The Evolution of Conveyor Roller Systems

Conveyor system uses are so invaluable to modern industries. The concept of gravity roller conveyors has been around since the beginnings of recorded history. It is thought that the roller technique was used in the construction of the ancient Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge, amongst many other things.

While roller conveyors have been around probably since the caveman, it was not until the 20th century that this technology was brought into practicality. 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.

Early use of conveyor systems

There is no doubt that conveyor roller systems have been an integral part of material handling for over 100 years, even though their origin traces back beyond 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 hard in the fields.

Conveyor systems were also used in underground mines when the industry started using them to transport coal.

Important points in history

  • The early conveyor systems were built with a wooden framework and the belts were either 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 Hymle Goddard, from Logan Company 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 by introducing the assembly line to the mainstream industry by using the roller conveyor to revolutionise material movement. This revolution reduced manual labour requirements and speeded up production.
  • In 1919 the automotive industry started using free and powered conveyor lines in handling mass production in factories.
  • In the 1920s, conveyor roller systems were devised to move items over longer distances from the initial short distances. The first underground advanced installation with layers of rubber and cotton covers was built to move coal over a distance of 8kms.
  • Over the period of the World War II, synthetic belting materials were used because of the scarcity of natural materials. This marked the rapid technological expansion in improved conveyor systems. Up to today an endless list of synthetic fabrics and polymers are used in making conveyor roller belting systems.
  • In 1947, the American Standards Association developed the first standards in conveyor safety.
  • Upon its creation in 1970, OSHA prioritized measures to curtail conveyor noise. The manufacturers of conveyor systems responded by developing quite rollers, precision bearings and durable parts to control wear and tear.
  • In the 70s, 80s and 90s, conveyor equipment makers developed and perfected powered conveyor rollers to eliminate costly maintenance.

From then, advancements in technology and innovation have kept conveyor roller systems on the cutting edge; with the use of computers to manage complex and automated applications, flexibility and optimal performance.

Changes in technology are certain to keep the industry in motion as users look for faster throughput, diverted sorting and use of wireless technologies.

The use of conveyor roller systems in society today

While the belt conveyor has its disadvantages, many industries today are filled with roller conveyors because it allows for automated accumulation of products. In today's computer world, roller conveyors continue to play an essential role. Roller conveyor systems are used in the automotive, computer, agricultural, food processing, pharmaceutical, aerospace, chemical, canning and bottling industries, to name just a few.

While most people may be unaware of it, modern systems have millions of rollers working tirelessly behind the scenes. From food, mail, courier, airport luggage, clothing and industrial packages, conveyor rollers are used in movement to intended destinations.

There are many other types of item movement systems, but it is only roller conveyor systems that can function as centres for accumulation and routes for movement simultaneously. There are very few inventions with the same impact on society like the conveyor roller systems.

Historical information provided by Catherine Heigle of Fastrax Conveyor Rollers