Make-Own-Conveyor-BeltA conveyor belt, also rightly referred to as a belt conveyor, is a mechanical device used for the conveyance of materials. This materials-handling capability, first exploited in the coal-mining industry after the creation of the first underground conveyor belt in 1905 by inventor Richard Suttcliffe, completely changed the nature of coal mining in the U.K. The industry was totally revolutionized by the substantial reduction of labor/manpower required to transport the coal from the mines.

Conveyor belts were later adopted and adapted for use in the Ford Motor plant's assembly-line process developed by Henry Ford in 1913. Today, modern-day versions of conveyor belts are used in almost every type of manufacturing facility, in airports for luggage transport as well as for moving walkways, on grocery store checkout counters and in all types of mining, quarrying and agricultural applications. They can even be found being used for quite unique purposes such as delivering food choices to customers in sushi bars!

How Conveyor Belts Are Made

A conveyor belt system is a simple machine that can be created on just about any scale needed. Making a unit from a skateboard, a nine-volt motor, battery and some rubber bands is a popular school project. Using duct tape and Popsicle sticks to form the "belt," the rubber bands are looped around one of the wheels and around the axle of the motor. The duct tape and Popsicle stick belt is then looped around one front and one rear wheel on the skateboard. For a complete explanation of this project read this article.

The simple design of this machine demonstrates how easily it can be to make a conveyor belt of larger dimensions. In 1972, French company REI build a belt that, at the time, held the record for being the world's longest at nearly 14 kilometers in length.

Thinking of the skateboard model described earlier, the making of a conveyor belt requires just a few components that are properly designed and assembled. The belt, represented in the example as being made from duct tape and Popsicle sticks, is generally made from one or more layers of rubber or other durable material, made into the form of a loop that is supported and driven by two or more pulleys, represented in the example by the wheels of the skateboard.

In a full-sized design, the concept is the same although the components are larger and more durable. Only one of the pulleys around which the belt moves requires power, in which case it's called the driver or rotor. Other, non-powered pulleys are called idlers. Rather than using rubber bands to transmit power from the motor to the pulley(s), a larger system will typically employ a roller chain or conveyor chain for power transmission.

Conveyor belts can be custom-made for different purposes and the weight of the material being conveyed will be a main deciding factor in the system's design. They can also be made to carry material up an incline and to turn corners if needed. The speed at which the belt travels will also be a consideration in its design. Most belt conveyors that are used in industrial applications will have built-in tripping mechanisms allowing for workers to have a means of shutting down the unit immediately if a problem occurs.

DIY Conveyor Belt

If you're tired of pushing that wheelbarrow full of topsoil or packing armloads of firewood, a DIY conveyor belt might just be an ideal project for you. It's similar to the skateboard model but on a slightly larger and more powerful scale. YouTube has several interesting videos to give you some ideas.

About the Author. Nicole writes about the latest in the manufacturing industry. She loves researching everything to do with the manufacturing products. She recently used Statewide Roller Chains products when she built her very own conveyor belt.