The History of Drive Chains

The history of the drive chain technically dates back thousands of years, though it was only in the last couple of centuries that it really became a widespread machinery component with the advent of bicycles and automobiles.

Here we take look at the interesting development of drive chain technology through the ages.

History of the Drive Chain

The first known use of a drive chain dates back around five thousand years to the 3rd century BCE where something similar was used with a mechanical bolt thrower or ballista by the Ancient Greeks. One particular ballista design was called the Polybolos and could fire multiple consecutive bolts in a row with two flat-linked chains connected to a windlass that wound back and forth to automatically fire the bolts stored in a precursor to the magazine of a machine gun.

Technically the chain in the Polybolos was not a proper chain drive as we know them today, as it did not transmit power from one shaft to another, but it is generally accepted as marking the very beginning of the history of drive chains.

We have to go back to the eleventh century CE to discover the first continuous and endless drive chain. The device was depicted in the treatise of the Song Dynasty written by Chinese mathematician and astronomer Su Song, where it was used to operate the armillary sphere of his astronomical clock tower. Su Song’s chain drive worked by converting rotary motion into reclinear or straight line motion, and was ingeniously powered by the hydraulics of a water clock tank and waterwheel.

Perhaps most famously, Leonardo da Vinci sketched multiple images of a pin-jointed or bar-joint chain in the sixteenth century, which is often cited as the first example of a proper flat-link drive chain.

Chain Drives in Vehicles

Vehicles are one of the most common applications of drive chains. Yorkshire’s YB Components supply multiple such parts for vehicles, as well as many other types of chain drives for industrial machinery.

Chain drives are the innovation responsible for the demise of the old fashioned Penny Farthing or high wheeler bicycle. With a drive chain powering a new design of bicycle, they could build them with equal-sized wheels which was a lot safer to ride than the lofty high wheeler. Motorcycles also take their name from either the chain drive, belt drive or driveshaft that powers them.

Drive chain systems were also a fundamental part of some of the first automobile designs.

Drive Chains Suppliers in Yorkshire

YB Components are able to ship out such ordered parts especially fast thanks to the local stocks they keep of drive chains. Suppliers YB Components will also be able to advise as to which drive chains are best suited for any particular application.

If you require any drive chains, belt drives or other similar machine parts, then contact YB Components who are the UK’s leading drive chains supplier. Yorkshire-based, we can ship out these parts fast and free all over the UK and the rest of the world.