Roller chains make the world go ’round . . . literally! These hard-working chains support the machines that drive vehicle assembly lines, harvest wheat, and transmit power in conveyor systems of all sorts. From the manufacturing revolution to today, roller chains have been a primary driver of industrial growth. These versatile chains also can be used in hoisting heavy loads, or you can add attachments that provide them with special functionalities for transport. They are sturdy, reliable and cost-effective, but you know immediately when your chain becomes slack or breaks as it can cause an immediate breakdown and halt work. When this happens, it’s crucial to quickly identify and order the exact chain that you need for your project. See how these tools have evolved over the years, and learn more about this workhorse.
Early Years of Manufacturing
The 100th anniversary of the moving assembly line was recently celebrated by Ford, which is fitting since it was the Ford Motor Company who revolutionized its use. Engineers of today have greatly expanded on the original concepts, with groundbreaking new technologies revolutionizing manufacturing as we know it. Standardizing production allows managers and engineers to create processes that control and optimize each step along the way, reducing overall costs and improving efficiency. While the Ford approach to production was initially used for vehicles to transform a 12 hour process into one that took around 90 minutes, it was quickly adopted by other manufacturers of many complex consumer goods such as appliances.
First Conveyor Belts
While conveyor belts had been around for hundreds of years by the time Ford introduced his concepts to vehicle manufacturing, this move toward automation was when roller chains truly began to expand in popularity. Business leaders and engineers began to see the true value provided by being able to move items quickly from one location to another with added complexity, such as that used in lumber mills where chains with attachments hold logs as they move through the mill. Conveyor systems are driven by a range of chains that can move vertically, horizontally and even drop items into a truck bed or other location for loading and ultimately delivery. Conveyors also can be used for sorting, with smaller “gates” that products can go through.
Hoisting Heavy Loads Using Roller Chain
While steel cable can also be used for hoisting applications, roller chain doesn’t suffer from the same fraying and fatigue that plagues even the strongest steel cable. Lifting heavy loads can be challenging, as it’s critical that you maintain steady positions and even force on both the horizontal and vertical planes. Electric motors or transmissions are used to crank a common shaft that is affixed to the fixed roller chains, thereby lifting both the load and the platform. The simplicity of the design makes it ideal for a wide range of applications in plants and for agricultural uses as well. While this simple system can lift loads much heavier than an individual could ever lift, the speed and capacity are dependent on the tolerances of the various parts. These industrial lifts can be designed to lift loads of only around 50 pounds, while hoists with heavy-duty chain can lift up to 15,000 pounds!
Impact of Roller Chains
Roller chains and sprockets have been used to create some pretty amazing systems, such as the 60 mile long conveyor belt in the Sahara. This may sound like an odd location for this type of transportation, but the Sahara is very rich in phosphates. Phosphates are used in fertilizer to grow nearly every type of food we eat and even corn that is turned into ethanol to fuel our vehicles. Nearly 90 percent of all phosphate reserves in the world come from this one location in the Western Sahara, which happens to be inland. Transporting the phosphate from the mines to the sea where it is loaded to ships for transportation around the world would be difficult if not impossible without the conveyor belt. Without the appropriate chains to drive this type of conveyor system, farmers around the world would be unable to take advantage of the most effective and natural fertilizer: phosphates.
Importance of Roller Chain Lubrication
It’s obvious that lubrication can dramatically extend the specifications of roller chains, by allowing them to carry more weight, more quickly and with a lesser chance of damage. Chains that are running in a clean environment often are sealed in an oil bath far away from grit and dirt. However, it’s more likely that roller chains are being put into service in the dirtiest situations possible: for manure machines, hay baling machines, farming applications and conveyor system equipment. These chains are subject to a great deal of wear and certainly aren’t sealed away from damage-causing materials! Friction as well as damage from external impacts, a lack of lubrication or adjustment can all cause these roller chains to wear out before their time.
Roller Chain Measurements
Chain standards, such as ANSI/ASME and ISO British, indicate the tensile strength, fatigue strength, pitch, roller width and diameter of a variety of chains. Tensile strength is one of the key values that is used to describe a chain’s breaking strength. There are many factors that make up these statistics, including the type of steel used in manufacturing, any type of heat treatments that have been applied to the materials, the quality of the fabrication and the contour of the link plates and their thickness. Roller chains that are pushed beyond their maximum working load on a regular basis are much more likely to fail prematurely. It is critically important that you use the right chain strength for your particular application, as a mismatch in strength can make your system either more likely to break and cause injuries or damages if the system is too weak for your needs. Selecting the proper chain and sprocket size for your application can ensure the maximum longevity and efficiency for your valuable equipment. Some applications inherently are subject to heavier loads, and Heavy Series roller chains are commonly used.
Construction of Roller Chains
Roller chains are the most popular type of chains because of their extreme versatility. They are made up of alternating links — inner links and outer links, commonly referred to as roller links and pin links. While roller chains and their sprockets have a more complex design, they offer much less friction than other types of chains making them more efficient and less likely to wear prematurely. Roller chains with a bushing require an additional step in the manufacturing process, but they distribute wear over a greater area, which can reduce the overall pressure and wear that the chains are subject to. PEER Chain’s optional Quest technology features a solid bushing, which reduce wear between the pin and bushing and extending chain life. Further, Quest chain components are shot peened for greater fatigue resistance. Each Quest chain is pre-loaded after assembly to reduce initial chain elongation.
Quality Materials and Manufacturing
Not all roller chains and sprockets are created equal — and we only offer the best quality products here at PEER Chain. While we offer an extensive variety of standard and custom chains and sprockets from our manufacturing facilities around the globe, we also provide special order, cut-to-length and other services in our Waukegan, IL production and fulfillment center. We have been providing chains, sprockets and related products to manufacturers and distributors since 1969, and we take pride in making sure that you are always running – because that’s what family does!
Customer Service You Can Trust
PEER Chain is THE chain company to do business with. Our customer needs become our goals and you can count on us to make sure you get your solutions on time. Our PEER Chain Customer Success and Sales teams provide over-the-top service to keep you running. When you’re talking to us it feels like family, and we make sure that you’re receiving the service and solutions you need to meet your requirements. With our extensive on-hand inventory, we are able to ship most standard chains and sprockets same day and many custom attachment roller chains in three business days or less. Our mission is to pinpoint your best solution, by delivering on our promises for product genius and over-the-top service so you are always running!
Roller chains have supported a multitude of industries including automotive, food, beverage, agricultural, material handling, and many more! Chains provide a unique benefit that makes production more cost-effective, efficient and consistent. When these systems are down, productivity comes to a halt. Time is money, which is why PEER Chain stocks a large inventory of roller chains and sprockets, along with a wide assortment of attachments. Do you have questions about how to find the ideal roller chain for your needs?Contact our friendly and knowledgeable professionals at 800-523-4567 or via email to info@PEERchain.com. If you are attempting to match a chain or sprocket and don’t see what you need, just let us know! You can also use our free online configurator to build your chain. Once you’ve made your selections, you can quickly email the diagram to us for an estimate or print out your design.
About PEER Chain
Since 1969, the PEER Chain family has been a strong and reliable source that you can count on. We are a family connected by links forged over years of excellent service, quality and expertise. We are passionately committed to providing product genius and over-the-top service to keep you running!