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Not all conveyor guide rails are equal.  Yet sometimes in the big picture of securing all the components required for an efficient and effective conveyor system to move your products, conveyor guide rails are overlooked.

So let’s take a look at what makes a solid conveyor guide rail and the differences between a good one and one that is not as effective.

Conveyor guide rail components 

Conveyor guide rails are part plastic and part metal or stainless steel. The metal used can be aluminum. There are different types and grades of plastic. You’ll want to focus on conveyor guide rails made with Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene, known as UHMW/PE.

For instance, if your plant environment is above 185F the guide rail

can break down if you are using the wrong plastic, so you’ll want a high temperature resistant UHMW/PE. Anti-static UHMW/PE helps safeguard against static discharges and dust accumulation. If color is an issue, any color UHMW/PE can be extruded although white is the most common.

The process

It’s important to know the process in which the conveyor guide rails are made. Generally, raw plastic goes through an extrusion process in which it is shaped and then crimped into the metal or stainless steel. The top part of the conveyor guide rail is plastic, and the bottom is metal.  If UHMW/PE is slipped over aluminum it does not need to be crimped.

The key is making sure there is no gap between the plastic and the metal. A gap can be trouble because the open space can become contaminated with dirt and bacteria, which can cause contamination in food applications.  

Standard or custom?

Some companies only make standard conveyor guide rails, which are built to fit more standard conveyor operating systems. However, there are more complex and unique systems that require a custom-made conveyor guide rail or plastic shape. The companies that build standard systems as well as produce custom ones are usually an excellent choice as it will give you more options when looking for the right conveyor guide rail system for your system.

How flexible is the guide rail? 

Flexibility can be a significant component of any conveyor guide rail you purchase. If your conveyor system bends you want to be sure the plastic component of the conveyor guide rail system stays inside of the stainless steel or aluminum, keeping your products on track.

This can mean custom-made guide rail systems, as opposed to a standard one. Again, not all companies are equipped to manufacture custom conveyor guide rails.

 One stop shopping?

As discussed earlier, not all conveyor guide rail manufacturers handle all of the part processing in house.  It’s usually a good idea to do business with conveyor guide rail manufacturers who do all their own tooling and handle the building of the part from start to finish.

The bottom line?

 The most important thing to look for you are buying a conveyor guide rail is a system that will keep your products moving along the conveyor seamlessly without any chance of damage to your products or stopping the line because of a breakdown. And you want a system you know is built well with the best components – as in built to last.