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History Moment: The History of the Conveyor Belt

As early as the late 17th century conveyor Belts became an intricate part of making material transport. “In 1795 that conveyor belts became a popular means for conveying bulk materials. Initially conveyor belts were used for moving grain sacks to short distances”2. (Qtd.EzineArticles.com2) The primitive conveyor belt was made with wood, leather bands and hand pulleys, and it wasn’t until 1892 that an American Inventor truly perfected the Conveyor Belt. At that time Thomas Robins put into motion “a series of developments that ended with a conveyor belt which began to be used to carry coal, ores2" and other materials.

By the beginning of the 20th Century, Conveyor belts were well on their way to cementing their way into the history of production and making it easier than our ancestors ever imagined. In 1901 a Swedish Engineering firm, Sandvik, constructed the first steel Conveyor Belt. By 1905 a British Mining Engineer, Richard Suttcliffe, had designed the first Conveyor Belt specifically for mining coal, or any other underground mining”3.(qtd. Habetec.net3) By the 1920’s Conveyor Belts were common place, by this time they were constructed of multi-layers of cotton and rubberized covers. The longest Conveyor belt ever built is still in use in the Western Sahara and is actually visible from space. This belt can actually transport “2,000 metric tons of rock per hour from the mines of Bou Craa to the port city of El-Aaiun, where cargo ships full of phosphate rock depart for ports around the world”5. The Moroccan protest of 2011 actually blocked the Conveyor Belt because it ” blocked a railway linking phosphate mines and fertilizer plants”5.

“Viewed from space, it looks almost meaningless. But the world literally depends on its constant supply of phosphate. With only a bit of hyperbole, one could say this massive machine is what is feeding the billions of humans who inhabit this planet”6. Without this Conveyor belt we would be unable to mine Morocco’s biggest export, Phosphate or Phosphorus rock.

Side Note: Thursday Dec, 01, 2016 will mark the 103rd anniversary of Henry Ford and his accomplishment of making the “first moving assembly line for the mass production of an entire automobile. His innovation reduced the time it took to build a car from more than 12 hours to two hours and 30 minutes”7.

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