What is the Difference Between a Bucket Conveyor and a Bucket Elevator?

What is the Difference Between a Bucket Conveyor and a Bucket Elevator?

When it comes to handling bulk materials, industries need efficient and reliable methods to transport goods from one point to another. Two of the primary tools for this task are bucket conveyors and bucket elevators. While they might sound similar and are often used interchangeably in conversation, there are distinct differences between these two types of equipment. Understanding these differences is crucial for selecting the right equipment for your specific needs. This blog post will delve into what sets a bucket conveyor apart from a bucket elevator, covering their designs, uses, advantages, and considerations for selection.

Bucket Conveyors and Bucket Elevators

Before we dive into the differences, let’s clarify what these machines are:

What is a Bucket Conveyor?

A bucket conveyor is a complex material handling mechanism that is used to transport bulk materials horizontally or at a slight incline. It consists of multiple buckets attached to a chain or belt, moving at a slow pace. The design allows for the gentle handling of materials, which is ideal for transporting fragile goods that may be prone to damage if mishandled.

What is a Bucket Elevator?

On the other hand, a bucket elevator is designed primarily for vertical material transport. Like the bucket conveyor, it features a series of buckets attached to a belt or chain; however, its primary function is to lift materials upwards. Bucket elevators are typically used in situations where space is a constraint, and vertical lifting is required.

Key Differences Between Bucket Conveyors and Bucket Elevators

1. Direction of Movement

The most apparent difference between a bucket conveyor and a bucket elevator is the direction in which they transport materials. Bucket conveyors are adept at moving materials horizontally or on a slight incline. Conversely, bucket elevators are almost exclusively used for vertical transportation. This fundamental difference affects where and how each device is used in industrial settings.

2. Types of Materials Handled

Both bucket conveyors and elevators are suitable for a wide range of materials, but their specific designs make them better suited for different types of cargo. Bucket conveyors are often used for fragile materials, as their design can minimize the risk of material damage during handling. Elevators, while capable of handling various materials, are commonly employed for free-flowing, bulk materials in industries such as agriculture, mining, and construction.

3. Space Requirements

Bucket elevators have a clear advantage when it comes to height and space efficiency. They require less ground area, as they transport materials vertically. This makes them ideal for facilities where floor space is at a premium. Bucket conveyors require more horizontal space to operate, making them less suitable for tight spaces but ideal for facilities with ample floor space.

4. Mechanical Complexity and Maintenance

In terms of mechanical design, bucket elevators are generally simpler than conveyors since they mostly move in a vertical direction and do not require as many turns or complex pathways. This simplicity can lead to lower maintenance requirements and costs. However, because they handle vertical lifts, the wear on their mechanisms can be different, potentially requiring specialized maintenance knowledge.

5. Cost Implications

The initial cost of a bucket elevator can be higher than that of a conveyor due to its lifting capabilities and the engineering required to ensure safe and effective vertical transportation. However, the operational costs can be lower if the elevator’s simplicity leads to reduced maintenance expenses over time. In contrast, bucket conveyors might have a lower initial cost but could incur higher long-term operational costs, depending on the application and material handling requirements.

Choosing the Right Equipment

Selecting between a bucket conveyor and a bucket elevator depends largely on your specific needs:

  • Vertical vs. Horizontal Transport: Determine whether you need to move materials vertically, horizontally, or at an incline.
  • Type of Material: Consider the fragility and size of the materials you are handling.
  • Space Availability: Evaluate the space available in your facility to accommodate either system.
  • Budget Constraints: Consider both the initial investment and the long-term operating costs.

Practical Applications of Bucket Conveyors and Elevators

To better illustrate the practicality of bucket conveyors and elevators, let’s explore some real-world applications of each:

Applications of Bucket Conveyors

  • Food Industry: In the food industry, bucket conveyors are used to handle everything from grains and cereals to snacks and candies. Their gentle handling ensures that the products are not damaged during the transportation process, maintaining quality and integrity.
  • Pharmaceuticals: The pharmaceutical industry utilizes bucket conveyors to transport sensitive ingredients and finished products. The precise and gentle movement helps in maintaining the purity and quality necessary in pharmaceutical operations.
  • Chemicals: Bucket conveyors are also beneficial in the chemical industry for transporting bulk chemicals without exposure to environmental factors, reducing contamination risks.

These applications show how the horizontal or slight incline transport capabilities of bucket conveyors are utilized across different industries where material integrity is crucial.

Applications of Bucket Elevators

  • Agriculture: In agriculture, bucket elevators are used to transport grain from ground level to the top of storage silos. This vertical lifting is essential for efficient space utilization and maintaining the freshness of the grain.
  • Mining: The mining industry relies on bucket elevators to lift raw materials such as coal, minerals, and ores from deep underground to the surface for processing.
  • Cement Production: Bucket elevators are instrumental in cement plants, where they transport raw materials like limestone and clinker vertically from the ground to processing or mixing units high above.

These examples demonstrate the vertical transport capabilities of bucket elevators, making them indispensable in industries where materials need to be moved efficiently from lower to higher elevations.

Enhancing Efficiency with the Right Configuration

Choosing between a bucket conveyor and a bucket elevator is just the first step. To truly optimize your material handling process, it’s essential to tailor the configuration and setup according to your specific operational needs. Here are some additional considerations to keep in mind:

Capacity Planning

  • Throughput Requirements: Analyze your material handling volume needs. High-volume operations might benefit from a custom-designed bucket elevator that can handle large capacities efficiently, whereas smaller or more variable flows might be better served by a conveyor system that can be easily adjusted.
  • Speed Optimization: Adjust the speed of your conveyor or elevator to balance between operational efficiency and the risk of material damage. This is especially crucial in industries where material integrity is a priority.

Environmental Considerations

  • Dust Control: In environments where dust is a concern, such as in the handling of powders or mining operations, it’s crucial to integrate dust control mechanisms. Enclosed bucket systems can help to minimize the escape of dust and maintain a cleaner, safer workplace.
  • Weather Resistance: For operations that are exposed to outdoor conditions, consider weather-resistant materials and construction to ensure longevity and reliability of the conveying systems.

Integration with Other Systems

  • Automated Controls: Integrate bucket conveyors and elevators with automated control systems for better synchronization with other phases of production. This integration can lead to improvements in overall efficiency and reduce labor costs.
  • System Compatibility: Ensure that the bucket conveyor or elevator is compatible with other material handling systems in place. This might include interfacing with sorting systems, packaging units, or transportation facilities.

FeatureBucket ConveyorBucket Elevator
Primary UseHorizontal or slight incline material transportVertical material transport
Movement DirectionHorizontal or at a slight angleVertical
Ideal for Material TypeFragile or sensitive materialsBulk, free-flowing materials
Space RequirementsRequires more horizontal spaceRequires minimal ground space, maximizes height
Mechanical ComplexityMore complex paths possibleSimpler vertical path
Maintenance NeedsPotentially higher due to complexityGenerally lower, simpler mechanics
CostLower initial cost, possibly higher operationalHigher initial cost, potentially lower operational
ApplicationsFood industry, pharmaceuticals, chemicalsAgriculture, mining, cement production
InstallationMore flexible installation optionsPrimarily vertical, fixed installation
EfficiencyEfficient in handling without material damageEfficient in space usage and vertical transport
Difference Between a Bucket Conveyor and a Bucket Elevator

Bucket Conveyor and Bucket Elevator Parts

Both bucket conveyors and bucket elevators consist of several key components that allow them to efficiently transport materials. Understanding these parts can help in maintaining optimal performance and extending the lifespan of the equipment. Here’s a detailed look at the main components of each system.

Parts of a Bucket Conveyor

Buckets: The primary containers for material transport, made from metal, plastic, or other durable materials. They are spaced along the conveyor belt or chain.

Belt or Chain: The mechanism that drives the buckets. Belts can be used for lighter loads and quieter operation, while chains are preferred for heavier loads or more abrasive materials.

Drive Mechanism: Includes motors and gearboxes that power the belt or chain. The size and power of the drive mechanism depend on the conveyor length and load.

Tail Pulley: Located at the end of the conveyor path, the tail pulley helps to guide and tension the belt or chain.

Drive Pulley: Positioned at the discharge end, it provides the force necessary to move the belt or chain.

Casings: Protective covers that enclose the moving parts of the conveyor to protect the materials being moved and to prevent external contamination.

Loading and Discharging Points: Customized according to the specific handling requirements and the layout of the facility.

Support Structure: Provides stability and support to the conveyor. It can be designed to accommodate various installation needs, including adjustable heights and angles.

Contact Jingwei for Conveyor Parts OEM Service

Parts of a Bucket Elevator

Buckets: Similar to those in a bucket conveyor, but they are typically designed to handle higher vertical stresses and to resist wear from constant lifting.

Belt or Chain: The choice between belt and chain can affect the efficiency, noise level, and maintenance needs of the elevator. Chains are generally more durable and suitable for heavier loads.

Drive Assembly: Located at the top of the elevator, it includes the motor and the drive pulley. It is crucial for providing the force needed to lift the materials.

Boot Section: The lower part of the elevator, where material feeding happens. It often contains a pulley that helps to tension the belt or chain.

Discharge Spout: The point at which materials exit the elevator. It is usually positioned at the top and can be aligned with further conveyance or storage systems.

Inspection Doors: These allow for easy access to internal components for maintenance and inspection purposes.

Casing: Similar to the casing in a conveyor, it encloses the elevator to protect the contents and the moving parts from the environment and to prevent dust from escaping.

Tensioning System: Keeps the belt or chain under the correct tension to ensure smooth operation and to minimize wear.

Contact Jingwei for Elevator Parts OEM Service


While bucket conveyors and bucket elevators serve similar functions in material handling, their applications, design, and operational efficiencies differ significantly. By understanding these differences, businesses can make informed decisions about which equipment will best meet their needs, optimize their operations, and achieve higher productivity.

Jingwei has been manufacturing elevator and conveyor parts for decades and we’ve provided quality parts for many brands globally. Our customized components can match your business in different requirements. Contact us if you need elevator and conveyor parts’ OEM service.

Contact Us for Your Conveyor Parts Solutions