A kinematic analysis has been developed for the motion of roller chain drives, which is exact for relatively slow-speed chain drives with negligible wear. The results shed new light on chordal or polygonal action, and the associated impact velocity and motion fluctuation of the chain drive. The results have also revealed the existence of a remarkable degree of sensitivity of chain performance with respect to center distance including discontinuities in the motion derivatives. This in turn provides a new opportunity for the optimization of chain drives by optimizing center distance both in the design stage, as well as during installation and maintenance.

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