Conveyor systems are invaluable to modern industry. The gravity roller conveyor has been around since the beginning of recorded history. It is thought that the roller technique was used in the construction of the ancient Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge.
Roller conveyors have probably been around since the caveman, but it was not until the 20th century that this technology began to gain widespread practical use. It was around this time that the idea that a group of individuals could effectively move a commodity from point to point, without actually moving themselves, became a reality.
Early use of conveyor systems
Conveyor roller systems have been an integral part of material handling for over 100 years, though their origin traces to before this era.
Movement of bulk materials using conveyor belts dates back to around 1795 when the vast majority of the system was used by farmers to load grains onto ships. This was a great relief to farmers after toiling all day in the fields.
Conveyor systems were also used in underground mines to transport coal.
Important points in history
The early conveyor systems were built with a wooden framework and the belts were made from rubber or cloth.
It was not until the early 19th Century that factories began using conveyor systems in material handling.
The biggest milestone came in 1908 when Hymie Goddard, from Logan Company, in Indiana, patented the first roller conveyor in 1908. However the conveyor business did not fully flourish until 5 years later.
In 1913 Henry Ford made history when he introduced the assembly line to mainstream industry by using the roller conveyor to revolutionize material movement. This revolution reduced manual labor requirements and served to speed up production.
In 1919 the automotive industry began using free and powered conveyor lines in handling mass production in factories.
In the 1920s, conveyor roller systems were devised to move material over increasingly longer distances. The first underground advanced installation with layers of rubber and cotton covers was built to move coal over a distance of 8kilometers.
During World War II, synthetic belting materials were used because natural materials were scarce. This period marked a rapid technological expansion in improved conveyor systems. Today hundreds of synthetic fabrics and polymers are used in conveyor roller belting systems.
In 1947, the American Standards Association developed the first industry standards in conveyor safety.
Upon its creation in 1970, OSHA prioritized measures to curtail conveyor noise. Conveyor manufacturers responded with quiet rollers, precision bearings, and durable parts that reduced noise and controlled wear and tear.
In the 70s, 80s and 90s, conveyor equipment makers developed and perfected powered conveyor rollers to reduce costly maintenance.
The use of conveyor roller systems in society today
Roller conveyor systems are used in the automotive, computer, agricultural, food processing, pharmaceutical, aerospace, chemical, canning and bottling industries, to name just a few. Even machine tools are regularly equipped with roller and other types of conveyors that feed parts to a loader or directly to the machine.
There are many other types of item-movement systems, but it is only roller conveyor systems that can function as centers for accumulation and routes for movement, simultaneously. There are very few inventions with the same impact on society like conveyor roller systems.
While everyone has had some experience with conveyors, most people don’t realize how ubiquitos these systems have become in our everyday lives and how millions of rollers are working tirelessly behind the scenes to make our lives easier. From groceries, food, mail, courier, airport luggage, clothing and industrial packages, conveyor rollers are used to move our world!
Article is provided by guest contributor Catherine Heigle of Fastrax Roller Conveyors.