25 Jul 2024


Belt and chain drives face challenge from VSDs

Global sales of belt and chain drives were worth $8.8bn in 2013 and will climb to $10.57bn by 2018, according to a new analysis by Frost & Sullivan.

Improvements to the design of belts and use of lubrication in chains have extended the lives of these products, but their improper use and lack of regular maintenance mean that replacements are an important source of revenues.

These replacement sales are helping to keep the mature market afloat, but the restricted scope for innovation is hindering market growth, according to F&S. This is a significant issue, it says, because rising energy costs are creating a demand for efficient systems. While belt and chain drives are among the most energy-efficient technologies available, they are in danger of being phased out by alternative technologies such as variable speed drives (VSDs).

“Belt drives and chain drives are on the verge of reaching saturation when it comes to technologies, which restricts manufacturers’ opportunities to develop new products,” notes F&S industrial automation and process control research analyst, Guru Mahesh. “Additionally, alternative technologies such as VSDs and electric drives are highly efficient and offer higher energy savings, enabling them to eat into the market for belt and chain drives.”

Recognising this, belt and chain drive manufactures are investing significantly in R&D to develop cost-effective products that are also energy-efficient.

One example is synchronous belts, which are undergoing a “visible transformation” in terms of technology, according to F&S. This is likely to boost demand for them in the long term. The analyst predicts that the simplicity, lower costs, and easy availability of belt and chain drives will give them a competitive edge over VSDs.

The need to conform with regulations is helping to promote the use of belt and chain drives in Europe and North America. But, says Frost & Sullivan, the debt crisis in the former, and outsourcing in the latter, have resulted in manufacturing moving increasingly to Asia and Latin America. It adds that the considerable investments in infrastructure development, and the rapid industrialisation in these regions, are likely to boost sales of belt and chain drives to the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) market.

Frost & Sullivan’s analysis of the belt drives market covers belts and pulleys, while the chain drives segment covers chains and sprockets.