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The smartest link in the chain

11 March 2011

Back in December we looked at Renold Smartlink, a novel tool for collecting dynamic load data from industrial chain operating on real applications. In his second and final article in this series, David Turner looks at how Smartlink can go one step further and provide data and analysis to help improve designs and correct operational problems

Renold Smartlink is proving its value on an ever widening range of applications, and it’s a tool that engineers are using in all sorts of new ways. In its most basic form, level one, Smartlink operates as an overload detector providing a warning when an overload occurs so that engineers can check to make sure machinery is safe to operate. Smartlink level two comes with a more sophisticated hand set that remotely communicates with the Smartlink unit and downloads dynamic load data that can be analysed on a PC. In both cases Smartlink is supplied already attached to a section of chain so that it is easy to install and ready to go.

Operated by Renold’s own engineers, Smartlink level three provides a much more detailed analysis of forces within a system, and is routinely used on safety critical applications such as theme park rides to check the safety factor limit and provide confirmation of the drive set up.
Smartlink has also been used to identify the cause of severe problems on a huge container-handling gantry crane, operated by New York port authority. Visual inspections failed to identify the problem but Renold Smartlink provided the data that tracked it down. It turned out that when the crane lifted a container and moved it horizontally to the left, the load data Smartlink recorded was normal, but when the same container was moved horizontally to the right there was something very wrong. The data in the latter case was pointing to a misalignment problem, found to be caused by an anchor bolt that had twisted. A new bolt immediately corrected the problem and Smartlink’s readings for lift and horizontal movement, in both directions, returned to normal.

Level three Smartlink is even being used by OEMs to measure loads and forces that were previously unknown. A typical example is an agricultural machinery manufacturer that recently called on Renold to use Smartlink to collect data on all the ‘hidden’ loads in the chain drive system on its latest model of baler.

Using the data collected design engineers were able to analyse what was happening to the chain during the different stages of the baling process. They were able to confirm that the drive system was operating perfectly, which was reassuring, but the data Smartlink collected told them things about the dynamic forces in operation that they were previously unaware of, and this information will be put to use in future designs.

Data such as this is useful in many ways but perhaps the most vital of all is confirmation that the correct size of chain has been specified to deal with the loads involved.

Some of the longest chain drive systems can be found in the food industry where lengths of chain can often be hundreds of feet long. Identifying problems in systems of this size can be a nightmare, but after mapping Smartlink data to the system layout any errors can be identified very quickly and easily. Level three Smartlink has been put to use in many food processing plants where Renold’s engineers have been able to identify, with pinpoint accuracy, the places where chain is put under greatest stress. Problems such as misalignment can then be corrected, and modifications made to reduce loading and increase the life of the chain.

As well as providing essential data and identifying problems, that would otherwise be hard to spot, Smartlink has often had immediate financial benefit to users. On several occasions Smartlink’s data has shown that a smaller chain size would deliver the same life and performance as the one currently being used, and when hundreds of feet of chain are involved on large applications, there can be big savings.

David Turner is with Renold Chain

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