Selection Differences Between Drive Chain and Roller Chain
The basic construction and functionality of drive chain and roller chain is very similar from a mechanical standpoint and often it is difficult to know which to choose. The key choice between a drive chain and a roller chain is primarily determined by the environment that the chain is running in.
Roller chains are a highly standardized, highly specialized type of chain. The selection of materials, clearances and heat treatments used in a roller chain should be capable of withstanding enormous stresses and pressures. However, the downside to this is that they are suited to clean, indoor environments and are not tolerant of any rubbing on steel guides.
Drive chain material and heat treatment selections are such that they are more tolerant of outdoor, dirty environments with lubrication starvation and sliding contact with steel guides. Because of the environments that they run in drive chains are usually rated for lower bearing pressures than roller chain, so a drive chain for a given working load would generally be larger than a roller chain rated for the same load. This is why drive chains are often physically larger, though large roller chains are also available.
If the application allows for a roller chain to be selected, it is therefore more efficient from a size and weight point of view to use the roller chain. If the environment does not allow it, there are solution chains that can help in some situations, but for the dirtier work or for sliding on steel guides the more tolerant base materials, clearances and heat treatments used in drive chains are often called upon.
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