Basic Technology

Chain Drive, Types, Advantages and Disadvantages

Alfred Ajibola - Mon, 12th August, 2019 @ 13:19: PM

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Academic Questions in Basic Technology

Please check out our Test Your Knowledge page to see all Questions and Answers

The following are Types of Line in Technical Drawing EXCEPT _____.

  • A. thin continuous line
  • B. inverse head line
  • C. thin dash line
  • D. continuous thin straight zigzag line
  • E. free hand line
  • F. chain thin line with thick ends

Chain Drive:

The chain drive is one of the mechanisms through which power is transmitted mechanically from an engine to the wheels via an endless rotating chain. You probably had seen a tractor comprised of big chains. These massive chains are responsible for transmitting power and kinetic energy (energy in motion) via the rotational movements of the chains. The rate of rotation of these chains results in the speed level of the machine. Apart from the tractor, some of the other mechanisms of power transmission that uses chain drive technology include:

  • Chain saw
  • Print machines
  • Bicycles
  • Motorcycles
  • Elevators and so on.

An exmple of roller Chain

Image Credit: The Engineers Post

Note: A chain drive consists of an endless chain running over two sprockets.

Think of the sprockets as toothed wheels over which an endless rotational chain is fitted.

The chain; often called; roller chain or drive chain or transmission chain is used to convey power over two sprocket wheels with its edged teeth meshing with the holes at the center of the chain.

Note: Chain drives are employed or utilized in diverse areas; some of which include:

  • Power transmission
  • Oil well drilling rigs
  • Load lifting
  • Building and Construction
  • Transportation and Agricultural machinery

Base on the utilization/uses of the chain drive, they can be easily classified into three types:

  1. Power transmission Chains: These chain drives are used for transmitting power from one shaft to another. They are utilized in chain tractors, bicycles, chainsaws and motorcycles.
  2. Load Lifting Chains: The can be used to raise, lower or suspend load when handling materials through a machine. The most suitable chains for lifting load are termed load linking chains. They generally operate at a low speed and are quite heavy in weight. On the positive side, they are very flexible and do not generate noise while in operation.
  3. Hauling Chains: They aid in the carrying of materials by continuously pulling or sliding it onwards.

You can read on Belt Drives here


Types of Chain Drives

  • Roller Chains

The roller chains are very common since they are used in bicycles, motorcycles and vehicle engines. They are made up of a series of small cylindrical rollers attached together at both sides of its entire length. The roller chain requires the sprockets in order to transmit mechanical power. Roller chains can be single-stranded or multiple-stranded

See the Roller chain image above

The single-stranded roller chain is very common and its power rating capacity can cover a variety of drive load requirements.

Multiple-roller chain provides and increased power capacity without any need for an increase in the chain's rotational speed.


  • Silent Chains

Also called the inverted tooth chains, the silent chains are series of toothed link plates that are attached to one another in a pin-like manner that allows for free flexing of the chains.

Image Credit: Ramsey Chain

Note: It is difficult to connect together the silent chains from different manufacturers.

Silent chains operate with reduced noise levels and can transform more loads and at a higher speed than a roller chain of the same width.

They are preferably used in industrial equipment where quietness, silence and smoothness are required.


  • Leaf Chains

They are preferable used for lifting processes rather than power transmission. They don’t need meshing with sprocket sockets because they are made to run over sheaves.

Image Credit: HKK Chain

Leaf chains are commonly utilized in trucks that lift large and heavy loads


  • Flat-top Chains

The flat-top chains are manufactured for the purpose of conveying materials; thus are widely used in conveyors. They consist of plates made up of steel with hinge-like barrels curled on each side with pins inserted into the barrels to create joints acting as both beams and bearings.

Image Credit: Direct Conveyors

The connecting pins in a flat-top chain are usually enlarged or knurled at one end, giving rise to its continuous length.


  • Detachable Chains

Detachable chains are made up of similar links that can be easily detached from one another. Each of the link comprise of a hook-shaped end in which adjacent articulation occur. They will usually transmit power at lower speed.

Image Credit: Odesie

Detachable chains can be easily assembled and disassembled by pulling up the slack and flexing the links, then sliding a link sideways.


Advantages of Chain Drives

  1. They have a very high efficiency (at about 99%).
  2. They transmit larger load with higher power than belt drives.
  3. They work fine in at different temperatures including wet conditions.
  4. They produce less stress on the shafts. This is because they make use of sprockets which are lighter than pulleys (in belt drives).
  5. Their rate at which they are checked for maintenance is low.
  6. They are positive non-sail drives.
  7. With regards to the size of the machine, they occupy less space and are more compact when compared to belt drives.
  8. They can be used for both long and short distance activities.
  9. They are not prone to catching fire.
  10. They can withstand abrasive conditions without being cut.
  11. A single chain can drive a number of sprockets.
  12. Compared to gear drives, they are simplier and less expensive.


Disadvantages of Chain Drives

  1. They are expensive than belt drives.
  2. They require lubrication for optimum performance.
  3. The driving shaft and the driven shaft must be always perfectly aligned.
  4. Their alignment must be precise if they are to work effectively.
  5. Most generate noise while in operation.
  6. They are not suitable for non-parallel shafts.


Alfred Ajibola is a Medical Biochemist, a passionate Academician with over 7 years of experience, a Versatile Writer, a Web Developer, a Cisco Certified Network Associate and a Cisco CyberOps Associate.

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