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On regular conveyor belts, motors are usually placed on the head shaft where material is discharged, and tension is highest at the entrance of this head shaft. However, if the motor were to be simply reversed, it seems as if the load-carrying side would lose tension, turn slack, and the material handled could fall out.

In order to reverse a conveyor belt without having two separate motors, and simply having a reversible one, what sort of system do you need to maintain the tension?

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    $\begingroup$ Have a separate tensioning system... $\endgroup$ – Solar Mike Aug 22 '18 at 14:00
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There would be a few ways of doing it, but one the simplest i've seen is having a seperate drive roller and idlers somewhere on the underside of the conveyor. These idlers can be moved for tensioning the belt, whilst the ends of the conveyors would be used for tracking the belt. Here's a diagram in paint. My paint skills are somewhat lacking....

enter image description here

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You might consider adding a clutch so that, upon reversing the motor direction, it's freed from the local (head) shaft and drives, either via secondary belt or geared shaft, the far-end head shaft.

(I think Mr. R. Goldberg would be proud of me)

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All installations I have seen with a reversible conveyor belt had a seperate tensioning system for the belt (as Solar Mike pointed out in a comment) and the motor at one end. Non reversible belts typically have a tensioning system:
enter image description here The belt is enclosed, but you see the roller. The long threaded bolt (red cloud) is used to tension the belt. This conveyor is non reversible.

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