The invention of conveyor belts revolutionized the manufacturing process for many industries around the world. The basic design of this common manufacturing apparatus consists of a rubber belt stretched between two cylindrical rollers at either end. Conveyor belts enable factories to move parts, equipment, materials and products from one place to another, cutting labor costs and saving time. Conveyor belts appear in many forms in everyday life. From the simple type seen at the grocery store checkout line, to the massive conveyor belts stretching across a manufacturing plant, conveyor belts help make life easier.
The first uses of conveyor belts date back to 1795 where they moved large amounts of grain over a short distance. The first conveyor belts consisted of leather, canvas or rubber moving over a flat wood base. By the early 1900s, conveyor belts used to unload rail cars would soon appear in factories. In 1908, the roller conveyor received a patent. By 1919, powered and free conveyor belts would see widespread use in automotive assembly plants. Today, various types of conveyor belts are found in many industries around the world.
Basic Conveyor Belt
The basic conveyor belt consists of a long, continuous band made of a strong material. Early manufacturers moved products and materials with these simple conveyor belts on assembly lines. The first conveyor belts provided unwieldy and noisy, wore out quickly and remained fixed in one location. Basic conveyor belts today utilize precision bearings, internally-powered conveyor rollers and motorized pulleys. All of these engineering innovations reduce noise and costly maintenance while increasing productivity and efficiency.
Snake Sandwich Belt
Developed in 1979, the snake sandwich belt conveyor uses two individual conveyor belts facing one another. These separate belts “sandwich” the material conveyed. This allows material to move in just about any direction. This unique design allows these types of belt conveyors to gently, but firmly, carry products or materials up steep, even vertical inclines. Typically used to move large quantities of bulk materials like grain, rock, aggregate or coal, snake sandwich belts appear mostly in mining or milling operations.
The mechanical and technological advancements made to conveyor belts over the past century allow engineers to stretch their use to seemingly incredible limits. One example, the 100 kilometer-long conveyor belt is used to transport material from the large Bou Craa phosphate mine in the Western Sahara desert to the port of El-Aaiun. Airports use a long belt conveyor system to move luggage between flights and airport terminal areas. Long belt conveyors also carry letters and packages in some of the larger U.S. Post Office sorting facilities.