Timing Belt Pulley Materials: Nylon versus Aluminium

October 23, 2018

What to select and where to use that preferred material, those are the issues braved by design engineers every single day. In conveyor system design, rigid metals and pliable elastomers provide obvious structural benefits. Used as timing belt pulley materials, however, a measured tempo is everything. Considering the flexible but unyielding properties of aluminium alloys, surely this metal must have the edge when it comes to timing issues?

Timing Belt Materials: The Nylon Advantage 

Not so fast, nylon-based timing belts are loaded with features that make them every bit as popular as their aluminium peers. Nylon is light, and this featherweight build assures superior inertial control. Polymer-based options also resist wear, so they’re the moderately fatigue-immune option here, which is important in conveyor system design. As a knock-on effect, there are energy-saving benefits to enjoy, a chemical resistance feature, plus a natural talent for functioning for hours on end without requiring maintenance. Still, there’s the realization that nylon does stretch, just ever-so-slightly, when it’s used in timing applications.

A Reliable Aluminium-based System Tempo 

Flexible and materially tough, aluminium timing belts are also lightweight. They’re also capable of handling transient shock events and other load-centric problems in a manner that nylon belts might not match. After all, that metal structure doesn’t stretch, doesn’t break down when mechanically assaulted, and yet it’s still light enough to deliver that all-important inertia control attribute. Having said all that, metals do corrode. Whether the attacking substance is a heavily corrosive chemical or a brine-heavy stream of water, there are oxidization issues to weigh. Essentially, alloy solutions do produce fine timing belts, ones that suit heavy-duty applications, but that benefit can be compromised if the application involves a caustic environment.

Intelligently Managed Trade-offs 

Aluminium timing belts can’t be used in toxic places because the metal corrodes. Nylon belts and their fittings cannot be utilized in high-load applications because the plastic isn’t structurally strong. Thanks to advanced engineering solutions, both of those problems are circumventable. Metal inserts inside plastic pulley gears reinforce the load-bearing characteristics of nylon. Additional torque also prevents nylon slippage. As for aluminium timing belts, there are alloy variants, heat treatment solutions, and special coatings available to stop the metal from oxidizing. 

Aluminium is a popular heavy-duty solution here, but there are nylon polymers available today that can almost match that material durability feature. Nonetheless, expect to find nylon belts in light-to-moderately loaded power transmitting systems. Equipped with full UL94-V0 retardancy, FDA standardization, and RoHS compliance, nylon belts go pretty much everywhere, except for those heavy-duty applications where aluminium takes over as the preferred timing material.

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