The Complete Guide to Chain

1.2.1 Power Transmission Uses

Power transmission machines use either chains, gears, or belts. Table 1.1 provides a comparison of typical applications.

Usually, chain is an economical part of power transmission machines for low speeds and large loads. However, it is also possible to use chain in high-speed conditions like automobile engine camshaft drives. This is accomplished by devising a method of operation and lubrication.

Basically, there are lower limits of fatigue strength in the gear and the chain, but not in the belt. Furthermore, if a gear tooth breaks, the gear will stop at the next tooth. Therefore, the order is gear > chain > belt in the aspect of reliability.

In most cases:

  1. An increase in gear noise indicates that the end of the service life is near.
  2. You will know that the chain is almost at the end of its life by wear elongation or an increase in vibration caused by wear elongation.
  3. It is difficult to detect toothed-belt life without stopping the machine and inspecting the belt carefully.

It is possible to decrease gear noise by adjusting the gears precisely or by adapting the drive to a helical or double helical gear. Both of these are expensive, and thrust load may occur with the use of helical gears.

Chain is more suitable to long-term continuous running and power transmission with limited torque fluctuation. Gears are more fit to reversing or intermittent drives.

The greater the shaft center distance, the more practical the use of chain and belt, rather than gears.

Table 1.1 comparison Table
Type Roller Chain Tooth Belt V Belt Spur Gear
Synchronization Excellent Excellent Poor Excellent
Transmission Efficiency Excellent Excellent Poor Excellent
Anti-Shock Fair Good Excellent Poor
Noise/Vibration Fair Good Excellent Poor
Surrounding ConditionAvoid Water, DustAvoid Heat, Oil, Water, DustAvoid Heat, Oil, Water, DustAvoid Water, Dust
Space Saving
(High Speed/ Low Load)
Poor Excellent Good Good
Space Saving
(Low Speed/ High Load)
Heavy Pulley
Wider Pulley
Less Durability Due to Less Engagement
Lubrication Poor
No Lube
No Lube
Layout Flexibility Excellent Good Fair Poor
Excess Load onto Bearing Excellent Fair Poor Excellent

Excellent Excellent Good Good Fair Fair Poor Poor

Generally, under the same transmission conditions, the cost of toothed belts and pulleys is much higher than the cost of chains and sprockets.

See the following features and points of notice about roller chain transmission.

Features of Chain Drives:

  1. Speed reduction/increase of up to seven to one can be easily accommodated.
  2. Chain can accommodate long shaft-center distances (less than 4 m), and is more versatile.
  3. It is possible to use chain with multiple shafts or drives with both sides of the chain.
  4. Standardization of chains under the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the International Standardization Organization (ISO), and the Japanese Industrial Standards (JIS) allow ease of selection.
  5. It is easy to cut and connect chains.
  6. The sprocket diameter for a chain system may be smaller than a belt pulley, while transmitting the same torque.
  7. Sprockets are subject to less wear than gears because sprockets distribute the loading over their many teeth.

Points of Notice:

  1. Chain has a speed variation, called chordal action, which is caused by the polygonal effect of the sprockets.
  2. Chain needs lubrication.
  3. Chain wears and elongates.
  4. Chain is weak when subjected to loads from the side. It needs proper alignment.