A belt is a loop of flexible material used to link two or more rotating shafts mechanically. Belts may be used as a source of motion, to transmit power efficiently, or to track relative movement. Belts are looped over pulleys. In a two pulley system, the belt can either drive the pulleys in the same direction, or the belt may be crossed, so that the direction of the shafts is opposite. As a source of motion, a conveyor belt is one application where the belt is adapted to continually carry a load between two points.
Belts are the cheapest utility for power transmission between shafts that may not be axially aligned. Power transmission is achieved by specially designed belts and pulleys. The demands on a belt drive transmission system are large and this has led to many variations on the theme. They run smoothly and with little noise, and cushion motor and bearings against load changes, albeit with less strength than gears or chains. However, improvements in belt engineering allow use of belts in systems that only formerly allowed chains or gears.
Pros and cons
Belt drive, moreover, is simple, inexpensive, and does not require axially aligned shafts. It helps protect the machinery from overload and jam, and damps and isolates noise and vibration. Load fluctuations are shock-absorbed (cushioned). They need no lubrication and minimal maintenance. They have high efficiency (90-98%, usually 95%), high tolerance for misalignment, and are inexpensive if the shafts are far apart. Clutch action is activated by releasing belt tension. Different speeds can be obtained by step or tapered pulleys.
The angular-velocity ratio may not be constant or equal to that of the pulley diameters, due to slip and stretch. However, this problem has been largely solved by the use of toothed belts. Temperatures ranges from −31 °F (−35.0 °C) to 185 °F (85 °C). Adjustment of center distance or addition of an idler pulley is crucial to compensate for wear and stretch.
Flat belts were used early in line shafting to transmit power in factories. It is a simple system of power transmission that was well suited for its day. It delivered high power for high speeds (500 hp for 10,000 ft/min), in cases of wide belts and large pulleys. These drives are bulky, requiring high tension leading to high loads, so vee belts have mainly replaced the flat-belts except when high speed is needed over power. The Industrial Revolution soon demanded more from the system, and flat belt pulleys needed to be carefully aligned to prevent the belt from slipping off. Because flat belts tend to climb towards the higher side of the pulley, pulleys were made with a slightly convex or "crowned" surface (rather than flat) to keep the belts centered. Flat belts also tend to slip on the pulley face when heavy loads are applied and many proprietary dressings were available that could be applied to the belts to increase friction, and so power transmission. Grip was better if the belt was assembled with the hair (i.e. outer) side of the leather against the pulley although belts were also often given a half-twist before joining the ends (forming a Möbius strip), so that wear was evenly distributed on both sides of the belt (DB). Belts were joined by lacing the ends together with leather thonging, or later by steel comb fasteners. A good modern use for a flat belt is with smaller pulleys and large central distances. They can connect inside and outside pulleys, and can come in both endless and jointed construction.
Round belts are a circular cross section belt designed to run in a pulley with a circular (or near circular) groove. They are for use in low torque situations and may be purchased in various lengths or cut to length and joined, either by a staple, gluing or welding (in the case of polyurethane). Early sewing machines utilized a leather belt, joined either by a metal staple or glued, to a great effect.
Vee belts (also known as V-belt or wedge rope) solved the slippage and alignment problem. It is now the basic belt for power transmission. They provide the best combination of traction, speed of movement, load of the bearings, and long service life. The V-belt was developed in 1917 by John Gates of the Gates Rubber Company. They are generally endless, and their general cross-section shape is trapezoidal. The "V" shape of the belt tracks in a mating groove in the pulley (or sheave), with the result that the belt cannot slip off. The belt also tends to wedge into the groove as the load increases — the greater the load, the greater the wedging action — improving torque transmission and making the vee belt an effective solution, needing less width and tension than flat belts. V-belts trump flat belts with their small center distances and high reduction ratios. The preferred center distance is larger than the largest pulley diameter, but less than three times the sum of both pulleys. Optimal speed range is 1000–7000 ft/min. V-belts need larger pulleys for their larger thickness than flat belts. They can be supplied at various fixed lengths or as a segmented section, where the segments are linked (spliced) to form a belt of the required length. For high-power requirements, two or more vee belts can be joined side-by-side in an arrangement called a multi-V, running on matching multi-groove sheaves. The strength of these belts is obtained by reinforcements with fibers like steel, polyester or aramid (e.g. Twaron or Kevlar). This is known as a multiple-belt drive. When an endless belt does not fit the need, jointed and link vee-belts may be employed. However they are weaker and only usable at speeds up to 4000 ft/min. A link v-belt is a number of rubberized fabric links held together by metal fasteners. They are length adjustable by dissasembling and removing links when needed.
Timing belts, (also known as Toothed, Notch, Cog, or Synchronous belts) are a positive transfer belt and can track relative movement. These belts have teeth that fit into a matching toothed pulley. When correctly tensioned, they have no slippage, run at constant speed, and are often used to transfer direct motion for indexing or timing purposes (hence their name). They are often used in lieu of chains or gears, so there is less noise and a lubrication bath is not necessary. Camshafts of automobiles, miniature timing systems, and stepper motors often utilize these belts. Timing belts need the least tension of all belts, and are among the most efficient. They can bear up to 200 hp (150 kW) at speeds of 16,000 ft/min.
Timing belts with a helical offset tooth design are available. The helical offset tooth design forms a chevron pattern and causes the teeth to engage progressively. The chevron pattern design is self-aligning. The chevron pattern design does not make the noise that some timing belts make at idiosyncratic speeds, and is more efficient at transferring power (up to 98%).
Disadvantages include a relatively high purchase cost, the need for specially fabricated toothed pulleys, less protection from overloading and jamming, and the lack of clutch action.