The History of Conveyors

The History of Conveyors

Learn the history of conveyors today!

The History of Conveyors

The conveyor system has a long, moving history. They have been an integral part of material handling for well over a century, and their origins date back even further. The transport of bulk materials by conveyor belts began around the year 1795, but these inventions were basically used just to transport grains over extremely short distances.

The earliest conveyor belt systems were made of a leather, canvas or rubber belt, which traveled over a flat wooden bed. With this success, engineers decided conveyors were an economical and efficient way to haul large quantities of bulk materials from one location to another.

Fast forward to the 20th century, and conveyors are used in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area to unload shingles from rail cars. Not long after, conveyors begin to make appearances elsewhere, and overhead trolleys and belt conveyors move items in manufacturing plants.

In 1908, Hymle Goddard of Logan Company received the first patent for the roller conveyor, and in 1919, automotative production began to utilize powered and free conveyor lines. Throughout the 1920s, conveyors grew to become a popular tool for handling mass produced goods within factories.

During World War II, manufacturers would create synthetic materials to make conveyor belting due to the lack of natural components. Today, a conveyor’s belt is made from an endless list of synthetic polymers and fabrics. It can be tailor to fit any warehouse requirement.

The list of possibilities for the conveyor is also endless, and it has broadened considerably since the early days. They are used in almost any industry where materials have to be handled, stored or dispensed.

There have also been several technological advancements in conveyors, which include maintenance and systems control. At one time, conveyor maintenance was difficult as the systems were permanently configured and fixed in place. Production changes and standard maintenance usually required extensive downtime and considerable expense. Often, conveyors had to be replaced with completely new systems before the expected demise.

During the 70s, 80s and 90s, engineers of conveyor equipment developed and perfected internally powered conveyor rollers with motorized pulleys that then eliminated costly maintenance needs.

With new advancements and technological innovations, the conveyor system has stayed cutting edge, along with other automated material handling systems. Computers are now able to control complex applications, while increased automation helps the systems become more efficient.

Today, the longest conveyor belt in the world is used in the phosphate mines of Western Sahara. It measures 60 miles long.