Working Principle of Bucket Elevators

Bucket elevators, commonly known as grain legs, are essential components in many industrial settings. They are used to haul flowable bulk materials vertically, ensuring efficient and streamlined operations in various applications such as grain handling, mining, and cement production. This post aims to provide an in-depth understanding of how bucket elevators work, the different types available, and their applications across industries.

What is a Bucket Elevator?

A bucket elevator is a mechanism used for hauling bulk materials vertically. It consists of buckets attached to a belt or chain that rotates around two pulleys, allowing the buckets to pick up material at the bottom (boot section), carry it to the top (head section), discharge the material, and return to pick up a new load. The efficiency and versatility of bucket elevators make them ideal for a wide range of industrial applications.

Types of Bucket Elevators

There are several types of bucket elevators, each designed for specific applications and material handling requirements. The primary types include:

Belt Bucket Elevators

Belt bucket elevators are designed for conveying finely graduated materials. The main components include:

  • Buckets: Fixed directly to the belt, used to carry the bulk product.
  • Drums: Drive the belt and buckets.
  • Bucket Elevator Belts: Hold the buckets in place and move them through the system.

The operation of a belt bucket elevator involves the motor driving the head drum, which moves the belt and buckets. The material is poured into the inlet, falls into the buckets, and is carried upwards. At the head section, the product is discharged by centrifugal force.

Key Features of Belt Bucket Elevators:

  • Smooth and noiseless operation.
  • Controlled feed at multiple locations.
  • Easy installation and disassembly.

Pendulum Bucket Elevators

Pendulum bucket elevators consist of two parallel chains, a series of sprockets, and buckets suspended between the chains. The buckets move around the circuit as the sprockets turn, maintaining an upright position throughout the process. The filling mechanism is similar to belt bucket elevators, but the discharge requires active tipping of the buckets.

Key Features of Pendulum Bucket Elevators:

  • Controlled and even transport.
  • Suitable for one-shot lifting of materials like grain, food, fodder, and chemicals.
  • Compact design with low noise operation.

Continuous Bucket Elevators

Continuous bucket elevators are designed for transporting fragile or light materials at slower speeds. There are no gaps between buckets, preventing spillage. The material pours out of the bucket and slides down the inverted bucket ahead into the discharge chute. These elevators are built with a higher feed inlet to allow the majority of the material to flow directly into the buckets, ensuring minimal product damage.

Key Features of Continuous Bucket Elevators:

  • Ideal for fragile materials.
  • Prevents product damage and degradation.
  • Reduced operational speed to maintain material integrity.

How Bucket Elevators Work

Bucket elevators operate on a simple yet effective principle:

  1. Boot Section:
  • Loading the Materials
  • The material to be conveyed is loaded into the buckets at the boot section. This can be done through direct feed or scooping from a bulk pile.
  1. Vertical Transport:
  • The conveyor system moves the loaded buckets vertically upward. This is achieved through a belt or chain mechanism driven by the head pulley or sprocket, generating the necessary force.
  1. Head Section:
  • The materials reach the head section, where they are discharged. Centrifugal bucket elevators use centrifugal force to throw the material out of the buckets, while continuous bucket elevators allow the material to pour out smoothly.
  1. Return Loop:
  • The empty buckets then return back down to the boot section to pick up a new load, completing the cycle.

Applications of Bucket Elevators

Bucket elevators are widely used in various industries due to their versatility and efficiency. Some common applications include:

  • Agriculture:
  • Grain handling and storage facilities.
  • Mining:
  • Transporting ore and minerals.
  • Cement Production:
  • Moving raw materials and finished products.
  • Food Processing:
  • Handling bulk ingredients like grains, sugar, and flour.

Benefits of Using Bucket Elevators

Implementing bucket elevators in your industrial operations offers several advantages:

  • Efficiency:
  • Ensures smooth and continuous material flow.
  • Space-saving:
  • Vertically transports materials, saving valuable floor space.
  • Versatility:
  • Capable of handling a wide range of materials.
  • Reduced Material Damage:
  • Especially with continuous bucket elevators, minimizing product degradation.


Understanding the working principle and types of bucket elevators is crucial for industrial engineers looking to optimize their material handling processes. Whether you’re dealing with grains, minerals, or other bulk materials, bucket elevators provide a reliable and efficient solution for vertical transport.

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