A roller sprocket is a device that acts as part of the operating mechanism in industrial or manufacturing machinery. The roller sprocket itself looks like a traditional round gear or wheel, with evenly spaced teeth around the perimeter. This device must be used in conjunction with a roller chain to transfer power from an engine or motor to other components within the machine. The roller sprocket and chain represents one of the oldest methods of transferring mechanical power, and may date back as far as the 16th century.
The roller chain used with this sprockets is much more complex than a standard linked chain. It consists of a pair of inner and outer links, which are held together using a set of rollers. Each link rotates independently around the rollers. The teeth on the roller sprocket fit into the space between each link, or into the link itself. As the sprocket rotates, it transfers this rotational energy to the chain.
In a piece of machinery, these chains are often connected to a motor or engine. As this device rotates the chain, it transfers motion to the sprocket. This can be used to power a conveyor belt, or to perform many mechanical operations.
For a basic example of a roller sprocket, one could look to a simple bicycle chain. In this example, the gears act as roller sprockets, and transfer power from the pedals to the wheels via the chain. The addition of gears and a chain represents a highly efficient use of energy, which is why this technology is used on the majority of bicycle designs.
Despite the age of this technology, the roller sprocket offers a number of advantages over other systems. It is very cheap to set up and simple to run. The roller sprocket also operates very efficiently, so that little energy is wasted. Machines that use this technology are relatively quiet, and require little maintenance because of their simple design and limited number of components.
One potential drawback to the roller sprocket is that it requires lubrication in order to function smoothly. Without some type of oil or grease, the sprocket and chain would become damaged and eventually fail. Improper lubrication also results in excess noise and vibration, which can damage surrounding components. As the teeth on the sprocket grind against the links of the chain, these teeth can wear down, leading the chain to slip out of place. Pre-lubricated or sealed systems may offer a means of avoiding these types of problems.