3 Reasons to Upgrade From Roller Chain to a Synchronous Belt Drive System

3 Reasons to Upgrade From Roller Chain to a Synchronous Belt Drive System

Sometimes, food manufacturers don’t realize just how costly outdated methods are. As the business modernizes and becomes more complex, tried and true technology and parts may no longer be serving you as well as they once did. 

Today, manufacturers are now able to produce more from less—more power from a smaller footprint or greater power from fewer materials. According to Gates, a major PT component that has rapidly evolved, revolutionizing power transmission operations, is the synchronous belt drive

So, why upgrade from a roller chain to a synchronous belt drive system? Many plant managers are making the switch to synchronous belt drives as a result of modern carbon fiber belt technology that is designed to match roller chain performance while:

  • Reducing preventative maintenance headaches
  • Eliminating concerns surrounding health, safety, & environmental impact
  • Exceeding the roller chain’s lifespan


The most significant disadvantage of chain drives is that it requires proper lubrication to perform at its best. 

By chain industry estimates, improperly lubricated chain drives wear approximately 300 times faster than properly lubricated ones. And chain manufacturers acknowledge that up to 90-95% of all installed chain drives are not correctly lubricated or not lubricated at all. 

Without proper lubrication, chains and sprockets wear out quickly, forcing replacement. So, while the chain appears to be the cheaper option upfront—its high-maintenance nature will end up costing you. Not to mention, no matter how well maintained and lubricated, the roller chain eventually elongates, requiring periodic take-up and retensioning. 

An additional part of preventative maintenance is also hiring a third party for lubrication waste disposal. A case study has shown a company saving $30,000/month by eliminating the need for the waste disposal company to remove the oil/lubrication waste.

A synchronous belt drive system is essentially maintenance-free, requiring no lubrication. In addition, once the belt drive is installed and properly tensioned, it never needs retensioning. 


Additionally, because lubricating roller chains is an unwelcome chore when maintenance personnel are pressed for time, they will often compensate by utilizing an oil bath or oil spray system.

Oil baths are not only an added system cost but also create the potential for environmental, fire, and occupational safety risks that are both harmful and costly to solve.

In some applications, the lubricant itself poses a problem. Equipment used in the food processing industry, for example, must meet stringent food-grade standards, and leaked lubricant can result in contamination or other safety and environmental hazards. 

Finally, because chains are heavy and awkward to move, they increase liability and opportunities for personnel safety risks and injuries. It’s no doubt that synchronous belt drives are the overall safer choice.


One can also expect a synchronous belt drive to last considerably longer than a chain drive. Compared to a standard roller chain drive, a carbon synchronous belt will last up to 3x longer than the chain—and the drive sprockets up to 10x longer.

Customers who purchase equipment that has been equipped with roller chain drives may initially benefit from the lower cost of the power transmission subsystem, but they pay more down the road in maintenance and replacement costs. 


Drive system engineers now have the option of developing more market-competitive and innovative equipment by replacing roller chain drives with synchronous belt drives. 

The new breed of carbon synchronous belt drive systems can match the load-carrying capability of standard roller chain width-for-width in a pitch range of #35 to #180 and higher. In addition, synchronous belt drives offer the design engineer a number of advantages, including:

  • Designing more compact, lighter weight drive systems
  • Designing longer-lived drive systems
  • Designing maintenance-free drive systems
  • Wide range of belt lengths and sprocket diameters to choose from
  • Easy integration into current system design
  • Suited for a wide range of industrial applications
  • Heavy-duty backside idlers to eliminate center-distance limitations

The latest evolution came when Gates introduced its Poly Chain®GT® Carbon™ belt with carbon fiber tensile cords. When used in a dynamic application such as the tensile member of a synchronous belt, carbon fiber delivers many performance attributes never before achieved, including:

  • Higher power density for more compact drive designs
  • Higher flex fatigue resistance
  • Higher modulus (pitch stays constant regardless of load)
  • Higher strength-to-weight ratio
  • Greater environmental resistance (no degradation from water, oil, most contaminants

Learn More from your IBT Power Transmission Belting Experts

As your experts for power transmission belting, we want to help you find the best belt for your application. If you’re looking for the knowledge and expertise you need to keep your applications up-and-running, give us a call at 913-677-3151.

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