So, Who Invented the Conveyor Belt?
If this industrial staple had a single inventor, his or her name has sadly been lost to time. Many people throughout history can claim a bit of responsibility in helping the conveyor evolve and become more efficient, however.
For example, the world has American manufacturer and inventor Thomas Robbins to thank for a conveyor belt system that transported coal and ore for Thomas Edison’s Ore-Milling Company. His invention won the grand prize at the Paris Exposition World Fair and went on to revolutionize the mining industry.
Another noteworthy pioneer in the conveyor belt’s history is none other than automobile
manufacturer Henry Ford. He introduced the idea of a conveyor belt assembly line to his Michigan factory and continuously improved upon its technology. In doing this, Ford made conveyor systems mainstream, and their popularity only grew.
The Conveyor System Timeline
When was the conveyor belt invented? Since the name of the conveyor’s exact inventor is unknown, it’s hard to say for sure. Long before Robbins and Ford, however, the first conveyor systems are thought to have been used as early as 1795. They were made of a leather or canvas belt that traveled over a flat wooden bed. Years later, Robbins developed the modern conveyor belt’s direct precursor in 1892, while Ford began using and improving upon it in 1913.
To give you a better understanding of monumental moments in conveyor belt history, we created the following timeline:
- 1795 – The first conveyors appeared. Early conveyors were mainly used in ports to move agricultural products from shore to ship.
- 1804 – The British Navy began eating biscuits produced by the first steam operated conveyors.
- 1892 – Manufacturer and inventor Thomas Robbins designed a conveyor belt system to transport coal and ore for Thomas Edison’s Ore-Milling Company. His invention won the grand prize at the Paris Exposition World Fair in 1900.
- 1902 – Swedish engineering company Sandvik produced steel conveyors for the
transportation of mined aggregate and coal.
- 1905 – Mining engineer and inventor Richard Sutcliffe introduced the first underground conveyor belt. It was made of cotton and rubber and used during mining, quarrying and mineral processing.
- 1908 – Inventor Hymle Goddard patented the first roller conveyor.
- 1913 – Automobile manufacturer and inventor Henry Ford started incorporating conveyor belts into his company’s assembly line system.
- 1920s – Conveyors began replacing locomotive and rail lines in the quarrying, mining and mineral processing industries.
- 1940s – Due to a shortage of rubber during World War II, the first synthetic belt materials were created. Additionally, the first conveyor safety standards were developed by the American Standards Association in 1947
- 1970 – Manufacturers began creating conveyors that were less noisy and more durable.
- 1980 – Internally powered conveyor rollers and motorized pulleys were developed to eliminate costly maintenance
- 1988 – Span Tech was founded and the conveyor design system launched.
- Recent years – – From solar-powered conveyor belts to computerization, conveyor systems have become more efficient and high-tech than ever before.
Conveyor Systems at Span Tech
As the leader in the plastic chain conveyors industry, Span Tech specializes in developing unique, customizable technical solutions for processing applications in a variety of industries. Quite like conveyor systems, we have our own bit of history. Since our launch in 1988, we’ve spent years continuously growing and innovating our process to help better every business we assist. In 2002, we released the SuperTight chain which produced a tighter conveyor turning radius. Four years later, Span Tech created the OutRunner Spiral — a more efficient conveyor that’s easy to clean. In 2015, we developed the 4-Rod Twist conveyor which allows for 90 degrees of product rotation in 60 inches.