When opportunity knocked, Dorner Manufacturing Corp. answered the door.
Based on customer feedback, the company saw an opportunity to develop a belt conveyor with a simplified center drive, explains John Kuhnz, director of marketing for Hartland, Wis.-based Dorner.
The 2200-Series Mid Drive "is the answer to the customer opportunity," Kuhnz tells New Equipment Digest.
NED: What motivated Dorner to develop the 2200 Series Mid Drive?
: The initial requirement for a simplified center drive was powered by customer feedback.
Customers expressed having interference or space limitations within their manufacturing processes when implementing conveyors and noted belt-change issues caused by traditional center drives as a result of their size and complexity. The Mid Drive is the answer to the customer opportunity.
NED: How is this product different from similar devices currently being offered?
: The main product differentiator is the compact, efficient design and ease of and reduced time for belt change.
NED: Any particular problems that came up during the development process?
: The design opportunities faced in the development process centered on engineering something simple and small.
It sounds easy but is challenging, especially since Dorner has an offering of center drives. So looking at the customers' opportunity with a new set of eyes wasn't easy.
The issue was further compounded by now making it miniature. With the tension and the friction of the belt moving through the drive, new bearings and designs were needed.
Ultimately, there is only so small the Mid Drive could be made without sacrificing performance for the customer.
NED: What was the length of time from conception to ultimate production?
: The length of time from the concept for the Mid Drive project to its completion was roughly six months.
NED: Did cost factors affect the final design of this product?
: Cost factors did impact the design. The development team needed some components that were a higher cost compared to other items of the traditional center drive.
However, the cost at the end of the project for the Mid Drive was significantly less overall when compared to the center-drive option.
NED: Who do you view as primary users of the Mid Drive module and how will they benefit?
: The primary users of the Mid Drive module have tight spaces at the ends of their conveyors requiring the use of a drive in the middle of the conveyors. Also, some of these users have workers interfacing or performing operations on the conveyors.
With the compact drive, there is more free space available for both machine interfaces and workers. In addition, some of these users have high belt change applications and are less than satisfied with the time and experience needed to change the belting.
The benefit to all users is a simple, two-piece design that merely drops half the Mid Drive away, allowing for easy and fast belt changes.
NED: Care to add any other interesting sidelights?
: The Mid Drive development pushed the engineering team to examine critical components of conveyors and since its introduction, the team has focused on other areas in our product offering to simplify and reduce the footprint, maximizing the space available within our customers' environments.