A rubber belt is often used as a conveyor belt in a manufacturing setting. The smooth surface of the rubber belt allows items to ride along without fear of damage to the surface of the parts. Compared to a metal conveyor system, the rubber belt conveyor is much quieter and flows smoothly over any variations in floor height as it winds through the factory. Although the term rubber belt is applied to the conveyor, the actual belt is not pure rubber. The belt is actually constructed from reinforced rubber coated webbing often consisting of Kevlar or metal webbing.
Prior to the use of a rubber belt, many conveyor belt systems had large gaps that allowed parts to fall though or become stuck. The introduction of the rubber belt helped in reducing damages caused by the gaps in other types of belts. While the changeover to the rubber system was costly, it soon began to pay for itself as the numbers of conveyor-related damages began to cease. Operational costs also began to come down as a single electric motor was able to power an entire belt. Previously, several shorter metal belts were used in unison, each with its own motor and drive system.
The rubber conveyor system also requires less hands-on repair and maintenance than the old-style metal conveyors. The metal units could become bent, and this would often result in the conveyor becoming jammed against a pulley somewhere along the length of the conveyor. It would often take repair crews several passes up and down the conveyor just to locate the jam. Once located, the conveyor was either bent back into position, or a new replacement section of conveyor was installed.
Damage is also possible with the rubber belt conveyor. Typically, a rip or tear in the rubber can occur, deeming it necessary to stop the conveyor and make repairs. This, however, is a rare occurrence. In the event that a rip does exist, the rubber belt is usually repaired using a wire staple or a series of staples. The staples allow the belt continued flexibility and the ability to maintain a fairly smooth surface, as the staples do not protrude above the belt.
Rubber conveyor belts are also used in outdoor conditions. The rubber track is not prone to rusting and does not require additional maintenance to operate outside in any weather condition. Versatility is the main reason the rubber belt conveyor system is replacing steel tracks worldwide.