A hopper conveyor is a system used in industrial settings to collect fine raw materials and sort those materials for transport across a conveyor belt or other movement system. The specific structure of the hopper conveyor can vary depending on the intended purpose, but generally the system will feature a large pyramid-shaped container known as a hopper that is used to collect materials, and a conveyor belt or other conveyor system that moves the raw materials after they have been funneled through the hopper. The hopper itself is usually made of steel, though other materials may be used for specific applications.
One common application for the hopper conveyor is sorting and transporting raw materials in mines. Small rocks, sand, and other particulate matter can be dumped into the hopper in bulk; the materials will then funnel down through the pyramid-shaped container to the open bottom, which will help control the flow of materials into the conveyor system. Once the materials fall from the hopper portion of the hopper conveyor, they will land on the conveyor belt for sorting or transport. The belt may be slanted upward or downward to facilitate loading into trucks or other long-term containment systems.
The size of the hopper conveyor will vary significantly according to its application. Systems that are used in mining settings or other outdoor industrial applications tend to be quite large so the conveyor belt can be positioned above a large truck or storage unit. A larger hopper is also able to handle more materials at once, as well as larger pieces of raw materials. These tend to be made of thick, durable steel to prevent damage. Smaller systems meant for factory or warehouse use may be smaller, though they, too, are likely to be made from steel for durability and, in some cases, sanitation. Other materials that can be used include plastic and composites.
Sometimes the hopper conveyor will not feature a belt system at all; instead, an auger conveyor may be used. This system features a long, screw-like shaft enclosed within a metal frame or tube. Small particulate matter can be transported upward or downward as the screw rotates and the auger blades push the materials in one direction or another. This system is most appropriate for exceptionally fine materials such as sand, and it is sometimes used in food processing settings, in which materials such as sugar or flour require transport.