The History of Material-Handling Conveyors

The History of Material-Handling Conveyors

Conveyors are some of the most common forms of material handling equipment used today. From auto parts to grain, these pieces of machinery can move a wide range of materials. As intriguing as the function of conveyor belts is, the history of material-handling conveyors is more captivating. Peruse this centuries-spanning timeline to see what impacted the growth of conveyors, and how conveyors impacted the growth of multiple industries.

The history of material-handling conveyors takes us back more than 200 years. In 1795, conveyor belts utilized a flat, wooden bed over which the belt traveled to carry materials from one end to the other. Back then, the belt was typically made of leather and could move with only the help of a hand crank that controlled a series of pulleys, moving materials such as agricultural goods from shore to ship.

Fast forward to 1804, where material handling conveyors saw immense evolution. In less than a decade, thanks to the coming Industrial Revolution, conveyors were now steam-powered. During this time, the British Navy began using steam-powered conveyors, but not for materials like ship parts. The task these nifty machines carried out was producing biscuits for the sailors to eat. A simple task but certainly one that those sailors were thankful for.

The next major advancement in conveyors took nearly a century to arrive. In 1901, the first steel conveyor belts came to fruition thanks to Sweden’s Sandvik engineering company. This time, they weren’t for making biscuits. Instead, these steel conveyors moved materials such as charcoal from one place to another.

Over the years, with the help of visionaries like Richard Sutcliffe and Henry Ford, conveyor systems completely changed the mining and automotive industries forever. However, when World War II arrived in the 1940s, materials such as rubber were scarce, meaning conveyors had to evolve once again. New conveyor systems were constructed with synthetic rubber. Instead of hindering the conveyor’s performance quality, it improved its overall efficiency.

Conveyors saw improvement once again in 1957, when the B.F. Goodrich Company introduced the first turnover conveyor belt to the world. This conveying system utilized a half twist in order to make the entire belt impervious to wear and tear. You might think this would hurt the machine, but actually, it extended the lifespan of the belt. Conveyors went through one final evolution that brought on the modern age of conveying technology in 1970. This is the year when the American company Intralox registered a patent for the very first modular plastic belting.

With the help of this timeline, you should have a better understanding of conveyors and their history. As you can see, conveyors have gone through a fascinating evolution over the years, culminating in today’s pneumatic conveying, one of the most efficient kinds of material-handling equipment. At DoverMEI, we can help you find and install pneumatic conveying systems to assist in your facility’s day-to-day operations.