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toozie21

making a custom conveyor belt

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I started this discussion in another post, but decided to pull it out to keep that thread clean.

My project is a santa's workshop. My plan is to have three conveyor belts and two elves with their backs to the viewer (the elves will be spaced so they block the ends/beginning of the conveyors). The belt on the one end will have a rough piece of wood that moves towards the one elf, that elf will look like it is sawing. Then the middle conveyor will have a nice piece of that is cut into a square moving towards the second elf who looks like he is painting. The third conveyor will have a finished block (the kind kids play with that have letters and numbers on the sides) and it will look like it is falling into santa's bag.

I don't think the arm movement will be really easy, but I think the thing I am most worried about right now is the conveyor. I thought it would be easy, but now I am not so sure. I figure each conveyor will be roughly a foot long, and they need to be synced up. I imagined a bike chain that encompasses all three conveyors and sprockets on all the wheels to keep things from slipping. But as I think more about it, I don't know how to make the wheels on the conveyor belt sturdy so the belt doesn't slip, yet allow the wooden blocks be attached to it.

Do you guys have any suggestions?

~Jason

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Greetings,,,

What is the belt material? Can you screw small wood or rubber pieces to it, and then have small gear teeth or rods between both sides of the belt, along the axles, so that it meshes, thus preventing slippage?

Keith

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Could you sketch up something to demonstrate what you have in mind? I'm having a hard time picturing how the items will change from one state to the next. do they pass behind a barrier or something?

Cool idea, looking forward to seeing it fleshed out.

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Keith: Unfortunately I don't know. I am thinking I will need to affix the wood to the "belt" somehow and then I can have the actual conveyor on one or both of the edges and have it pull around the pseudo belt.

tim: Long time no talk. Hope your Christmas went well. I have attached two sketches which are pretty bad (my drawing skills are worse than my mechanical skills), but I think you can get the idea of what I was shooting for. Three separate conveyors that are all moving at the same time. If I alternate the 2nd one from the first/third, it will make it look like there is a pause in the process. The elves are positioned to block the viewer from seeing the block go around the edge of the conveyor (will have to be spaced far enough apart so the block doesn't hit). The end on the left will look like the block is falling into the bag, the end on the right will look like the block is coming out of some sort of hole in the wall. I will have something in front of the conveyor that will cover the bottom have so no one will see the blocks on the bottom.

~Jason

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OK that makes perfect sense to me now. Let me stew on that for while and see if I can come up with something...

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Are you planning to have the conveyor pause briefly on each rotation, with the toy hidden by the worker? This would look great and add to the impression that the worker has done something I think. Maybe jiggle their arms during that pause time.

EDIT: Just re-read your description! You should be able to run / pause all conveyors at the same time, maybe from a common motor and drive chain.

Edited by David_AVD

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Tim: THanks, I don't think it is too hard, I just need a nudge getting started (want to start collecting parts before my classes start up again).

Are you planning to have the conveyor pause briefly on each rotation, with the toy hidden by the worker?

To be honest, I thought of doing that first, then I decided I needed to get the simple stuff fleshed out first. I decided that if I had to keep the elves arms moving all the time, it would be a small price to pay. I don't mind doing computerized work (via microcontrollers), but I am not real good on the mechanical side, so I thought I would make it easier on myself and have everything always moving.

Pat: As for the the snow, I plan to have this be totally contained (small shed like buidling with plexiglass front)

~J

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I like the idea ( I was planning on something simular last year and went a different route) One issue is the spacing between the belts as you will need enough room for the 'toy' to swing around the belt for the return trip. Also you need to overcome the attachment of the 'toy' to the belt as this is hard again for when the belt runs around the 'pully'.

Pie rolling pins work very well for these applications.

Pleae keep posting on progress here. I'm interested in this project.

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I like your idea of the pie rollers. I think that if I affixed the metal rod (that runs through the roller) to the roller, then I could add on a sprocket that could turn the whole unit. I would then need 6 of them. Taking it one step further, If I cut a groove out of the center of the roller, it would have no problem if I bolted the piece of wood to my "belt" (the fake looking belt that would be wrapped around the two rollers). My issue would then be how to get the fake belt to grip to the rollers.

I am starting to think a conveyor belt might be a BIG hassle (at least bigger than it might be worth). I like the idea of the project, but I don't think there is many alternatives to the conveyor to make it work.

If anyone sees an alternate plan I am missing, or a simpler way to make the conveyor, I am all ears.

~Jason

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The conveyor itself could be as simple as some canvas stretched between the rollers. You'd have to have some way to adjust the tension of it as it would probably stretch over time. If the drive roller had some sort of non-slip coating (rubber, sandpaper, etc) I don't think you'd have issues with it slipping.

Pie rollers could work very well, although they might be squeeky. I don't think it would be too hard to fashion some PVC rollers and use some bearings (e.g. the type used on rollerblades) to keep things running smooth.

I'm envisioning a wood frame with a large screw to adjust the tension (similar to a large bench vice) and two large rollers, one drive, one idler, for each of the 3 conveyors. In-between the rollers could be a slippery surface like coro that the conveyor just idles against (similar how many treadmills are designed)

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If your display will be above the line of sight of your visitors, you could just use a bicycle chain with the toys wired to it a little loose (maybe two chains at an appropriate width apart. A little more expensive would be cable-chains which have matching sprockets to drive them. This however is more expensive but much cleaner as there is no need for any lubrication.

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Greetings,,,

Since the belt is going to be inside a covered area, and if the toys are light weight hollow boxes, etc, then you could simply use something like light kitchen shelving liners, especially the rubberized material, that could be fitted and easily worked with. Then just a couple of vertical rollers on each end, as needed, to keep it centered. That would give you grip.

Keith

Edited by KeithTarpley
spelling

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Thanks for all the advice everyone!

Tim:Good idea on the grip, I was trying to think of something in that realm, but I didn't think of canvas (which could hold up to the stress and the tackiness). I guess I am still at a loss for your bench top vice analogy. Do you mean that the idler roller would be able to slide in a groove and that the screw would push the roller further away (manually turning it to push it further as the canvas stretched)? And as far as the coro goes, you mean to have that between the two rollers (as something for the canvas to run across and not sag, right?

lewinski: That is a pretty good idea, I will have to keep that one under my hat, thanks.

keith: I don't think I am following. Are you recommending the shelving liner as the belt, and then the vertical rollers (in addition to the horizontal rollers) to keep the belt from slipping off?

~J

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I guess I am still at a loss for your bench top vice analogy. Do you mean that the idler roller would be able to slide in a groove and that the screw would push the roller further away (manually turning it to push it further as the canvas stretched)?

I was just trying to visualize something that would allow you to put on the canvas, tighten it, and then maintain the tightness over the season(s). Maybe a better way to think of it is to have the two rollers connected via threaded rods, with a mechanism for moving the rollers further apart from each other (could be as simple as nuts on the rod that get moved)

And as far as the coro goes, you mean to have that between the two rollers (as something for the canvas to run across and not sag, right?

Correct.

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I was just trying to visualize something that would allow you to put on the canvas, tighten it, and then maintain the tightness over the season(s). Maybe a better way to think of it is to have the two rollers connected via threaded rods, with a mechanism for moving the rollers further apart from each other (could be as simple as nuts on the rod that get moved)

OK, I see your point. That is interesting. I will have to ponder that some more. i have a lot of 1/4" x 3" steel left that I could use weld up a frame to run the rollers rods through. I am not sure what would be the best way to tighten it, but I think you are right, something needs to be done.

The key is to somehow tighten that free turning roller without impeding it (which can be done if the rod is fixed).

Edited by toozie21

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you could try using serpentine belts for a car and just go to a junk yard and get a few pulleys off a few cars weld the bearings up on 2 of the pulleys and leave the other 2 to spin free of set the belts from each other.drivebelt.jpg

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Unless I'm missing something, you still have an issue of the 'box' passing between the two belts or stages of construction. If the box is say 8" high, by 8" long at the point the box will travel around the roller (which I suspect will be all of maybe 3" in dia. you will have the leading and following edge of the 'box leave the surface of the belt. Also we need enough room between the two or three belts for the 'box' to pass before it hits the next belt. I'm seeing that the sequence is in a straight line. I'm I wrong?

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How about fashioning the set up to just rotate on an axis in front of each elf, having two or three at different points on seperate motors. Hide the gift as it comes around, only to be seen at one point.

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I just took a quick look at the chain on my mountain bike. It should be possible to remove the chain link pin and replace it with the turned down ends of a metal rod to span two parallel drive chains. This would give you a metal rod that goes around and may be used as a method of attaching the prop toy.

Well.... that's as far as I've thought about it so it may be a dead end, but you never know! Does the "conveyor" actually need to move, or could there be a slot in the middle of it where the rod mentioned above can connect to the prop toy and drag it?

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Unless I'm missing something, you still have an issue of the 'box' passing between the two belts or stages of construction. If the box is say 8" high, by 8" long at the point the box will travel around the roller (which I suspect will be all of maybe 3" in dia. you will have the leading and following edge of the 'box leave the surface of the belt. Also we need enough room between the two or three belts for the 'box' to pass before it hits the next belt. I'm seeing that the sequence is in a straight line. I'm I wrong?

I'm not picturing why this is a problem. The "package" could simply be attached to the belt in one place, centered on the package. It could then pivit around the roller with no issues (it would have to be fairly light). the spacing shouldn't be a problem either -- the belts would just have to be sufficiently far apart between each stage.

Am I missing something?

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Greetings,,,

Well, a lot of this depends on just how heavy duty vs light duty you want to make this. From the big and tough welded and/or bolted steel armature for the conveyor, to lighter wood, etc. There are several ways to do this, all depending on what you decide.

You could still make the outer, next to onlookers, surface appear to be a conveyor belt, painted facade, etc. Then you could simply use large circles, wheels basically, vertically moving, and have the boxes float up one side and then come down in front of the elves, hidden as they passed down and around again.

Or you could use a backdrop, with a small track that moves first up front with the elves, then goes around horizontally, through a train like tunnel, with perhaps some flaps, coming back around in the back of the backdrop. This could be done with a simple two pulley arrangement for each section, with a center groove to connect the package down to the rope/chain.

Watching to see which way you choose.

Keith

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Hmm this is all good stuff and gives me a lot of options.

Tentatively, I am thinking that a rolling pin is nice because it is easy to reproduce (if I need to buy a new one) and the hole for the rod is centered well.

I have been trying to wrap my head around a way to do the tension-ing of the canvas belt, and now I am starting to think that maybe I am over thinking it. If the toy is small (which I plan it to be) then there shouldn't be a ton of stretching going on. I am thinking that if I put the coro in like Tim suggested (to mimic how the treadmill does it), that will help with a lot of the weight. Then if I sew in some decent velcro to the canvas, I could re-tighten it as needed by hand. I think the velcro would be strong enough, but I could be totally off base here.

This is not quite as elegant as I originally dreamed up, but I think I (once again) may have attempted to bite off more than I could chew on the first bite.

Let me know your thoughts though, because I haven't bought anything yet (and I am sure this won't be the final inclination).

You guys still think a bike chain would be the best bet to drive the sprockets (fairly cheap and readily available, plus a standard size)?

~Jason

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You could use identical multi-gears (like front or back gears on a mountain bike) to link the conveyors together. As long as each end of the same conveyor uses the same size gear, the speed will be the same for all three.

   {C 1}       {C 2}       {C 3}


[1]-----[1] [1]-----[1] [1]-----[1]

[2]     [2]-[2]     [2]-[2]     [2]


Edited by David_AVD

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