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Conveyor Transfer Methods for Smooth Material Handling

Filling The Gaps – Conveyor Transfer Methods for Optimal Material Flow

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Having reliable operating systems in place is essential for efficient material flow in today’s fulfillment operations.

One key component of any well-functioning material handling system is the ability to transfer product from one conveyor line to another in a smooth flowing and uninterrupted way. 

The method of transferring product between conveyors is a crucial consideration.  Filling in the gaps can make the difference between success and failure in automation.

Let’s review four different methods of executing such transitions, each designed to optimize transfers for specific applications.

90 Degree Pop-Up

When your product needs to move through a 90-degree turn, the pop-up transfer conveyor is frequently used. A section of the conveyor is recessed until given the signal, at which point it pops-up with powered rollers spinning in a perpendicular direction to the flow of the main conveyor. In the “up” position, the rollers contact the bottom of the package and smoothly take it out of the main flow into a new, orthogonal channel.

End-to-End or Inline

Perhaps the most common transfer is from the end of one conveyor to the beginning of another. A variety of techniques are available, depending on the application requirements.

Nosebar Tail

Sometimes called a knife-edge transfer, a nosebar tail can be added to the end of a conveyor system, mostly to accommodate smaller objects. The nosebar tail uses a smaller radius roller than the rest of the conveyor. The effect is to make the edge of the conveyor “sharper”, allowing for a closer positioning of the system to which the product is being transferred.

Gravity or Passive Roller 

A passive roller transfer can be highly cost-effective when the product size, shape, and rigidity allows it to be used. As the name implies, the rollers are not powered – they simply spin freely in accord with the item with which they come in contact. Gravity transfer roller modules from Spantech come in different widths and feature a lift-out design that makes it easy to remove the roller unit for cleaning.

Driven or Powered 

Driven or powered transfer units contrast with the passive rollers described above. Sometimes the transfer unit rollers will cause the product to travel 10% faster than the main conveyor to ensure a smooth transition.

The Micro-Span Transfer module from Spantech features a knife-edge profile at either end, enabling it to transfer even small products between conveyors. For tinier products, a transfer plate can be added to minimize the distance between the edge of the transfer module and the end of the conveyor unit.

Transfer Plates

As mentioned above, a flat, thin plate can extend the edge of a transfer module. The plate prevents small objects from falling through the gap between the end of the conveyor and the edge of the transfer system.

A transfer plate can also be used as an inexpensive transfer method instead of rollers if the product being moved has a relatively small degree of friction with a flat surface.


When an end-to-end transfer is not possible, two conveyor systems can be placed next to each other – side by side. Guides are used to shift product between the two parallel conveyor systems. This will only function if there are no housings at the edge of each conveyor that would prevent lateral movement.

Assisted Transfers

In some situations, an assisted transfer device is needed. A few examples of such devices include pushers, robots, and diversion gates. These types of solution are customized and will depend upon the operational needs of the system. Consultation by a systems integrator like AEC is crucial for success.

Take the Next Step

For improved speed, efficiency, safety and ergonomics for your material handling systems, contact an AEC conveyor specialist today to discuss overcoming operational challenges.

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Since 1960, Advanced Equipment Company has been providing our services to the Carolinas and throughout the United States.

We look forward to hearing from you and how we can help you with productivity-boosting innovations in automation, material handling, and storage applications.

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