What is a Roller Conveyor?

Powered warehouse roller conveyor
Powered warehouse roller conveyor

A roller conveyor is used to transport materials or products from one point to another

Roller conveyors come in many forms, but all roller conveyors regardless of their type are designed to move objects from point A to point B with as little effort as possible. That’s why they are commonly used in warehousing, manufacturing, and distribution industries.

The way a roller conveyor works is very simple – generally items that are placed on top of the rollers will travel in the direction that the rollers are spinning. One key thing here, the rollers have to spin for the conveyor to work, otherwise, it’s just an odd-looking table.

Getting the rollers to spin could be achieved using gravity, having the weight of the products turn the rollers, or having someone push items along the length of the conveyor. The rollers could also be spun electrically using a driveshaft like in the case of a lineshaft conveyor; or motorised rollers, like those found in 24v Powered Conveyor systems.


These are the main different types of roller conveyors:

  • Gravity Roller Conveyors: Items can be moved along the conveyor using the force of gravity. They can be pushed manually or if the conveyor is set on a slight decline it will allow for items to roll freely from the higher to the lower end.
  • DC Powered Roller Conveyors: Also known as 24v Powered Roller Conveyors, Driven Roller Conveyors, DC Conveyors, Drive Roll Conveyors and probably more. They are extremely popular in warehouse environments due to the automation benefits they can provide (see ‘why are there different types’ below). These are a type of roller conveyor where some of the rollers are motorised. These motorised rollers are attached to several neighbouring rollers using polyurethane bands, creating a ‘bank’ of joined rollers. This allows for sections of rollers to start and stop spinning as needed, which can be a great way to conserve energy. It’s also perfect for zero-pressure accumulation applications.
  • Lineshaft Roller Conveyors: As a type of driven roller conveyor, these differ from the DC-powered variety in that none of the rollers contain motors. Each roller is instead attached to a shaft underneath the roller bed using polyurethane bands. As the shaft turns the friction on the bands causes the rollers to spin.
  • Chain-driven Roller Conveyors: An extremely powerful roller conveyor designed for heavy-duty applications, these rollers have sprockets that are linked together using chains (like you would find on a bicycle). They are then powered directly by a motor. As the rollers are linked in a series with chains, there is no band slippage to cause loss of friction like you may have with a DC or lineshaft roller conveyor.
  • Flexible roller conveyors: A space and time-saving innovation that is essential in fast-paced warehousing and distribution environments. These roller conveyors are highly adjustable, can bend around corners, and can be reconfigured lightning-fast as they are mounted on castors. They can be expanded for use and then contracted and simply wheeled away after use making them ideal for areas with limited space.


So since all roller conveyors achieve the same outcome, why are there different types?

Each type of roller conveyor has its own unique advantages and is suited for specific types of applications. Choosing the right type of roller conveyor depends on many factors, such as the items being transported, their weight and size, the desired speed and direction of movement, and the available space and budget.


There are, however, cases where a roller conveyor might not be suitable

One of the reasons we ask questions about a conveyor’s intended use is so we can ensure that the conveyors we manufacture are suitable for the range of items you’d like to transport. There would be no use in us sending an “off the shelf” roller conveyor out to a company whose products have a large variation in size or weight. They would soon find that some of the products travel too fast, or don’t move at all. Some items will just turn in between the rollers not really getting anywhere, some products may simply slip right through the roller gaps, or get stuck in between them.


Below is a list of cases where you may need to reconsider roller conveyors as your first option:

  • Soft & squishy items – Things like this can sag and slip between the rollers which could damage the product, bring the conveyor line to a stop, and put unnecessary strain on the conveyor parts. Always use flat and rigid-bottomed items or place oddly shaped or soft items into trays or totes.
  • Extremely fragile items – Not all conveyor journeys are guaranteed to be gentle, products can collide on conveyors that are not set up for zero-pressure applications. There can be some jostling as items move across the roller bed, so ensure items are packed and protected well for safe transport.
  • Small items – If the item to be transported is too small it can slip through the rollers. It could also not have enough friction to move in the desired way. We recommend an item is large enough to be in contact with at least three rollers to prevent this from happening.
  • Lightweight items – As above, for items to travel on the conveyor they need to have enough weight to generate enough friction to be able to travel with the rollers. If a light item has enough surface area to cover several rollers then it may still work.

Luckily a simple solution for carrying oddly shaped items, things of varying sizes and weights, or lightweight products is to use a belt conveyor.


Are you looking for a Roller Conveyor?

Contact our conveyor system experts today for helpful advice to get the most out of your conveyor system.


01482 363445

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