Chain Drives: Types, Application, Advantages, and Disadvantages [PDF]


Are you curious about how chain drives works? Look no further because this article will give you a comprehensive overview of this fascinating mechanical system. Chain drives are a type of power transmission that use a chain to transfer motion and power from one rotating shaft to another. This technology has been used in various machines and vehicles, including bicycles, motorcycles, and industrial equipment. In this article, we will explore the mechanics of chain drives, their advantages, and their applications across different industries. So, buckle up and get ready to learn everything you need to know about chain drives!

What is a Chain Drive?

A chain drive is a Mechanical operating system where we use different types of chains to transmit power. Generally, a chain drive is used where the distance between the power source and where it is to be transferred is less, however, this is not applicable for all. In some cases, we can use a chain drive for longer distances of power transfer. In belt or rope drive we see some percent of slip occurs, but in the chain, there will be no slip. But this does not mean that 100% power is transmitted from one device to another. Due to friction loss some amount of power loss can be generally seen.

chain drive
A chain and sprocket roller

In chain drives, the speed ratio remains constant which is a major advantage of chain drives. Here there is no slippage and in the case of belt drive, there is slippage so the speed ratio changes as per slippage. A chain is made with several numbers of links and those are connected with the help of a pin. Chains runs over a wheel named sprocket which has several number of teeth’s around the circumference to grip the chain, however, not all the chains need a sprocket to run over.

Types of Chains

In the field of Mechanical Engineering chain drives can be classified into three broad categories and those are:

  • Hoisting Chains
  • Conveyor Chains
  • Power transmission Chains

Hoisting Chains

Let us first understand what is a hoist. A hoist is a mechanical device that is used to lift a load or lower a load. It can be used for shifting heavy products from one place to another place in a workstation. The chains used in this type of devices is named as hoist chain. These chains are quite strong to handle heavyweight.

Hoist (By Dieselducy – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Hoist chains can be classified into two categories:

  • Oval-Link Chains.
  • Stud-Link Chains.

It is one of the common types of chain used in hoists. It consists of many oval links attached. These types of chains are also called Coil Chains. Links of this type of chain are oval. However, there are square link types of chains that are also available., but the linking can be easy due to high loading. Generally, we use these types of chains at low speeds only.

oval link chain

The stud-link chains are used to minimize deformation and link or tangle easily. In this type of chain, a round bar or stud is used to fit inside the oval-link chains to provide more strength. It is used in Ships to move the anchor up and down. Also, it is used in some crane hoists where we need to lift a very high amount of load.

stud link chain

Conveyor Chains

These types of chains are mostly used in the conveyor. If you don’t know what is a conveyor, it is a mechanical device that is used to move materials from one place to another. This type of chain is well shaped that it can easily run over the sprocket. Generally, this type of chain is made of malleable cast iron and used in Low-Speed Machinery approximately 2 m/s. One major disadvantage of this type of chain is that the motion of the chain is not smooth. There are chances of wear and tear.

Conveyor Chains are categorized into two types:

  • Detachable or Hook Joint types Conveyor chain
  • Closed-end pintle type conveyor chain
Conveyor Chains
A general layout of conveyor chain (By Superyoyo – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Detachable or Hook Joint types Conveyor chain

Detachable or Hook Joint types Conveyor chains are used in a conveyor where the length between power transmission is short.

Closed-end pintle type conveyor chain

This type of chain consists of a barrel and link and is made in a single casting, then the chain is heated to provide higher strength.

Power Transmission Chains

You can easily understand by its name it is used to transmit power. This type of chain is made of steel and sometimes it is heated to minimize wear and tear. This type of chain has greater accuracy and can easily run over the sprocket.

Power Transmission Chains are categorized into three types:

  • Block Chain
  • Roller Chain
  • Silent Chain or Inverted tooth Chain

Block Chain

This type of chain is used in low-speed areas and will produce noise due to the sudden contact between the sprocket and chain, however, this is used in some low-speed conveyor machines.

Roller Chain

In this type of chain, a bush along with the roller is fitted inside both the plates than a pin is passed through both ends of the roller to fasten it. The rollers are free to rotate inside the bush. So when it comes in contact with the sprocket the wear & tear would be minimized. Generally, it is made of steel.

roller chain
This is how a roller chain looks like. (By Ralf Roletschek – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

It is soundless and wears less as compared to the blockchains. They can be used in any circumstances. This type of chains give much service area if proper lubrication is maintained. It is used in high-speed power transmission devices, like a motorcycle. 

Following are the components of a roller chain:

  1. A bush
  2. Inner Link
  3. A pin
  4. Outer Plate
  5. Inner plate
  6. Rollers

Silent Chain or Inverted Tooth Chain

The operation of this type of chain is quite silent and can be used in high-speed power transmission applications. This type of chain does not have any roller. It is accurately shaped so that it can easily sit over the sprocket.  However, lubrication is an important factor for this type of chain otherwise it will wear out.

Silent chain
Where A) Pin link plate, B) Guide link plates, C) Pins.
By KDS444 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Advantages of Chain drive

A chain drive has several advantages which are listed below:

  • Low maintenance.
  • Greater efficiency up to 97%.
  • Slipping is negligible
  • Chain drives can operate in wet conditions too.
  • It can withstand abrasive conditions.
  • The chain drives is easy to install.
  • Initial tension is not required in chain drives.
  • Even in fire hazards it does not faces any problem.
  • Multiple shafts can be driven from a single chain drive.
  • Chain drives requires less space and is more compact as compared to belt drive.
  • It produces less stress on the shaft because the sprockets are lighter than pulleys.
  • Transmit higher power as compared to belt drive.
  • The speed ratio is good as compared to belt drive.
  • It can be used in reversing drives.
  • It can be operated at a high temperature like a belt which cannot operate at high temperatures.
  • Chain drives can be used up to 3m in distances between small and large centers.

Disadvantages of Chain drive

A chain drive has several disadvantages which are listed below:

  • The major disadvantage is that it requires more frequent lubrication otherwise rusting problems can arise.
  • It cannot be used where there is a requirement of slips.
  • We can’t keep chain drives in open. It needs housing or covering.
  • It cannot be used for applications that require precise motion requirements.
  • It is noisy and therefore there is a problem of vibration too.
  • The installation or initial cost is more.
  • The velocity fluctuation is more.

Application of chain drive

A chain drive has several applications which are listed below:

  • Chain drive is used for high transmission of power.
  • It is used for lifting loads and also used to carry heavy materials.
  • This is also used in woodworking machinery.

They are used in several industries for several purposes:

  • Transportation Industry.
  • Agriculture Machinery.
  • Material Handling Equipment.
  • Building construction.

Video on Chain Drives

Credits : Vector Solutions Industrial


In conclusion, chain drives are an excellent option for many different applications. Their has several advantages over other types of drives, including their ability to handle high loads, their efficiency, and their durability. They are also relatively easy to maintain and can be used in a variety of applications as we have discussed in this article.

They are efficient, durable, and capable of handling high loads, making them a popular choice among engineers and designers. If you are looking for a reliable and effective way to transmit power in your machine, then chain drives may be the right solution for you. With proper maintenance and care, your chain drive can last for years, ensuring that your machine operates smoothly and efficiently.


What are the advantages of Chain Drives?

The chain drives has several advantages:
1. Low maintenance.
2. Greater efficiency up to 97 percent.
3. Slipping is negligible
4. Chain drives can operate in wet conditions too.
5. It can withstand abrasive conditions.

What are the disadvantages of Chain Drive?

These are some disadvantages of using Chain:
1. It requires more frequent lubrication
2. Rusting problems can arise if not properly maintained.
3. It cannot be used where there is a requirement for slips.

What are the different types of chains?

In the field of Mechanical Engineering, chains can be classified into three broad categories which are as follows:
1. Hoisting Chains
-Oval Link Chains
-Stud-Link Chains
2. Conveyor Chains
3. Power transmission Chain
-Roller Chain
-Silent Chain or Inverted Tooth Chain

How many chain links on weight distribution hitch are there?

Weight distribution hitches are an essential part of towing heavy loads. They ensure that the weight of the trailer is properly distributed across the towing vehicle’s axles, allowing for safer and more stable towing. One important aspect of weight distribution hitches is the number of chain links used to connect the spring bars to the hitch head. The number of chain links required for a weight distribution hitch varies depending on the weight of the trailer and the towing vehicle’s capacity. Generally, weight distribution hitches require between 8 to 10 chain links to provide adequate support and distribution of weight. However, it’s important to consult the manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines for your specific weight distribution hitch to ensure proper installation and usage. With the right number of chain links, you can confidently tow heavy loads with greater stability and safety.

How often clean chain bike?

A dirty chain not only hinders your bike’s performance but also shortens its lifespan. So, how often should you clean your chain? The answer depends on your cycling habits and the environmental conditions you ride in. If you ride frequently in dusty or muddy terrains, you should clean your chain more often. I recommend cleaning your bike chain once every 100-200 miles or every two to three weeks. However, if you notice any signs of wear or damage, it’s best to clean and inspect your chain immediately. By regularly cleaning your bike’s chain, you’ll not only improve your bike’s performance but also save money in the long run by preventing expensive repairs or replacements. So, make sure to add chain cleaning to your bike maintenance routine!


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