Since 1871, ContiTech has created a wide range of products and innovations that represent innovative strength, technological know-how, and material expertise. Get to know the product highlights and solutions as well as patents and curiosities from our eventful past.
This Is How the Horse Got into the Continental Logo
Our first highlight is “Hartmann’s Patent Hufbuffer” from 1875. It is a product of the very first hour of ContiTech and Continental AG. The hoof buffer was attached between the horseshoe and the horse's hoof. Its aim was that horses touch the ground with the entire surface of the hoof, as they would in their natural state. With the shod hoof, only the wall was in contact with the ground, i.e. the surface that is shod with the horseshoe. With the hoof buffer, the frog and sole of the horse also touched the ground. The results were less malformation of the hoof, protection against injuries and increased surefootedness e.g. on slippery surfaces. A true innovation in mobility.
The hoof buffer is of particular significance for Continental: On a related advertising brochure from 1875, the famous Continental horse is seen for the very first time. It is very likely that this has developed into our trademark, which, after various redesigns, is still used today.
This Is How ContiTech Brought Electric Light into the Car
Continental drive belts were groundbreaking for the automotive and industrial sectors at the time. Registration under the brand name Continental – including for drive belts – dates back to 1899. Initially, only belts for industry were produced. From 1907 on, the first V-belts for motorcycles were added. The catch: the drive belts were still finite, that is, they were connected by a lock.
Before the advent of the first alternators from 1913, vehicles were still illuminated with gas lamps. This new technology gradually electrified vehicle technology: Gas lamps were replaced by electric lighting, engine cranking was eliminated, and gradually various other electrical systems were connected to the alternator. Power transmission required drive belts that were as loss-free as possible. ContiTech was able to meet these requirements with the endless rubber V-belt.
This Is How ContiTech Developed Aircraft Fabrics to Fly
We emerged from a small, locally operating rubber factory to an internationally operating company during the period from the 1890s to the First World War. The reasons for the company’s success were not only the breakthrough in becoming an automobile tire manufacturer and establishing a bicycle tire business but also their diversification within the business areas of technical rubber products and consumer goods. Our aircraft fabrics are a good example of this.
ContiTech was involved in the development of an icon in early aviation, the first Zeppelin LZ1, that took off for the first time on July 2, 1900. The shape of the rigid airship was characterized by a lightweight aluminum frame covered in aircraft fabric. Inside the Zeppelin, there were several gas cells that provided the necessary lift for the airship. Our balloon fabric covering was used to seal these gas cells in the LZ 1. Besides the Zeppelin story, another milestone in the history of mobility is closely linked to our aircraft fabrics: When Frenchman Louis Blériot became the first person to cross the English Channel in an airplane in 1909, the wings of his plane were covered in our fabrics.
This is How ContiTech Protected Against Cold Feet
Especially from the 1890s to the 1920s, consumer products made of rubber determined the leisure activities and everyday life of all societal classes. The catalogs for consumer goods from these years were almost endless and housed every conceivable everyday item made of rubber, right down to curiosities such as billiard belts or rubber belts.
Our hot water bottle is probably one of our best-known products. As an early player in this market as well, we produced and densely advertised our iconic red hot water bottles starting in 1922. As the hot water bottle gained popularity within the general population in the mid-1920s, it became a real bestseller. Meanwhile, 40 employees alone were busy producing 500.000 rubber bottles per year. After several decades, the production was discontinued in 1997. Today, the hot water bottle is a cult object - at relevant online auction houses, you have to spend at least 40 euros for a red piece of warming nostalgia.
How a Hose Became Industry’s Darling
The Gold Snake was developed in the early 1930s and was used wherever water was needed. For example, for filling a washtub. What sounds trivial at first was a real innovation back then, because these initial fields of application involved various risks for the intactness of the hose.
Heinrich Pahl, an engineer from Dusseldorf, was aware of the expectations towards hoses in terms of robustness and durability at the time and, thus, invented a hose that, for the first time, had corded single threads incorporated as pressure carriers. This technology, which he had copied from tire production, ensured great flexibility while ensuring extreme robustness, durability, and a significant increase in operating pressure. Nowadays, the Gold Snake ensures, for example, that tourists travel safely by car to their winter vacation accommodation: many winter services are equipped with particularly flexible and robust hoses.
How ContiTech Has Made Bus Rides Smooth(er)
When we started working with our development partner in the mid-1950s to improve ride comfort for the passengers of buses, we couldn't foresee how durable the solution – the air spring 644 N – would be. To this day, it still ensures a smooth ride in buses from various manufacturers, and that in an almost unchanged form.
However, new challenges arise in the development of air springs for vehicles with alternative drive systems such as electric drives or fuel cells. Air springs for electric buses have to be larger or must be designed for higher pressures than in buses with conventional drives. This is a challenge because space in the chassis is tight. Thanks to its special material expertise, in 2010 ContiTech succeeded in developing a lightweight air spring with an innovative rolling piston made of fiberglass-reinforced polyamide instead of conventional steel or aluminum – with fully utilized internal volume. The result: the lightweight air springs for use in city buses and coaches bring a weight saving of 2 to 2.6 kilograms per air spring system (depending on the axle type).
How ContiTech Contributed to Postal Mechanization
After the Berlin Wall was built in 1961, our conveyor belts helped separated families to stay in contact and send packages to their loved ones on the other side of the Wall: The rubber conveyor belts from Hanover were in use for receiving, pre-sorting and distributing packages at major post offices and among other things helped with processing mail to and from “over there” from the 1960s onwards. Meanwhile, the post offices benefited from the very long service life of the belts and rapid amortization.
Over the time, package conveyor belts became shorter and shorter, while belts produced by Continental became longer and stronger. As a result, we have withdrawn from the courier express package industry. Instead, we are focusing on strong, (very) long belts made of rubber and PVC and belt solutions with textile or steel cord carcasses, such as the ST 10 000, that are used in other industries.