5 key questions to ask the manufacturer when sourcing industrial chain
To determine what your industrial chain will cost you, which is different to the purchase price, you need to understand the quality and how long it will last – and that depends on the way it is manufactured.
I’m always surprised when the first question a potential customer asks is about the price. It doesn’t happen often, as most customers are very particular about their specification, but I do find it strange when it does, as not every type of chain is the same and will achieve the requirements of the application.
There are manufacturers who produce different quality grades of industrial chain, and some who only produce chain of poor quality. So there are plenty of questions potential customers should be asking before they even get to the purchase price to ensure their industrial chain will do what they need it to and last as long as they want it to. Because if the chain doesn’t achieve either of these things, it will end up costing the customer far more over time.
Most catalogues of chain produced to either the DIN or ISO standard will show the breaking load and that’s a good starting point. M112 chain must have a minimum breaking load of 112Kn, for example.
But as we know, conveyor chains, roller chains and leaf chains are all used in dynamic applications so how the chain moves and the components come into contact with each other is crucial. In other words, it’s the way the chain wears – the fatigue strength – that is the critical factor.
Producing chain to a specific breaking strength is relatively easy whereas achieving a high fatigue strength is not. To sort the wheat from the chaff, purchasers need to uncover the manufacturers who can do both and that requires a few questions about the way the chain is made.
- How do you ensure consistency of the raw materials?
Inconsistent raw material prevents punching and press tools from maintaining exact tolerances and will not harden at the same rate during heat treatment. There will be problems during assembly and ultimately the weakest part of the chain will fail first during use.
- How do you ensure consistent tooling and tolerancing of components?
Even if the raw material is of consistent quality, if the press tooling is not of a good standard it will produce inconsistent and inaccurate parts that will wear at much faster rate. Components produced with good tooling and machined to tight tolerances will have the largest bearing area and tightest fits when assembled, ensuring minimal wear and a long service life.
- How do you optimise your heat treatment process across different products?
Ensuring heat treatments are optimised for each product creates the correct depth of hardness to allow the chain to withstand shock loading. If a component becomes through hardened and brittle, it will be liable to fracture and premature failure.
- Do you have automated assembly and welding lines?
Careful control of the chain’s assembly creates consistency and, therefore, reliability during its working life. Having an automated assembly line, including for parts needing welding, generates a process that is not only efficient but can be relied upon to maintain the best performance of the chain.
- Do you pre-stretch your chains?
During production, each component is produced to certain tolerances. These parts are then assembled under no load, so a pre-stretching procedure is required prior to the chain being put into service. This involves placing the chain under a percentage of the load it would have during operation to take out any tolerances within the assembly and bed parts into the optimal position ready for the application they have been produced for.
Of course, there are nuances that manipulate the specific characteristics of the chain, but these are the basics of producing good quality industrial chain with a high fatigue strength and long wear life. If a chain manufacturer cannot for any reason readily answer the above questions, then you might not be getting the good quality industrial chain with the low total cost of ownership you need.
Please get in touch to discuss your chain requirements from a quality UK industrial chain manufacturer.