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Give It a Hug

steep-sided quarry pit. A mine that’s far from its

prep plant. The tight and uneven spaces between a

ship and dock. The shaft to a subway tunnel under

construction. All of these present unique challenges

for moving material – and they’re the kind of

challenges that Joe Dos Santos lives for.

He’s in the conveyor business – and his conveyors can do

some neat tricks. They can run up and down and through and

around things, even straight up – at a 90-degree angle with the

ground – and not lose the material. They don’t have buckets or

other means of scooping; they’re just really good at hugging.

Dos Santos, President and founder of Dos Santos International,

uses the word “hugging” a lot. But the hugs he’s talking about

are not what you’d traditionally think of as a hug. “Hugging” is

what he calls it when two conveyors belts hold together material

that’s sandwiched between them. He calls them sandwich

conveyors, and sandwich conveyors that shift the load back

and forth as they climb are called snake conveyors – because

they move kind of like a snake.

Hugging, he says, is the answer to a lot of challenges that can

arise when mined materials must be moved from place to place.

And he would know; he’s spent most of his career developing

sandwich conveyor technology.

Even though the tension needed for a sandwich conveyor can

be readily calculated, he says, it hasn’t caught on everywhere.

But in specialized applications – situations where conditions

make more traditional methods of moving material impractical

or impossible – he says the technology is gaining traction.

“Getting [the concept] to reality wasn’t so hard. Convincing

people that hugging material is as valid as putting it in a bucket

– that’s the hardest part,” he says. “It’s a lot easier now because

there are many, many units operating throughout the world –

but even today, when you describe it to someone, they don’t

relate to it really.”

Early on, he says, a lot of people didn’t believe it when they

saw it. But the technology is simple science and math – soils

mechanics, Dos Santos says. Soils have internal friction, he

says – and therefore the pressure belts must apply to hold them

together can be calculated for a tight “hugging load” that doesn’t


The concept behind a sandwich conveyor, he says, has been

around for a while. The first instance he’s documented comes

from before his time – back in 1951 (the year he was born)

– when German lignite miners sought to increase the cutting

height of a bucket wheel excavator without increasing the boom

On April 5th 1959 Jose

Guiherme dos Santos

with his five children

(including J. A. Dos

Santos) pose for a

photo in front of the

PanAm flight that will

take them to a new

life in America. The

four propeller airliner

took 12 hours to fly

from Lisbon Airport to

New York’s Idlewild

(now JFK) Airport. The

jet age arrived the

following year, 1960,

cutting the flight time to

6 hours.