Before we learn about how belt conveyors are used and look at the industries that they are used in, let’s first highlight how big the conveyor market is. The market size for conveyor belts was recorded at $4bn in 2018 with an expected compounded annual growth rate of 3.5%. So, we don’t see belt conveyors going anywhere anytime soon. For that reason, let’s have a look at where they’ve come from and how they’re being used in the world today.
Who Invented Belt Conveyors?
The conveyor belt was invented by a gentleman called Thomas Robins who in 1892 began a series of inventions which led to the first conveyor belt being used for carrying natural resources. After this, it was quickly modified and developed to be used in multiple applications after people could see the benefits in cost and time of using conveyor belts in business operations.
This was followed by Sandvik in 1901 who invented the steel conveyor belts, capable of handling much heavier loads and being used for multiple industries.
It was Richard Sutcliffe in 1905 who invented the first conveyor belts for use in coal mines, revolutionising the mining industry due to the increased loads and speed of delivery.
Henry Ford introduced the conveyor belt assembly line at the Ford Motor Company Michigan factory, again revolutionising the industry by rapidly increasing production.
What Can Belt Conveyors Do?
The main objective of a conveyor is to get a product, or object, from A to B usually within a close distance such as inside a distribution centre in a higher frequency and quicker time than doing it manually. Today different types of conveyor belts have been created for conveying different types of materials. Examples of these conveyor belts are PVC and rubber.
Due to a conveyor belt being purpose-built, what it can do massively varies. As they can be built, designed, and operated to carry a range of products and items. For example, you might need a system to move hazardous waste between sections of a waste control centre and a belt conveyor would be an ideal product for doing this.
Conveyor belts can move items in a straight line, around corners, into sorting, move heavy load items, move items between floors through an incline and decline.
Depending on what the speed is and how many metres per second the system is set up to operate at, it can move items quicker or slower between points or be quicker in one section and slower in another section such as when an item needs to go through manual inspection or sorting.
Conveyors are not limited to business-only use. You might have recently been on an escalator; this is where it’s been used to move the steps around for you to stand on and be taken up to the next level. Another example would be when you’re in the checkout queue at your local supermarket and are putting your items on the belt to be scanned through.
Conveyor belts are used on baggage handling systems as mentioned in the article ‘What are conveyors used for?‘. The longest conveyor system in an airport is at Dubai International Airport, ranging an incredible 39 miles, although this incorporates both belt and tray conveyors.
There are conveyor belt systems that transport loads up to 960 tonnes per hour between multiple factories. Imagine how many people you would need to carry that volume per hour over a 40-mile return distance.
You can get a more in-depth answer to what a conveyor belt can do and how they work by checking out our more recent article.
What Industries Are Belt Conveyors Used in?
The short answer is everything. As mentioned already conveyor belts can be used from car manufacturing through to airport carousels through to waste management. The list of what it can move is extensive. We’re going to give a bullet point list of some of the industries they’re used in with a quick explanation of how they’re used in that industry.
In this industry, belt conveyors can be used to move the car down the production line. They can also be used to move parts between different sections of the warehouse, helping move the items quicker due to the heavy load.
The conveyor belts can be customised to carry different materials. So, you might have one part of the conveyor system carrying metal sheets for the frame of the car while another is carrying plastic materials for the interior.
It might be that you have the conveyor belt system moving tyres through the factory from delivery to where they get put on the car. However, as part of their moving process, they get checked via a vision system for if they’re faulty or not. This way your conveyor system can also include quality assurance.
Conveyor belts can be used for packaging or the process of moving products while being packaged. The type of conveyor belts could be anti-static packaging conveyor belts, impact-resistant packaging conveyor belts, and solid construction packaging conveyor belts.
Conveyor belts can assist in packaging with everything from loading and unloading lorries to inter-floor conveying, merging, and diverting. These types of conveyor belts can be built for a specific purpose with applications ranging from scanner labelling, pop-up sorter, cross belt sorter, outfeed systems, swan neck conveyors, and pallet handling just to name a few.
Food and Drink
When using conveyors in the food and drink industry, they must meet health and safety standards while following strict hygienic rules to prevent the formation of bacteria on foods. These conveyor belts offer features for all types of food processing from using abrasion-resistant coatings to chemical resistance to ensure the belts don’t break from cleaning agents.
The conveyor solutions can be for a range of food and drink types such as meat and poultry, seafood, baked goods, refrigerated and frozen foods, canned goods, confectionery, bottled drinks, canned drinks, carton drinks, and more.
This system can also work in conjunction with automation and robotic features. So, when you’re dealing with foods that need to be chilled or frozen, this system can be used to move the foods through the process consistently while a robot places and/or packages the food on an automated system.
Something businesses are struggling to do is get people to work in such cold conditions and when they do, they can only do it for a certain amount of time, giving belt conveyors an excellent application.
Warehouse and Logistics
Belt conveyors can make up a crucial part of a conveyor system within a warehouse alongside pallet conveyors, roller conveyors, sortation and diverter conveyors, and vertical elevators just to name a few.
For example, a belt conveyor could be designed so it’s on an incline to take products up to or down to different departments within a logistics warehouse for sorting. Another aspect is the weight they can take which can affect the width and durability of the belt.
Like most other conveyor systems, conveyor capabilities within a warehouse can be enhanced with different parts such as side guides, undercovers, tracking guides, and corrugated side walls just to name a few.
We haven’t touched on all the applications of a conveyor or the industries, as we could be going on for days about all the different parts, how it can individually be used for a certain function within a certain industry, and the performance functions of belt conveyors. Hopefully, we’ve done a good job of showing what industries this system is used in and how varied their applications can be.