Timing Belts and Pulleys: Application Examples

Common Belt Drive Applications

In addition to an endless variety of industrial machine applications, there are also a number of ordinary objects that can teach a lot about the principles and applications of belt drives.  There are a variety of different everyday machines that employ a wide range of different types of synchronous timing belt drive systems.  Sometimes the best way to gain a solid understanding about how belt drives function by studying their application in common pieces of equipment in order to gain a more complete, real world understanding of the types of industrial automation applications in which that they can be employed.

Automobile Timing Belt:

The classic example of a real life timing belt drive system is the timing belt/cam belt system that is present in most automobiles on roads all over the world.    It’s not an understatement to say that the mobility of the modern world is largely made possible because of the efficient operation of robust automobile timing belts.

vehicle timing belt

Automotive Timing Belt

The toothed timing belts in automotive applications are high performance belts, typically comprised of special materials that coordinate the rotational motion of the engine crankshaft with the cam shaft.  This coordinated precision is necessary in order ensure that the cam shafts open the intake/exhaust values of the engine combustion chambers at the precise moment of compression and/or expansion in the chamber in order to ensure the sustainable continuation of the combustion process within the engine.   This coordinating function is the pacemaker of the engine, and is it’s not functioning properly, there can be no combustion.

These belts must maintain an extremely high level of synchronicity and must be able to perform under high rotational speeds of thousands of RPMs which can easily be seen during a typical driving profile.  They also must be robust enough to be operated in extreme temperature ranges, wherever automobiles can be driven- from hot, arid deserts to wet, frigid tundra.  The fatigue life of these belts must also be very high, possessing high wear resistance, so that the drive is able to operate safely for thousands of miles.

Treadmills

The treadmill is another great example of a belt driven mechanism.   The belt in this drive system is not to be confused with the tread on which the runner directly runs; rather the belt drive system is the toothed, synchronous belt that transfers the rotary motion from the central motor to the drive pulley.  This drive is typically located in the rear of the treadmill, but it can sometimes be positioned in the front.  These are also usually high performance, toothed synchronous belt drives, but it wouldn’t be uncommon to find a flat friction belts, or V-belts drive in an older treadmill model.  These belts must be capable of operating efficiently under the continuous, shock loading of the endless plodding of the runner’s foot striking on the tread.  Under these dynamic loading conditions, the belt drive must be capable of maintaining a consistent speed profile without slipping.

treadmill belt

Treadmill Timing Belt

Sewing Machines

Another everyday example of a belt drive system is not quite as exciting or as obvious as the treadmill or automobile.  Nevertheless, it is still a terrific example of a belt drive mechanism that is employed to transfer motion between the motor and sewing pulleys.   In contrast to the high performance, high speed, high load applications such as the treadmill and the automobile, the sewing machine is still an excellent example of the efficient use of synchronous timing belts.

Sewing Machine

Sewing Machine with Timing Belt

The belt/pulley mechanism within the sewing machine serves to transfer the rotary motion of the main drive motor to the larger spool head that drives the sewing mechanism.  In older, antique style sewing machines, the belt is impossible to miss because it is typically exposed right on the outside of the machine, whereas, in modern machines, it is enclosed within the casing of the machine.  Additionally, in modern machines, sometimes there can be multiple belts chained together via an intermediary pulley.  Similar to the treadmill, in older sewing machines the belt drive is a flat or V-belt drive while in newer, more modern drives, the belt drive is a toothed, synchronous profile drive.

Conclusion

These every day machines provide a great overview of the types of mechanical mechanisms and drive systems that are possible thanks to the use of durable synchronous drive belts, and these applications prove that a wide range of design loads and speeds are feasible for synchronous belt drives.  With these kinds of power tools and system equipment available, it’s now up the industrial automation designer to push the boundaries of these drives and find new areas of use within an increasingly diverse range of potential applications.

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