An incline conveyor is a mechanical device for transporting materials or objects. Various kinds of conveyors are used in industrial and commercial applications such as mining, assembly lines, and stock maintenance. An incline conveyor is designed to carry items up or down a sloped surface to another level. These devices are commonly used to transport grain, industrial materials such as gravel, and even airport baggage. Their use increases efficiency and worker safety while reducing the workloads for individual employees.
Conveyors have existed since the Industrial Revolution began in the late 18th century. They did not enjoy widespread use, however, until the early 20th century. Pioneers of mass production, such as automotive innovator Henry Ford, found conveyors essential in creating efficient assembly lines. Although the first conveyors were flat, crudem and prone to mechanical failure, later developments increased the usefulness of conveyor technology. These included the incline conveyor, which allowed factories and similar facilities to function on several levels at once.
A simple kind of conveyor is a raised platform with durable wheels along its surface, which workers use to manually slide packages or objects from one location to another without having to lift and carry them. This device, sometimes called a gravity conveyor, is used in warehouses and retail stock rooms. A mechanized conveyor uses a pulley system to move a belt along a continuous loop. Objects or materials placed on this belt will be carried to their destination, requiring human effort only for loading and unloading. Like the gravity conveyor, this device can be either a flat or an incline conveyor.
The belt on an incline conveyor may be made of rubber or another high-traction material to prevent items from sliding down the incline during transport. Alternatively, the belt may have regular vertical dividers for the same purpose; this kind of belt is called an elevator belt. Other variations are possible, depending on the task at hand. For example, gravel conveyors may have porous surfaces, allowing dirt and smaller rocks to sift out during transport, while retaining gravel of a desired size. Some conveyors are designed to carry hazardous materials that would be too dangerous for human workers to transport.
Other specialized forms of incline conveyors are also available. An angled-frame conveyor combines flat and inclined belts for applications that do not require the constantly diagonal surface of most incline conveyors. Some mines use heavy-duty incline conveyors to bring ore and other minerals to the surface from deep within the Earth. A ski lift is a kind of incline conveyor used to transport skiers to the top of a snowy hill or mountain.