This week, I was very pleased to receive a pack from the British Standards Institute confirming that I am now a member of TC100 which represents the UK on standardisation in the field of power transmission chains, conveyor chains, chain wheels and leaf chain. There are 12 countries with active committees and these look after 15 different standards.
When chain manufacturing took off in the industrial revolution certain geographical areas developed expertise in particular chain types; like in Coventry. To support the Safety Bicycle all the components were made locally so ensuring they interacted correctly.
At first, companies made all the parts for their machines in-house. Then local specialised components manufacturers appeared, but you could still walk to your supplier and get them to make adjustments. It was a practical arrangement. These ranges which supported the local market were often referred to as “works standard”.
As industrialisation swept around the world, dominant chain manufacturers started to appear in each country, like Sedis in France and Renold in the UK, and their ranges formed the basis of that country’s first chain standards.
As industrial chain companies became global entities, the need for a common, world standard was clear. The first ISO standard appeared in the 1960s, but in reality, these were based on the American and British standards of roller chain and this is why the majority of industrial chains have their dimensions specified in inches.
It is also worth noting, that in general industrial chain standards are mainly dimensional and the minimum tensile and fatigue requirements are set at a level which almost all chain manufacturers can achieve.
Just because an industrial chain is made to the ISO standard doesn’t mean that it’s a guarantee of quality or performance. There are lots of small differences in the way each industrial chain manufactures chooses to make their products and they do this to achieve optimum performance in a given application.
Some of this goes back to the core market they supplied when they were established. We are a good example of this – FB Chain started in Sweden in 1908 supplying sawmills. Chains were developed to withstand shock loads, sacrificing some tensile strength so parts were more malleable. Today, our focus on leaf chains at FB Chain UK has led us to develop a production method which offers market-leading fatigue strength.
I have been warned that standards committees can be a bit dull and my patience may be tested! But I do feel I have something to contribute and working with the world’s leading industrial chain thinkers developing the next generation of worldwide standards is something I am very much looking forward to.