In the realm of bulk material handling, understanding the distinct roles of screw conveyors and screw feeders is essential. Screw conveyors and screw feeders, though similar in appearance, perform different functions and are designed with specific features tailored to these roles. A screw conveyor's main function is to transport bulk materials from one part of a process to another, often through a prepared route. Think of it like a train – it runs at a constant speed, and its primary role is to ensure the materials reach the designated station. Common examples may include a screw conveyor designed for transporting limestone or wood chips. On the other hand, a screw feeder controls and modulates the rate at which materials flow from bins or hoppers. Feeders not only ensure a steady flow of materials but also have the ability to vary their speed based on the requirements of the system. The key characteristic of a screw feeder is that its inlet is always flood loaded to 100%. It is commonly mounted directly to a hopper, bin, or a silo.

Horizontal screw conveyors, the most commonly used types, play a crucial role in conveying bulk materials from one part of a process to another. Available in a wide array of sizes, lengths, configurations, and construction materials, these conveyors offer considerable versatility. They are typically designed to handle bulk materials at 15, 30, or 45-percent trough loading, depending on the specific characteristics of the bulk material.
The inlet of a screw conveyor is always control fed by another device, such as a Screw Feeder, Belt Conveyor, Rotary Airlock, Volumetric, or Gravimetric Feeder. Ideally, the drive unit is located at the discharge end of a screw conveyor, pulling the bulk material to the drive end. This arrangement puts each screw section in tension as the bulk material is conveyed toward the discharge, reducing wear and fatigue on the conveyor components.
Screw conveyors offer several advantages. They are ideally suited for conveying dry to semi-fluid materials – from free-flowing to sluggish. They are cost-effective compared to other conveying devices such as belt, pneumatic, or aeromechanical systems. Furthermore, they efficiently distribute bulk materials to various locations using multiple inlet and discharge points, and they are often totally enclosed for handling dusty, corrosive, or hazardous environments.
Designing a screw feeder involves considering several critical factors, such as the flow characteristics of the bulk material being stored and metered, the density of the material in both stored and metered conditions, the maximum and minimum capacity or feed rate of the process, width and length of screw feeder inlet opening, overall length of the screw feeder, and the height of the bulk material in the hopper, bin, or silo. Screw feeders are meticulously engineered to meter bulk materials and are predominantly placed at the beginning of a process. With an accurate control over capacity and feed rate, they often integrate variable speed drives to enhance metering exactness, offering a broad spectrum of feed rates. Screw feeders are offered in a diverse range of sizes, lengths, configurations, and construction materials.
Most screw feeders are less than 20-feet in length due to the non-recommended usage of internal hanger bearings. Typically, a short screw feeder will meter a bulk material to a screw conveyor, thereby facilitating the transfer to the next stage in it's process.
The crucial difference lies in their function and design requirements. Feeders are designed to be flood-loaded and have the ability to control the rate of material flow. This control allows the feeder to stop when material flow needs to be discontinued and to vary the speed based on the discharge rate. In contrast, conveyors remain constant in their operation and do not have the capability to modulate the material flow rate. Understanding these distinctions can ensure correct tool selection for your specific bulk material handling needs, leading to more efficient and accurate operations.