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Pulleys for timing and energy transfer

Pulley image courtesy CMT

A pulley is a mechanical device used to transfer mechanical power, torque, and speed across axles. A belt and pulley system is characterized by two or more pulleys in common to a belt. If the pulleys are of differing diameters, a mechanical advantage is realized.

A belt drive is analogous to that of a chain drive; however, a belt sheave may be smooth (devoid of discrete interlocking members as would be found on a chain sprocket, spur gear, or timing belt) so that the mechanical advantage is approximately given by the ratio of the pitch diameter of the sheaves only, not fixed exactly by the ratio of teeth as with gears and sprockets.

In the case of a drum-style pulley, without a groove or flanges, the pulley often is slightly convex to keep the flat belt centered. It is sometimes referred to as a crowned pulley. Though once widely used on factory line shafts, this type of pulley is still found driving the rotating brush in upright vacuum cleaners, in belt sanders and bandsaws.

Just as the diameters of gears (and, correspondingly, their number of teeth) determine a gear ratio and thus the speed increases or reductions and the mechanical advantage that they can deliver, the diameters of pulleys determine those same factors. Cone pulleys and step pulleys (which operate on the same principle, although the names tend to be applied to flat belt versions and V-belt versions, respectively) are a way to provide multiple drive ratios in a belt-and-pulley system that can be shifted as needed, just as a transmission provides this function with a gear train that can be shifted. V-belt step pulleys are the most common way that drill presses deliver a range of spindle speeds.


Conveyor pulley

A conveyor pulley is a mechanical device used to change the direction of the belt in a conveyor system, to drive the belt, and to tension the belt. Modern pulleys are made of rolled shells with flexible end disks and locking assemblies.

Differential pulley

A differential pulley, also called "Weston differential pulley", sometimes "chain hoist" or colloquially "chain fall", is used to manually lift very heavy objects like car engines. It is operated by pulling upon the slack section of a continuous chain that wraps around pulleys. The relative size of two connected pulleys determines the maximum weight that can be lifted by hand. The load will remain in place (and not lower under the force of gravity) until the chain is pulled.


A hoist is a device used for lifting or lowering a load by means of a drum or lift-wheel around which rope or chain wraps. It may be manually operated, electrically or pneumatically driven and may use chain, fiber or wire rope as its lifting medium. The most familiar form is an elevator, the car of which is raised and lowered by a hoist mechanism. Most hoists couple to their loads using a lifting hook.



Some of our Pulley Sponsors include...

Custom Machine & Tool Co., Inc.

CMT provides first-class timing pulley stock in a variety of materials quicker than anyone else in the business. We guarantee shipment of up to 5 pieces of pulley stock within 72 hours. CMT also carries a complete line of matching flanges and timing belts to provide you with a one-step solution.

Modern Linear

Modern Linear Inc is a manufacturer of guide roller based linear motion components and systems.

© Content credits: Some of this page uses material from en.wikipedia.org .