Basic Information on a Conveyor System

A conveyor is any mechanical device used to move item along a designated route with minimal physical effort.

A conveyor system usually has solid frame made from metal or another sturdy material. It provides some means of transporting your bulk, raw material or finished product from one location to another location inside your warehouse or onsite at your operations.

Types of Conveyors 

Conveyors can be both powered or manual. Some types of powered conveyors include:
  • Belt conveyor that uses a moving belt to move material horizontally
  • Bucket and vertical conveyors that lift material
  • Vibrating conveyors that use vibratory motion to move material
  • Overhead conveyors from which items hang during transport
  • Chute conveyors which rely on smooth surfaces and gravity
  • Drag or tow conveyors that use cables to drag objects along
Some manual conveyors use balls or rollers that allow workers to more easily push material along the manufacturing line.
The type of conveyor you choose will depend heavily on your product type, speed of transport, elevation change over the length of transport, and the industry regulations of the production.


Choosing the Right System

Choosing the right system can save your business money in the long-run.

Once you decide what type or style of conveyor system you need, you need to do some more research on the options out there. You need to choose the system that is energy efficient, easy to use, and right for your type of product.

Always double check that the conveyor you choose is compatible with your pre-existing manufacturing systems. You want to maximize productivity. Having to change out parts of your system or revamp your process is counterproductive to that goal.

Here are five top considerations, after type of conveyor, you need to think about when choosing a conveyor system:

1. Material

What is it made from? How does the material hold up over time? Does the material require specific care or cleaning?

2. Operation

What do you need it to do? Does it work with the system and components you have?

3. Environment

 What environmental factors will affect the design? Do you need to reduce noise in your warehouse?

4. Footprint or Size

Are you working within space constraints? Does the equipment work in the footprint you have allotted for it?

5. Cost

What is your budget? Does this purchase make sense over the long-run? Will there be increased maintenance or repair costs?


Deciding on the Right Material for You: Aluminum vs Stainless Steel 

Material is the most important, and usually most overlooked, decision when you are picking your conveyor system. The top two choices are stainless steel and aluminum. Each has its benefits.

Benefits of Choosing Stainless Steel  

If you work in any type of food production or preparation industry, stainless steel is the only choice for you.

Stainless steel is able to withstand a very high pH level.  This means that it performs better for various food safety regulations. It also stands up the best to the cleaning and usage required by the food safety regulations.

Depending on the industry, you may be faced with very stringent hygiene, cleanliness, and temperature requirements during the manufacturing process. Most other materials cannot meet these strict requirements.

Stainless steel is extremely strong. Stainless steel conveyor systems can withstand extreme pressure. It takes a lot of pressure to make stainless steel fracture.

Stainless steel is more durable over time and can be used for a wider range of applications because it can take so much more weight and pressure.

A stainless steel system is the best long-term investment. It rarely breaks down, will not have to be replaced for a very long time, and is the most durable material.

Benefits of Choosing Aluminum  

Depending on what your production line requires, aluminum may make more sense for your company.

Aluminum weighs significantly less. It is easier to ship and assemble onsite. If your conveyor is only handling smaller or more lightweight products, aluminum can handle the weight just fine.

If you don't require corrosive chemical cleaning of your conveyor, aluminum is a good choice.

Aluminum is a more malleable building material. An aluminum conveyor doesn't hold much weight, but can be made into an unorthodox shape. Aluminum can be pushed to dimensional extremes without cracking. 

The popularity of aluminum conveyors has increased over the last couple of years due to the gentle product handling that aluminum can offer.

You can outfit your aluminum conveyor with side flexing plastic chains. This can significantly reduce the noise of the equipment and help you create a better work environment for your employees.


Upgrading Your Conveyor System

A new conveyor system offers you more flexibility. It can provide better vertical and horizontal solutions for your manufacturing facility.

Upgrading your system is a big step and a great long-term decision. You can reduce down-time, increase your production and increase profitability for your company. The investment in your company's future should not be taken lightly.

Choosing a system that fits your budget, footprint constraints, and industrial regulations will take time and research.  In a $2.33 trillion industry, you can't afford to make the wrong decision on the equipment you need to boost production.

Did this help you choose the right conveyor system for your company? Click here to learn other ways to to succeed in a highly competitive market.

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