Engineering Notes by Oriental Motor

Motor Sizing & Selection Example: Variable Speed Belt Conveyor

[fa icon="calendar"] Dec 28, 2021 12:00:00 PM / by Johann Tang

Johann Tang

Many motor manufacturers offer a motor sizing tool to help with product selection, but if you don't know how to use it, you may still end up paying for it in the long run.

A motor sizing is necessary to calculate the motor's primary requirements for a specific application: torque, speed, and inertia.  The next step is product selection, which uses these torque, speed, and inertia values to select a particular size of a motor in order to avoid oversizing or undersizing.  This post explains how to use a motor sizing tool to calculate these values, and how to use them to select a motor for a variable speed belt conveyor.


What is a belt conveyor?

Belt conveyors use pulleys and belts to convert rotary motion to linear motion and move a load on its belt.  There may be a linear guide to support the load.  The motor could be connected to the drive pulley through a combination of a primary and secondary pulley, which adds an external gear ratio.  

Belt conveyor motor sizing tool Brushless motor video: simple speed control for conveyors

In order to determine the inertia, speed, and torque required by the motor, a series of calculations is necessary.  Many motor manufacturers use some form of a motor sizing calculator where you can simply input values to calculate your results.


Motor Sizing Example Variable Speed Belt Conveyor

In the following sections, I will explain how to use our Belt Conveyor Motor Sizing Tool for a horizontal belt conveyor that needs to move a load of 100 lbs between 12~24 inches per second.

Here's what you see when you start.

Belt actuator sizing form


Here are the parameters that I need to enter into the motor sizing tool.  Remember, the sizing results are only as accurate as the input values, so try not to "guesstimate" too much.

Parameters Values
Total weight of loads and conveyor belt
Friction coefficient of the belt and linear guide
Drive pulley diameter
Drive pulley weight
Total number of pulleys
Mechanical efficiency
External force
External gear ratio
Mechanism angle
Hold the load even after power is turned off
Hold the load only when power is on
Required speed
Required acceleration/deceleration time
Stopping accuracy
Safety factor 
100 lbs
12 inches
1 lb/pc
4 total pulleys
0 lb

1 second
0.25 inches


First, select the "Unit".  This will change the units on the motor sizing tool to imperial or metric.  Since I have the load in 100 lbs, I chose "Imperial".

Motor sizing tool - unit


Input the values for "Total weight of loads and conveyor belt" and "Friction coefficient of the belt and linear guide".  The belt weight is considered as load as well.

Motor sizing tool - load and linear guide


Next, input the "Drive pulley specifications".  Make sure to input the correct number of pulleys.

Motor sizing tool - drive pulley specifications


Remember to account for any "External force" or opposing force; such as a spring load.

Motor sizing tool - external force


If you have any external pulleys or gear ratios, please input the information here.  If you are directly coupling the motor to the drive pulley without any external pulleys, then leave the fields blank.

Motor sizing tool - external pulley or gear ratio


Input the "Mechanism angle" of the conveyor in degrees.  This conveyor is horizontal, so 0° is input.

Motor sizing tool - mechanism angle


List any "Other requirement(s)" you may have, such as electromagnetic brake or electrical holding torque.

Motor sizing tool - other requirements


Input your "Operating conditions".  For variable speed requirements, enter V1 (low speed) and V2 (top speed) in inches per second, then enter your acceleration/deceleration time (t1).

Motor sizing tool - operating conditions


Enter the required "Stopping accuracy".  This will convert the linear unit "in" to "degrees".  This is more critical for positioning applications, but it's a required field.

Motor sizing tool - stopping accuracy


Last but not least, enter your "Safety factor".  If you aren't completely sure of your parameter values, then use a large safety factor.  You always want to leave some room for other factors that might affect the motor requirements.  For example, other friction in the system can increase the required torque.

Motor sizing tool - safety factor

To see your sizing results, please click Calculate at the bottom.



Choosing different "operating conditions", such as "fixed speed operation", "variable speed operation", or "positioning operation" changes the input fields and calculations to accommodate different types of motors. 

  • Choose "fixed speed operation" for constant speed AC motors
  • Choose "variable speed operation" for speed control AC motors or brushless motors
  • Choose "positioning operation" for stepper motors or servo motors

For example, here's how the input fields change for "fixed speed operation" and "variable speed operation".

Fixed Speed Operation

Motor sizing tool - fixed speed operation

Variable Speed Operation

Motor sizing tool - variable speed operation


OK back to the variable speed belt conveyor sizing. 

Motor Sizing Results Variable Speed Belt Conveyor

The motor sizing results are as follows:

Motor sizing results - variable speed belt conveyor


We'll need to find a motor that meets these primary requirements.  We will skip "Required Stopping Accuracy" and "Other Requirement(s)" for this example.


Motor Requirements:

  • Load Inertia = 58,752 oz-in²
  • Required Speed = 19.1~38.2 RPM
  • Required Torque = 209.4 lb-in


The easiest way to find a suitable motor is to use the "Search by Specification" tool for the specific type of motor.  However, the "Search by Specification" tool is located on the overview pages for specific types of motors, so you need to select a type of motor first.


Use the Search by Specification to find motors by specification(s), then input sizing results.


Motor Selection Example Variable Speed Belt Conveyor

Brushless motors' performance, size, and efficiency characteristics, combined with their unique driver functions and a variety of gear options, make them ideal for continuous-duty variable speed conveyors.  Here's a guide that introduces the characteristics of all types of motors.

The following example shows how to use the sizing results to find the most suitable brushless motor and driver system.

Once you select the type of motor from our website navigation menu, please "Search by Specification" by using the sizing results you calculated.  

Brushless motors - search by specification

Once you click "Search by Specification", then you can search by the following parameters:

  • Output power
  • Power supply
  • Driver type 
  • Rated torque
  • Min. variable speed 
  • Max. variable speed
  • Shaft/gear type
  • Gear ratio
  • Output shaft type
  • Degree of protection (IP rating)
  • Electromagnetic brake

Since brushless motors require a driver, the power supply and driver type are for the dedicated driver that is required to control the brushless motor.  Oriental Motor is focused on providing a complete solution rather than components.


Here are the parameters I put in for the "Search by Specification".  Notice that I only put in the parameters I know: power supply, driver type, torque, min. variable speed, max. variable speed, parallel shaft gearhead with H1 food grade grease, and IP66 rating.

Advanced search - search motor by specification


Once you click Search by Specification, it will list the product(s) that satisfy these requirements.

Motor selection results - search by specification


How does this motor and driver [ BLM5120HP-100SF / BLE2D120A ] measure up?

This brushless gear motor offers 260 lb-in of torque and 0.8~40 RPM variable speed range.  It can handle up to 66000 oz-in² of load inertia.  These options also include H1 food grade grease and IP66 ratings, which are for conveyors that can come into contact with food and need periodic washdown.



Selecting the wrong product for the job could mean changing the BOM later or losing valuable time.  Knowing how to use the sizing results is the first step to successful product selection.  In addition to satisfying inertia, speed, and torque requirements, a machine designer also needs to consider the type of motor or actuator, the size of motor or actuator, the gear ratio or lead/pitch, the required power supply, the motor's IP rating as well as the product features and functions.


Pick the option that works best for your application (and budget).

If there's more than one option that meets the primary requirements, look into the features and functions. 



Belt conveyor motor sizing tool

Try the Belt Conveyor Sizing Tool


Prefer to have someone else size your motor?  Our experienced tech support engineers   can help!


Topics: Speed Control, Motor Sizing, BLDC Motors

Johann Tang

Written by Johann Tang

Johann Tang is a Product Specialist at Oriental Motor USA Corp. with 20+ years of experience in sales, technical application support, and training of various types of fractional horsepower electric motors, gearheads, actuators, drivers, and controllers. Feel free to ask him questions on Linkedin.

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