What is a Slat Conveyor?

Slat conveyors are used to move components along an assembly line. They are often used where production operations are performed with the parts located on the conveyor. Therefore they are one of the most commonly used types of conveyor for moving parts along and assembly line while the work is being performed. They are ideally suited to applications where components are being assembled onto a fixture located at an ergonomic working height.

slat conveyor

They also allow production assembly operators to work on one or both sides of the line. Fixtures can be added to the slats to enable slat conveyor parts to rotate 90, 180 or 360 degrees to facilitate better ergonomic access. During model change-overs, the tooling or fixtures can be modified or replaced, and the conveyor is re-used for another new application.

In automotive plants, a slat conveyor may be used to convey parts like instrument panels, center consoles or door trims. The are used for engine and power-train assembly. They are also used for sub-assembly of frames and axles, and on a larger scale even for vehicles after they have been fitted with the chassis components and move to the final assembly line (sometimes known as a ‘flat top’ conveyor line).

Technical Specifications:

Depending upon the conveying application, different lengths, widths, heights, controls and accessories are available to meet the needs. Slats can be made from mild steel, stainless steel or plastic. In some cases the product sits loosely on top of the slats, and in other cases the product is mounted to one or more fixtures. Some typical specifications for a slat conveyor are shown below, with many more combinations available:

  • 12” – 108” between frame widths (i.e. the width of the conveyor)
  • Speeds ranging from 10 feet per minute (FPM) up to 60 FPM max speed
  • Fixed or variable speed control
  • Adjustable legs
  • Continuous or indexing movement from station to station

Benefits of slat conveyors:

  • Great for assembling products on either a moving assembly line or on the line at each work station while the line is stopped (before indexing to the next position). A slat conveyor provides a great stable working surface.
  • Slat conveyors work well if part access is mainly from above the part. If you need access from both sides, consider an overhead conveyor with a swiveling fixture
  • Use a slat conveyor for products that need to be held in place as they are moved along the line
  • Fixtures should not be too tall. Remember the fixture will be mounted to the slats and will return underneath the conveyor to the start point, so you will need clearance to the floor for the slat and fixture return path. If the clearance dimension is tight, slat conveyors can be raised 10″ – 24″ off the floor and a compensating work platform along the working side of the conveyor can be added to maintain a good ergonomic working position for the operators on the side of the slat conveyor
  • Slat conveyors can move in either continuous or indexing modes (i.e. the slat conveyor stops and starts each time to move a product to the end of the belt using a sensor)
  • Very well suited for robotic loading and unloading functions as the fixture is always in a repeatable location. With appropriate guarding, human and robotic assembly work can be carried out on the same assembly line
  • Work well when changing the speed is necessary. When fitted with a VFD (variable frequency drive), a slat conveyor is a simple conveyor to adjust the speed on

Don’t use a slat conveyor if you need:

  • Accumulating products (i.e. for a buffer). A slat conveyor can’t allow the products to nest up against each other (“accumulate”) as the product is typically held in a fixed position relative to the slats. If you need accumulation, use a roller conveyor with pallet system or an overhead conveyor such as a power and free conveyor
  • Moving a product around curves. A slat conveyor runs in a straight line only,
  • Product flexibility or switching different tooling for different models. Unless the tooling can accommodate all variations, slat conveyors are not as flexible as overhead conveyors or roller conveyors with pallets

slat conveyor assembly line

Digital Design for excellent ergonomics

  • All Ultimation slat conveyors are designed using 3D CAD software
  • Our slat conveyor designs will include the entire assembly line including tooling, overhead lighting, power outlets for torque tools and all required tool rails and tool spring balancers
  • We have detailed ergonomic standards to ensure that assembly operations follow automotive and other industry standards for height, reach and operator comfort. As a leading slat conveyor manufacturer, we will ensure your new conveyor is the most ergonomic possible
  • All safety systems are included (guarding, emergency stops, pull cords)
  • We design and assemble the conveyor in our location. You attend for testing and run-off and it is then reinstalled in the final assembly plant location
  • Interested in learning more about slat conveyor design? This booklet from CEMA (Conveyor Equipment Manufacturers Association) is a useful reference for engineers

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Common Industries and Applications: