Roller Chain Selection Tips

As with any industrial power transmission product, there is not one defining attribute that can be used to properly rate one roller chain type versus another for a given application.

Too often, only Ultimate Tensile Strength is used to compare various different types of chains. While this factor is important in determining the pull force the chain can carry over a desired service life, it can lead to disappointing results if it is the only factor used in the chain selection process.

Good roller chain-drive design requires understanding factors beyond that of load force. Such other factors include:

  • Chain velocity: at a certain speed, centrifugal force will add to chain tension and may impact lubrication effectiveness.
  • Available lubrication: if lubrication is possible, how and where it is applied to the chain must be decided based on application parameters. Proper lubrication is critical to maximizing chain life.
  • Sprocket diameters: too-small sprocket diameters can impact chain life. Undersized sprockets will wear quickly, and worn sprocket teeth will shorten chain life dramatically.
  • Ambient conditions (i.e., temperature, contamination, moisture): a chain’s Ultimate Tensile Strength becomes immaterial if the load carrying surfaces (pin to plate, pin to bushing, and bushing to roller) are degraded by rust, corrosion or abrasion.
  • Continuous loading versus shock loading: chains made with case-hardened construction always perform better on shock loaded application. Through-hardened chain may have higher tensile load capacity but may be too brittle for shock loads. Knowing which chain construction type is being used for each type of application is important.
  • Drive configuration: where the slack side and tension side of the chain drive are relative to the sprocket positions is important to know as the catenary effect may add to total chain tension.

Taking all the proper factors into consideration, roller chain is a good drive investment for high-torque applications, providing that the design is comprehensive in accounting for all of the factors that will impact performance.

Kaman Industrial Technologies sales professionals, working with their roller chain supplier partners, deliver millions of dollars’ worth of drives every year that provide long, profitable life and reliable service to their customers. Additionally, the American Chain Association publishes the Standard Handbook of Chains, a comprehensive and valuable guide for understanding Power Transmission and Material Handling chain products.

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