The history of conveyor belts begins in the latter half of the 17th century. Since then, conveyor belts have been an inevitable part of material transportation. But it was in 1795 that conveyor belts became a popular means for conveying bulk materials. In the beginning, conveyor belts were used only for moving grain sacks to short distances.
The conveyor belt system and working were quite simple in the early days. The conveyor belt system had a flat wooden bed and a belt that traveled over the wooden bed. Earlier, conveyor belts were made of leather, canvas or rubber. This primitive conveyor belt system was very popular for conveying bulky items from one place to another. In the beginning of the 20th century, the applications of conveyor belts became wider.
Hymle Goddard of Logan Company was the first to receive the patent for the roller conveyor in 1908. The roller conveyor business did not prosper. A few years later, in 1919, powered and free conveyors were used in automotive production. Thus, conveyor belts became popular tools for conveying heavy and large goods within factories.
During the 1920s, conveyor belts were common, and also underwent tremendous changes. Conveyor belts were used in coal mines to handle runs of coal for more than 8kms, and were made using layers of cotton and rubber covers. The longest conveyor belt now in use is 60 miles long, in the phosphate mines of Western Sahara.
One of the turning points in the history of conveyor belts was the introduction of synthetic conveyor belts. It was introduced during the Second World War, mainly because of the scarcity of natural materials such as cotton, rubber and canvas. Since then, synthetic conveyor belts have become popular in various fields.
With the increasing demand in the market, many synthetic polymers and fabrics began to be used in the manufacture of conveyor belts. Today, cotton, canvas, EPDM, leather, neoprene, nylon, polyester, polyurethane, urethane, PVC, rubber, silicone and steel are commonly used in conveyor belts. Nowadays, the material used for making a conveyor belt is determined by its application.