Although the first conceptual illustrations of silent chain can be found in Leonardo Da Vinci’s sketches from the 1500’s, the first recorded commercial application of silent chain occurred in 1843, with the launch of the SS Great Britain. The Great Britain was a propeller driven, iron steamship that used massive silent chains to deliver power to the propeller shaft. The ship became the first propeller driven steamship to cross the Atlantic Ocean.
From 1895 to about 1925 innovation in the chain industry produced significant refinements in silent chain design. Manufacturers in Europe and the United States developed and patented unique joint designs that extended service life and load carrying capacity. Ramsey introduced one of the original, patented two pin joint designs when the company began in 1923. With these advances, silent chain became a practical alternative to other types of chain drives. From the 1930s forward, silent chain was frequently used in a variety of industrial applications including: drives in paper and textile mills, flour and feed mills, printing presses, industrial fans and blowers, pumps, and machine tools. It was also commonly used as a timing chain in early automobile engines.
Throughout the 20th century, improvements in material quality, processing technology, and chain design increased the load and speed capacity of silent chain. There has also been an expansion in the variety of available silent chain designs. These factors have led to silent chain’s application in a range of demanding industrial and automotive applications, particularly those requiring compact, high speed, and quiet drives. From racing engines to 4 wheel drive vehicles, to industrial blowers and rock crushers, silent chains provide power where other chains and belts fail to perform. Outside of power transmission applications, silent chain is also commonly used in industrial conveying, as a conveying surface. As a conveyor, silent chain is durable, flat, heat resistant, smooth acting, and readily available in an extensive range of pitches, widths, and assembly styles. These features appeal to both conveyor designers and operators in applications ranging from glass bottle transport to general parts conveying.
Today, Ramsey and other silent chain manufacturers continue to explore ways to further improve chain load capacity and reduce vibration and noise. Fueled by industries growing interest in low noise, high performance drives, there is an ongoing exploration of innovative link shapes, joint styles, sprocket tooth forms, materials, and material processing methods. Such innovations continue to increase the available styles of silent chain and to expand the limits of chain working loads and speeds.