Chain Drive | Definition, Types, Advantages, Disadvantages

By | March 10, 2019

What is a chain drive?

Before understanding chain drive, let us first understand ‘What is a Chain?’.

A chain can be defined as a series of links connected by pin joints.

Now we can move on to chain drive.

A chain drive consists of an endless chain wrapped around two sprockets.

Roller chain drive

Advantages of chain drive

Here are some advantages of chain drives compared with gear and belt drives

  • They can be used for both long and short distances
  • A number of shafts and be driven from a single chain
  • They are compact and have small overall dimensions
  • They do not present fire hazard
  • Temperature and environmental conditions do not affect their working
  • They do not require initial tension
  • They have very high efficiency (up to 96%)
  • They do not slip
  • They are easier to install
  • They can withstand abrasive conditions
  • They can operate in wet conditions

Disadvantages of chain drives

Here are some disadvantages of chain drives compared with gear and belt drives

  • They can not be used where slip is the system requirement
  • They require precise alignment compared to belt drives
  • They require frequent lubrication
  • They have less load capacity compared with gear drives
  • Their operation is noisy and can cause vibrations
  • They are not suitable for non-parallel shafts
  • They can not be used where precise motion is required
  • They require housing
  • They require adjustments for slack like tensioning device

Applications of chain drives

  • They are used for power transmission
  • They are used in transportation industry
  • They are used in wood working machinery
  • They are used in agricultural machinery
  • They are used in oil well drilling rigs
  • They are used in building construction
  • They are used in material handling equipment
  • They are used for lifting load
  • They are used for carrying materials

Classification of chain drives

On the basis of application chain drives can be classified into three types.

  1. Load lifting chains
  2. Power transmission chains
  3. Hauling chains

Hauling chains

They are used for carrying materials continuously by sliding, pulling or carrying in conveyor.

Power transmission chains

They are used for transmitting power from one shaft to another.

Load lifting chains

They are used for suspending, raising or lowering loads in material handling operations.

Link chain is most popular load lifting chain. It offers following advantages.

Advantages of link chains

  • It has good flexibility in all directions
  • They are practically noiseless
  • They are simple to design and easy to manufacture
  • They can operate in low diameter pulleys and drums

Disadvantages of link chains

  • They operate at low speeds
  • Their failure is sudden and total
  • It is prone to overload and jerks
  • It is heavy in weight

Also read:

Types of Brakes

What is a Clutch?

What is a Coupling?

Types of Mechanical keys

Image source:

Attribution: By Andy Dingley (scanner) – Scan from (1911) Mechanical Transport, HMSO, pp. p. 148,fig. 117, Public Domain,

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