How does a gravity roller conveyor work?

A gravity roller conveyor lets a product move on rollers using the force of gravity to move the load. Gravity conveyors are one of the simplest and affordable types of material handling systems. They work by allowing the product to roll along the upper surface. When mounted on a slight decline the parts begin moving across the rollers. They are great for warehouses, production facilities, or distribution centers.

Most rollers for these conveyor systems are 1.5 inches to 1.9 inches diameter. For extreme-duty applications, 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch diameters are available. It’s easy to configure your system and buy online. Because they are light, you can use them for either temporary or permanent situations. Permanent floor supports or temporary tripod-style stands are also available. You can use roller curve units for corners.

What are the types of roller conveyor?

We’re a leading roller conveyor manufacturer. We can analyze your gravity roller conveyor needs and configure a system for you. Other names include gravity roller conveyors, roller conveyor tables or roller conveyor frames. We even hear people ask for a “roller conveyor belt”, even though there is no belt. All these descriptions refer to a simple system as shown in the image below. Here are some further details on the types of roller conveyor:

  • Gravity Roller Conveyor. This is the most common type. It has no motors.
  • Gravity Conveyor Belt. Many people use this term for roller conveyors. But they have no belt.
  • Powered Roller Conveyor. These systems have rollers powered by a motor. There are two main styles, motor driven roller conveyors or chain driven live roller. Follow the links to the pages dedicated to those two conveyor types.
  • Belt-driven roller conveyor is another alternative where the rollers are driven by a belt. These types of conveyor are more common for curves.
  • Line-shaft roller conveyor. Another variation of a belt driven roller conveyor.
  • Heavy Duty Roller Conveyors. These generally refer to roller conveyors that have roller diameters of 2.5″, 3.5″ or larger. They are not very common as generally conveyors for heavy loads have motors.

What to consider when selecting a gravity roller conveyor system 

We offer a wide selection of products for sale and ready to ship. When choosing the system that is right for you, consider these factors:

  • Diameter of the rollers. Standard diameters are 1.5”, 1.9”, 2.5” and 3.5”. Although larger rollers can carry more weight, they are more expensive. Consider 1.5″ diameter rollers for most light duty loads (<100 pounds product weight).
  • Frame style. Generally we use powder coated steel. Aluminum frames and rollers available on some models. Use steel unless a lighter weight is very important. Each roller size will have its own matching frame size. Low profile systems like 1.5″ diameter roller systems take up very little space.
  • Length of each conveyor or roller table section. Choose from 5, 8 or 10-foot sections for most roller conveyors. Longer sections are cheaper per foot, but cost more for shipping. Longer spans such as 10-foot sections may also need a center support or leg stand.
  • The width of the conveyor. This is generally measured as the distance between the two conveyor frames. Conveyors move the load on top of the rollers. Optional side guides can hold the load if required. It’s also possible to have the load extend beyond the sides if needed. Our standard models have the rollers sitting slightly higher than the side frames.
    The required spacing of the rollers (generally from 1.5, 3, 4.5 or 6 inches apart from each other).
  • You can also buy individual gravity rollers or gravity rollers with brackets. Click here to complement your setup. We have thousands of conveyor parts that you can use to integrate a system
  • Straight or curved configuration roller conveyors are available. Contact Ultimation for help!

Step by step guide to choosing the right roller conveyor

Follow this simple process to help you choose the correct model conveyor:

  1. Choose the width of the conveyor you need based on the product dimensions. Allow at least 1 inch on each side for clearance. Consider wider widths or side guides if the product can slide sideways.
  2. Decide on the length of the roller table you need. Lengths of 5 or 10 feet can easily connect. Add curved sections to achieve the layout required.
  3. Check the load rating table that shows the load capacity of each roller. Use light duty 1.5″ rollers for product loads under 100 pounds. Use medium duty 1.9″ rollers and frames for loads over 100 pounds. Heavy duty conveyors using 2.5″, 2-9/16″ and 3.5″ rollers are available for extreme heavy duty loads.
  4. Choose support centers for the conveyor legs, if required. Provide support at 5, 8 or 10-foot intervals for all loads.

See the “Downloads” tab on this page for a full catalog and more information.

We’ve become a leading roller conveyor manufacturer one roller at a time! Our team are happy to help identify the material handling systems you need.

More Conveyor Options

  • Stationary floor support legs. Click here to see the available range. We have light duty, medium duty and heavy duty models available
  • “Rollers set low” (see graphic). The standard configuration of these conveyors is “Rollers set high”. This is where the top of the roller is above the side of the conveyor frames. This is for products that extend over the sides of the conveyor.
  • Guide rails. Adjustable channel guide rails, fixed angle and channel guide rails
  • See the “Downloads” tab on this page for catalogs and more information

Skatewheel Conveyors

Skatewheel gravity conveyor systems are like a gravity roller table. Except the rollers are “skatewheel” style rollers mounted on axles. This helps convey flat-bottomed items smoothly. They are a very low cost material handling system, but handle lower loads. Skatewheel gravity conveyor components are available with steel or aluminum frames. There are also many lengths and widths. Skatewheel conveyors move tote boxes very well. Roller track, flowrail or skatewheel rails are other names. These smaller sections of skatewheel style systems are often used in racks.

Skatewheel rollers

Roller Stands

A roller conveyor can also serve as a light duty roller stand. These systems are very popular when working with sheet material. Common usage is for material feeding into or out of cutting saws. They are sometimes known as roller conveyor tables or roller stand tables. Ultimation’s roller stand conveyors are popular with home workshop buyers. Learn more about roller stands and buy them here.

Gravity Conveyor Safety

  • Never stand on or near a gravity roller conveyor system. Because of the low-friction bearings, you will fall and may suffer serious injury.
  • Heavy loads can move quickly and continue to speed up! Plan decline sections and test them for safe use with the heaviest load.
  • Be careful when creating systems where loads may create pinch points. Especially between the load and the rack or conveyor structure.
  • Here’s some detailed information on conveyor safety from Canada’s Center for Occupational Health and Safety
  • Contact Ultimation at +1-(586)-771-1881 for more design considerations and engineering advice.

Roller conveyor integration into larger systems

Many industrial and distribution center operations use roller conveyors. They are among the most affordable types of conveyors, but they lack the ability to provide controlled movement. With thoughtful design you can include them in larger material handling systems. For example, you can use roller conveyors between two electric belt conveyors. Or use a gravity roller conveyor between two motorized MDR conveyors.

Generally the limiting factor with gravity conveyors is the variations of the load. Consider both size and weight variation of the individual items. Small and light packages may flow nicely down a gravity conveyor pitched at a 5 degree decline. But when when a larger or heavier load is on the rollers, it will speed out of control. Pallet roller conveyor and heavy duty roller conveyors need careful design solution. Ultimation can also provide special speed control rollers. These rollers act as a brake to assist with these situations. Live roller (motorized powered roller) solutions are more common for handling super heavy duty loads

As well as being very economical, these systems are highly flexible. Their flexibility enables them to be quickly moved and rearranged. All systems come with holes pre-punched at 3″, 4.5″ and 6″ centers. This enables the roller spacing to be revised whenever required.

Ultimation makes conversion kits to upgrade your gravity system. It’s possible to create a powered or motorized live roller version. Interroll or Itoh Denki motorized conveyor rollers use 24V DC power to move packages.

We don’t sell used roller conveyor components, but we pride ourselves on being the lowest cost producer of high quality systems. Ultimation does not sell through distributors or sales representatives. We pass on those saving to you, and so we’re able to sell direct at great prices. We are always very competitive with used conveyor systems.

Should I buy used roller conveyor or a new one?

Although you can always find used roller conveyor sections available for sale on sites like eBay, you don’t really save much when considering all the factors. When buying new conveyors from Ultimation, you are buying roller conveyors direct from the factory, there’s no distributor or middle man. If you want to buy used gravity roller conveyors, you can’t always get the exact roller size, width or length that you need. Since they are large and difficult to ship, buying new systems that are properly packaged is another consideration. Most used systems have some kind of damage either from disassembly or they are not packed adequately to be shipped to you.

Why Choose Ultimation?

Our systems serve some of the largest manufacturers in the world. We design, manufacture and install automation equipment and assembly conveyors for facilities of all sizes. We’re a woman-owned company with more than 30 years of experience. In the material handling industry, we’re uniquely suited to address your needs no matter what they may be. We are one of the leading gravity roller conveyor manufacturers. And we can help you with complete turnkey service from start to finish. Ultimation is the largest integrator of Jervis Webb overhead conveyor systems, and a winner of Metro Detroit’s “Great Places to Work” awards.

Contact Us Today

Put our extensive expertise to work for you and your facility. For more information about anything we do or to get started on your new conveyor system, contact us. We answer every phone call with a live operator. Ultimation is a top-rated roller conveyor manufacturer.

Need help learning about other conveyor types, which types to use and how to specify them? This step by step guide will help.

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