In bulk material handling, vibratory feeders are used to convey material from one piece of equipment to the next. They are able to separate and convey materials using precise vibrations. Their most common functions include: feeding, sorting and sifting.
Users turn to vibratory feeders when they want to move delicate or sticky materials without damaging or liquefying them. Such materials include: gravel, sand, crushed cement, wood, metals and plastic. Because they emit precise vibrations, companies also use vibratory feeders to process and align small parts, like coins, washers or O-rings, as they move along a belt conveyor.
Vibratory feeders are popular for use in a wide variety of industries, including: agriculture, fertilization, recycling, food processing, mining, pulp and paper, sand and gravel and pharmaceuticals.
Vibratory feeders are a fairly recent innovation. In the United States, Mario Thomas Sgriccia received a patent for them in 1950. His design was durable and simple, but it also consumed large amounts of energy and produced uneven piles of material. Nevertheless, it was used consistently from then on through the 1960s, mostly in mining.
During the ‘60s, engineers improved upon Sgriccia’s original model, introducing the electromagnetic vibrating feeder. This feeder was more energy efficient, more lightweight and produced much more even processing. However, it was quite loud and not as durable as the earlier model.
Over the last 50 years, or so, engineers and manufacturers have worked to improve the bowl feeder. Thanks to changes like optional sound enclosures and more durable materials, vibratory feeders are more relevant than ever.
How It Works
Every kind of vibratory feeder works a little bit differently. They all, however, feed material into another machine or process via combination of gravity and vibrations. In general, this is how they work:
1. Gravity determines the direction of the component parts flow. This flow either goes straight down or down and to the side.
2. Vibration moves the parts or material, driving them along.
3. Once in position, whether that be at the edge of a vibratory feeder bowl or an outfeed area, the parts are forced into a single form line.
4. In line, the parts or materials move along the line to their next destination.
Note: When working with loose materials, vibratory feed machines will also work with equipment, like screens, conveyors or trommels, that helps them sift and separate materials.
There are several different types of vibrating feeders, including:
Vibratory Bowl Feeders
Vibratory bowl feeders are composed of a vibratory feeder bowl top and an inclined spiral track on which parts are placed and guided. From the track, the parts move into a line that takes them down the track to the bottom of the vibratory feeder bowl. Sometimes referred to as vibratory bowls or centrifugal feeders, these convenient part feeders are used in parts manufacturing facilities to help align finished parts or almost finished parts before packaging. Parts like these include: molded rubber components, fasteners, toothpaste caps and O-rings. They are also used by the pharmaceutical industry to sort pills.
This category covers a much broader selection of troughs, vibrating screens and trommel screens that are made specifically to convey and/or sort bulk materials as they are being processed. Broadly speaking, vibratory conveyors, or step feeders, consist of a metal trough that vibrates in one direction in order to convey heterogenous mixtures or powder bulk solids from one process to the next. Vibratory conveyors eliminate the problem of jamming parts that is common with standard feeder bowls. They instead operate very smoothly.
Grizzly screens, also known as grizzly scalpers or grizzly feeders, are an exceptionally powerful type of vibrating screen. Usually, they are used for mining applications and/or pre-screening. They are installed in between vibratory feeder and a primary crusher.
Trommel screens, or trommels, are another type of vibrating screen. Their goal is to help separate small particles from large particles. They are typical of cost-effective recycling operations or manufacturing operations that incorporate material recycling into their process.
Rotary trommels are a type of trommel screen that sort and sift by tumbling. They are a common component of gravel recycling and processing. When used in conjunction with trommel magnets, rotary trommels can be used in metal recycling to help sort ferrous and non-ferrous metals.
Continuous Flatbed Trommels
Continuous flatbed trommels use screens, another filtering device to sort particles of different sizes. Their goal is to extract small particles so that large particles only will be conveyed to containment or further processing.
These are more commonly called rotary airlocks or rotary valves. Their design and purpose are to allow for air-tight material feeding from storage tanks to silos into screw feeders or vibratory conveyors.
Sometimes called inline feeders, linear feeders are usually used in applications where parts, not materials, are being conveyed. They create a consistent flow from feeder bowls through vibratory linear motion.
Electromagnetic Vibratory Feeders
Electromagnetic vibratory feeders work using an electromagnet and other components to create vibration. The electromagnet is fitted into the machine, where it attracts an armature brack, which is connected to a second mass via a leaf spring set. The movement as a whole creates linear vibration; the linear vibration pushes material into the feeder pan. The feed rate is regulated by an AC supply. Electromagnetic vibratory feeders are great for batching applications.
Electromechanical Vibratory Feeders
Electromechanical vibratory feeder produces a fully adjustable, uniform volumetric flow using a rotary electric vibrator. This type of feeder is known for its rugged design, corrosion resistance and low maintenance. To limit noise levels, it can be outfitted with isolators. In addition, it has controls that allow the operator to change force, frequency and vibration intensity. Electromechanical vibratory feeders can be modified as vibratory conveyors. Thus, they are much more versatile than most other vibratory equipment and can be used in many settings.
Pneumatic feeders work using a pneumatic drive and a piston engine that produces vibrations. These feeders are designed especially for the lab environment. As such, they meet laboratory standards for water resistance and explosion containment. In addition, they are environmentally, low maintenance and always work at a reliable, constant speed.
The entirety of a vibratory feeder’s components depends on its design. For example, some work with electromagnetic systems, while others use an electromechanical system. Others feature much simpler components, like the spiral track.
In general, though, vibratory feeders feature a source of vibration (vibrating bowl, set of springs, etc.), a means to convey or move parts and a control box. The control box, also known as a cycle control, is used to adjust the amplitude and intensity of the feeder. Often, vibratory feeders also feature a hopper. Hoppers are large bulk containers that hold material and regulate parts flow into a vibratory feeder system.
Vibratory feeders offer many advantages, and in industrial settings, a parts feeder is one of the most efficient and cost-effective alternatives to manual labor, especially over the long term.
Why is this? For one, instead of a team of people, one operator can watch over a number of automated machines. In addition, when processing small parts, a bowl feeder makes is easy to sort, count and align the parts accurately. Not only is this more efficient, but it does not require workers to do a strenuous job. For companies who work with powder bulk solids and heterogeneous mixtures that are delicate, vibratory conveying is the best alternative to the speed of pneumatic conveying.
Another advantage of vibratory feeders is that even sticky materials that would get stuck in a pneumatic conveyor or on a mechanical conveyor flow evenly on a vibratory feeder. For facilities that would like to improve their recycling and recovery rates, trommel screens and rotary trommels have a significant impact on the amount of labor needed to sort materials.
Vibratory feeders save users time and money on maintenance as well, because they have no moving parts, aside from the vibrating drive unit. This means 1) they break down less frequently and 2) vibratory feeder parts are easy to replace. On top of this, feeder parts and inexpensive.
Other advantages of vibratory feeders include: ergonomic design, adaptability and versatility, effectiveness and accuracy.
Design and Customization
When designing a vibratory feeder for a particular application, manufacturers carefully consider all factors related to said application, such as: material size, material texture, material feed rate, load volume and vibration amplitude and intensity.
When making the extremely common bowl feeder, manufacturers make the bowl from steel, stainless steel, plastic or silicone. To customize your feeder system, manufacturers can alter any details, like feed rate, amplitude and intensity, etc. They can also place your feeder inside a custom quiet sound enclosure.
Safety and Compliance Standards
Different types of vibratory feeders and different applications, industries and locations all require or recommend different standards. For example, both ISO and ANSI put out standard safety guidelines for vibratory conveyors. Other feeders are designed to meet or exceed FDA standards. Still others are made to meet Mil-Spec standards. What you need all depends on your application. To make sure your manufacturer makes a feeder that meets your standard requirements, consult with your industry leaders, and also make sure your manufacturer knows all about your application.
Things to Consider
To land on the right vibratory feeder for your application, there are a number of factors you need to consider. First, think about application requirements. Consider aspects such as: material weight, material type (Loose, compact, small parts, etc.), how quickly you must move the material, how much material you will move (load size), how often you will be changing your materials, and whether or not you require sterile conditions. Also consider your budget, timeline and delivery preferences. Create a list with all of these specifications, so that you can quickly and confidently discuss them at any time. Then, start your search for the right manufacturer.
Who is the right manufacturer? The right manufacturer is the supplier that is best able to fulfill your requirements while respecting your budget and timeframe. Locate this manufacturer by checking out the list of industry leading vibratory feeder manufacturers we have listed here on this page. We’ve put together a group of the highest quality vibratory feeder companies in the United States and Canada for you to consult. Learn more about each of them by browsing the profiles we’ve provided, or by going to straight to their individual websites.