History and Uses of Belt Conveyors

A basic belt conveyor consists of an enclosed loop of rubber, metal links, or some other material used to transport objects along a straight path. When used in assembly lines, they allow products to be brought directly to workers, foregoing the need for the employee to constantly move back and forth. Commonly used in agriculture and mining as well, they can quickly transport dry bulk solids in large quantities. Belt conveyors have proven to be essential tools for maximizing efficiency, moving large amounts of product in the shortest amount of time possible, for the lowest cost.

How do Belt Conveyors Work?

A belt conveyor is simply a modified version of the pulley, designed to move a continuously looped strip along a cyclical path. Consisting of a powered or “drive” pulley wheel and an idle, unpowered pulley wheel, the conveyor belt is moved along the system, allowing transportation of goods along the belt's path. This easy design is amazingly effective, as it can be adapted to fit almost any operation by modifying the shape and material of the belt, the incline, portability, and so on. Companies in all industries benefit from belt conveyors, almost completely removing the need for tedious manual transportation of their product.

Modern Industrial Uses

Belt conveyors are ideal for moving large, heavy objects as on an assembly line. They are also widely used to move large amounts of granulated or pelleted material to and from transport vehicles. Conveyors can access places too tight to maneuver other large machinery such as underground mines. Vertical and incline conveyors have proven to be the most effective means to carry dry bulk solids upward, as with grain silos and cement domes. Whether it be coal coming from a mine or cars being assembled, conveyor belts can transport it. With some conveyor belts built to support over 15,000 kilonewtons, they are some of the most versatile machines ever devised.

History of the Belt Conveyor

The first modern belt conveyors date back to early 19th century, used primarily to transport grain over short distances. These belts were typically made out of leather, and, while useful, didn’t accomplish nearly as much as today's belts. Conveyor belts as we know them initially surfaced in 1901 when Swedish company Sandvik began developing steel belts. In 1905, Richard Sutcliffe implemented belt conveyors in coal mines, marking the next major landmark in the invention’s history. By using belt conveyors in mines, workers no longer had to manually transport coal. This allowed production to skyrocket as miners could continue to work while the belt took the coal to the surface.

Perhaps the most important and well known use of conveyor belts began in 1913, when Henry Ford installed conveyor belts in Ford Motor Company assembly lines. This marked the start of mass production in which employees could now work much more efficiently as the product simply came to them. Today, thousands of factories, storage facilities, processing plants, and quarries use this technology to streamline processes and quickly move the product along the path of manufacturing.

Belt conveyors are one of the most important inventions of the modern age, and have helped revolutionize industry. With many practical uses, they can be specialized for hundreds of scenarios to rapidly transport goods and products from Point A to Point B. Thanks to conveyor belts, productivity is increased across the board, and allows for industry to meet the growing demands of mass markets today.

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