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Chain and Chain Drives

Too hot to handle?

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A leading German automotive components manufacturer produces a range of vehicle parts, including wheel carriers, controls arms and pump housings for use by many global automotive brands, using mainly steel and aluminium blanks. Once installed in the vehicle, many of these parts will be subjected to harsh conditions, and they have to endure extreme wear and friction.  Therefore, to ensure end-user safety, the materials must be of the highest quality and the production process needs to be carried out in a highly predictable and repeatable manner.

Challenge

To maintain the transfer speed and quality of the hot steel blanks, the production process needs to run like clockwork. Once the raw materials have been prepared, they are transported to the annealing furnace where they are heated to 1,200 °C, until they are glowing red with heat. They are then conveyed to the rollers, which press the steel to achieve a uniform thickness. The parts are then transferred to the forge for shaping and finally moved on for deburring.

The smooth running of this process is largely reliant on the conveyor chains that interlink the different stages of production. To ensure that each part reaches the next stage at optimal temperature, the conveyor belts have to move at very high speeds. Unfortunately, however, the harsh operating environment put the standard OEM chains the manufacturer used under severe strain. The chains stretched under the red-hot metal, the steel dust and soot created by the manufacturing process stuck to the joints, and the sprocket teeth rubbed off on the pinions, quickly wearing the chain out.

This meant that the manufacturer had to replace the conveyor belts nearly every three months. The removal of the old chain, the cleaning of the facility, and the assembly of the new chain put production on hold for up to six hours at a time, costing thousands of euros.  

To eliminate this unplanned downtime and recurring cost, the manufacturer turned to Renold for an alternative solution.

Solution

To overcome the problem caused by the excess heat and the wear from the high operating speed, Renold suggested using its tooth chain. The chain has been designed to operate flawlessly in extreme temperatures, so it was ideally suited for conveying the burning-hot products from the spool to the rolling machine. The chain’s involute teeth eliminate engagement errors of the chain expanding under heat, and the sprockets are made of vacuum-hardened, high-alloyed tool steel, optimising wear resistance.

Unlike most chains, the Renold tooth chain doesn’t require regular lubrication. That made it ideal for the application, as the hot manufacturing environment would cause the lubricant to char, resulting in premature wear and unnecessary pollution.

The manufacturer opted for Renold chains in the standard widths of 85mm and 100mm, with the longest one measuring 10 meters with a centre distance of 5 meters. The chains move at speeds of up to 1 m/second to accommodate the high production rate of 15 seconds. To further enhance security, Renold duplicated the middle guide of the transport chain, so that each chain link has a guide that engages in the groove of the sprocket. This helps eliminate the risk of the chain being pushed to the side when the long wheelbase and the workpieces slide across the conveyor belt and further reduces wear to the guide plates.

Results

Switching to Renold tooth chains has enabled the manufacturer to unlock a new level of productivity and reliability. Before, over 24 hours of production time was wasted each year, as the chains would unexpectedly wear out, needing to be removed and replaced. In addition to the regular unplanned downtime, purchasing and installing new chains four times a year amounted to further costs.

Now, the manufacturer can continue to operate throughout the year without disruption: the chain is inspected and changed only once per year as part of the pre-planned maintenance schedule. This has enabled the manufacturer to reduce the time spent on maintaining the chain by nearly 75 per cent and helped optimise productivity.

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Chain and Chain Drives

Tsubaki is a GT4 winner at Austrian pulp and paper plant

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From the chipper to the roll, producing paper is a continuous process. For plant managers tasked with managing capital expenditure, sometimes budget components can find their way onto the production line. Drive chain is a classic example of a product that is sometimes treated as a commodity rather than an engineered component. One global manufacturer of pulp and paper products discovered that low cost chains on the line don’t necessarily lead to cost savings once installed. Consequently, it turned to Tsubaki to reduce total cost of ownership (TCO) via a premium chain solution.

A paper mill is a demanding environment for power transmission components such as drive chain. The manufacturing process inevitably involves large amounts of abrasive dust particles in the air. This dust will contaminate chain lubricant and work its way into the chain’s internals, leading to corrosion and increased wear. Ultimately this will cause the chain to elongate and eventually fail completely. The continuous nature of paper production compounds these issues, as the high duty requirements causes improperly specified chains to fail faster. It also raises the stakes of chain failure. A single unexpected chain failure can bring the entire production line to a standstill.

For a major European paper manufacturer, a paper mill in Austria was suffering from regular delays caused by chain failure – specifically the drive chain installed in the paper coil elevator. The heavy coils of paper at the site are moved by 10 elevators to different floors of the facility, ready to be cut and processed. Chains from three different brands were being utilised across the elevators, none of which were robust enough to offer long service life. The use of three different chain types resulted in inconsistent wear, resulting in the chains becoming uneven, In addition to the general atmospheric challenges of the application area, the chains installed on the elevators were regularly subjected to very high shock loads – which was causing the plates of the chain to crack.

While offering a reduced cost at initial purchase, budget chain struggles to meet application requirements long term. Premature failure leads to plant downtime, which risks order schedules. Maintenance intervals are also shortened, increasing the frequency of repairs. As a result, despite offering an initially cheap solution, the TCO of an inferior chain during its lifetime is greatly increased compared to a premium chain.

Realising this, the manufacturer approached Tsubaki to provide an improved chain solution. Offering over a century of experience in designing and manufacturing high performance chain, Tsubaki is a key supplier of power transmission components to the paper industry, as well as the agriculture, automotive, metals, mining, food and beverage sectors. A century of success is underpinned by a responsive service and a global engineering capability, which ensured that Tsubaki engineers were quickly on-site at the Austrian plant to carry out a thorough inspection.

After assessing the 10 elevators, Tsubaki identified its GT4 Winner chain as a suitable solution. Designed to provide strength in high wear environments, the chain boasts four key features which are designed to reduce wear and minimise chain elongation:

1: Lube-grooved (LG) bushes hold oil at the point of contact which provides an internal reservoir for lubricant where the chain needs it most (sizes RS16B – RS24B).

2: Seamless and perfectly cylindrical bushes result in both better contact between the pin and bush and improved lubricant retention.

3: Centre sink rivets – for easy disassembly – which are designed with markings to identify pin rotations caused by chain overloading (sizes RS08B – RS16B).

4: Ring Coined connection links allow the chain to be specified up to its full kW rating; unlike the typical standard slip-fit connecting links used by competitors which are usually much weaker than the base chain.

The GT4 Winner was trialled on a single elevator at the Austrian facility to gauge performance and potential benefits. Increased strength ensured that the premium Tsubaki chain could withstand the shock loads inherent to the application comfortably, eliminating the issue of cracked plates. This also minimised elongation and minimised likelihood of premature failure, which consequently reduced maintenance requirements. Longer service life, a decreased risk to uptime and reduced maintenance translated to a greatly improved TCO compared to the previous chains. The successful test period led to the GT4 Winner being installed on all 10 of the paper coil elevators.

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Chain and Chain Drives

Tsubaki offers a full range of sprockets

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Tsubakimoto, the world’s premier manufacturer of power transmission products, offers a full range of sprockets, all available from stock, for the European market.  The impressive line-up includes products manufactured from carbon steel (with induction hardened teeth) and stainless steel and features a huge range of standard products. Customers with specific requirements for their applications are catered for thanks to a customisation service.

As a leading manufacturer of power transmission components, with a reputation for delivering reliable and cost effective solutions, Tsubaki well understands that the physical interaction between chain and sprocket can have a profound effect on the performance of the drive system. This is why the company offers a complete range of sprockets which offer a variety of sizes and materials to suit almost any application and reduce maintenance and repair costs on-site.

Peter de Blok, Sales Director for Tsubakimoto Europe, comments: “Tsubaki is dedicated to manufacturing power transmission solutions for its customers that will reduce running costs and offer industry leading reliability. The sprocket range has been designed to meet as broad a spectrum of industries and applications as possible which is why there are nearly 650 standard parts held in stock to choose from. Of course, if our standard parts aren’t quite what you’re after we offer reworking and ‘Made-To-Order’ services.”

The sprockets are available in a variety of materials. Carbon steel sprockets are available in DIN 8187 standard, in both simplex and duplex formats, as well as in ANSI standard for simplex configuration, all of which have a standard parallel bore.  There is also a range of carbon steel taper bore sprockets available in DIN 8187, simplex format. Alternatively, for extra corrosion resistance and food-grade applications, alloy and stainless steel sprockets are available.

In addition to the huge range of standard products, Tsubaki is able to rework the entire range to individual requirements. For example, adding a keyway or a finished bore dimension within 8-10 working days of the order. Customers may also provide Tsubaki with engineering drawings for a truly customised sprocket, which can then be manufactured and held in stock ready for delivery as required.

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Chain and Chain Drives

Tsubaki conveyor chain leads to long term cost savings and efficiency for commercial bakery

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Producing high quality, consistent baked goods in a batch production requires precise and reliable processes and equipment. For one bakery, the industrial oven it used for producing pre-baked bread rolls required new conveyor chain every two years due to excessive wear. This was an expensive and time-consuming operation that affected the bakery’s production targets. Fortunately, Tsubaki’s expert engineers were able to recommend a specialised chain product that more than doubled service life.

Almost every village in France still has its own boulangerie, a bakery handed down through the generations of a family of master craftsmen. Today, their bakers combine tradition with technology to ensure the very best end products.

In bigger towns, larger scale bakeries also apply high standards as they work to supply supermarkets across their region. They won’t sacrifice quality, so rely on technical solutions with their plant, equipment and processes to achieve the efficiency and cost management they require.

One bakery decided to review its costs and procedures to ensure that its production line was performing to the highest standards. It quickly identified that the tunnel oven used to produce pre-baked bread rolls was requiring a shut-down period for replacement conveyor chain every 1.5 to 2 years. The replacement process required a complete de-mount of the machine, which resulted in expensive maintenance bills. The question that inevitably arose was: “Can we improve the service life of the chain?”

Tsubaki was contacted and its engineers were soon on site to assess the application. The average temperatures experienced by the chain throughout the oven cycle was 240°C (peaking at 300°C), which was causing the inside of the rollers to wear and the chain to fail earlier than expected. Tsubaki identified that chain designed for operation in hard wearing environments, combined with a specialised lubrication system, could significantly extend the gap between replacement and reduce the Total Cost of Ownership of the oven at the same time.

The engineers recommended an engineered solution from its large size conveyor chain catalogue that featured heat treated rollers and bushes to ensure smooth interaction, even at high temperatures. The chain has been built for strength and performance to cope with regular loading and delivers stable performance. In this case it was suggested that the bakery lubricate the chain with a specialty food-grade lubrication formulated to be stable in very high temperatures. This is dispensed through an electrically operated gear pump, that is synchronised with the speed of the chain to ensure that an optimised coating is always maintained.

With the new chain installed and the updated lubrication system in operation it wasn’t long until the bakery’s maintenance staff started to notice the difference in performance. Where the chain would usually start to show signs of wear in a few months, the new chain was visibly harder wearing than the incumbent. In fact, the chain proved to offer more than twice the reliability – eventually reaching a service life of over five years. The resulting reduction in periods of non-production has been a significant benefit to the Total Cost of Ownership of the chain, which reflects directly onto the bakery’s bottom line.

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