History of Conveyor Belt: When and How it’s Invented

conveyor belt

Have you ever wondered how the massive amounts of goods in warehouses, airports, or manufacturing plants get moved around so efficiently? The unsung hero behind this efficiency is the conveyor belt, a pivotal invention that has revolutionized industries across the globe. But when was the conveyor belt invented, and how has it evolved over the years? Let’s dive into the history of this remarkable invention and explore its journey from inception to the modern-day marvel it has become.

History of the Conveyor Belt

conveyor belt in old days

The concept of the conveyor belt has been around for centuries. However, it was in the 19th century that the conveyor belt system as we know it began to take shape. The earliest recorded use of conveyor belts was in the late 1700s. During this period, belts made of leather or canvas were used in mills and the mining industry to move grains or coal short distances.

However, the official invention of the conveyor belt is credited to Thomas Robins, who in 1892 began a series of innovations to develop a more efficient belt conveyor system for the Edison Ore-Milling Company. His designs were pivotal in moving heavy and abrasive materials, such as iron ore, over long distances, revolutionizing the mining industry.

The Evolution of the Conveyor Belt

Sandvik invented the steel conveyor belt

The innovation did not stop with Robins. In 1901, Swedish engineering company Sandvik invented the steel conveyor belt. This invention marked a significant milestone, as steel belts could handle heavier loads and were more durable than their leather and canvas counterparts. This period also saw the introduction of conveyor belts in the food industry, further showcasing the versatility of this invention.

The biggest leap in the technology came in 1913 with Henry Ford’s introduction of the conveyor belt assembly line in his car factories. This innovation drastically reduced the time it took to assemble a car, from over 12 hours to just about 1.5 hours, by moving the car parts to the workers instead of vice versa. Ford’s adoption of the conveyor belt assembly line marked a turning point, illustrating the conveyor belt’s potential to transform manufacturing processes.

Modern-Day Conveyor Belts

Today, conveyor belts are an indispensable part of many industries, continuously being refined and adapted for various uses. Innovations in materials, such as the development of synthetic fabrics, have led to lighter, more durable, and environmentally friendly conveyor belts. Modern conveyor belts can be customized with various surfaces and shapes to handle almost any type of material or product, from delicate sushi dishes in restaurants to heavy-duty minerals in mining operations.

The Future of Conveyor Belts

The future of conveyor belts looks bright, with ongoing advancements in technology. Smart conveyor belts equipped with sensors and IoT (Internet of Things) capabilities are being developed. These belts can monitor their own health, predict maintenance needs, and even optimize their own operation for efficiency and safety.


From their humble beginnings in the late 1700s to the high-tech versions of today, conveyor belts have come a long way. They have not only made material handling more efficient but have also played a crucial role in the development of industries worldwide. As technology continues to evolve, so too will the capabilities of the conveyor belt, ensuring that this invention will remain a key player in the global economy for years to come.

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