How technology is changing industrial chain manufacturing

May 18, 2022

Old-world Craftsmanship Meets Modern Technology: How Innovation is Changing Industrial Chain (and why it matters)

Chain production has come a long way since blacksmiths originally forged their historical link to expansion and discovery. And while some aspects of a chain are timeless, the process has grown with every technological advancement in manufacturing. Sure, chains are still made of steel, bent into links, and welded but every step of the process is fueled by innovation. The same advancements can be found across industries, from aerospace engineering to machine shops, and everything in-between.

The slow evolution of industrial chain processes.

There’s an old saying, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Originally crafted by blacksmiths, the basic processes for forging chains remained fairly unchanged for more than a century. Even the industrial revolution saw little innovation in how chains were made.

But then, there’s another saying, the best way to predict the future is to create it. And in the 1970’s a new revolution was beginning to kick off across nearly every industry. Advances in chemistry and technology began to speed up as their applications broadened. Up to this point, aside from larger furnaces and bigger forges, the same approach was used to produce chain until these new technologies finally began to emerge with the rapid adoption of computer applications and new alternatives to galvanizing steel.

New technologies for a new era in manufacturing.

Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s, technological advancements began to pick up steam, with each small step serving as a major leap in expanding capabilities, production quality and the processes. More than 50 years later, there is no sign of slowing down as improvements and innovation happen almost daily, pushing the envelope of what’s possible.

Powder coating is a versatile industrial coating that is a popular option across numerous industries. This multi-step process uses a combination of positive and negative electric charges, attracting powders to the  exposed metal surface, holding them in place until curing is complete.

Benefits of powder coating include:

  • Protection against elements, corrosion
  • Ability to coat chain in a variety of high visibility colors for safety
  • Powder coating produces virtually no waste or emissions

Automation is the combination of human ingenuity and machines.  It allows people to focus on the tasks humans excel at and machines to do functions that are repetitive and often physically demanding.  We continue to add more machines that reduce the physical demands of our people and increase repeatability.  Adding sensors to measure temperature in our processes, forces in critical areas, and welding currents are some examples of this.  We are also recording this for every link of chain, working toward a new standard in traceability and quality control for the industry.  We won’t stop pushing the limits of improving our processes in an effort to improve quality and chain performance in the field.

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is the production of a solid, three-dimensional object produced from a digital CAD file through a layer-by-layer deposition process where parts are added to create the final object, rather than the traditional manufacturing method of subtracting it from a solid block of material. While this technology has been present in the industry for more than 25 years, advancements in technology have expanded their use across numerous industries, including aerospace, medical, and chain manufacturing as a tool for designing, testing, and production. Additive manufacturing has integrated numerous manufacturing techniques such as powder bed fusion, directed energy deposition, and material extrusion, to develop an extensive range of practical uses.

Advancement has its benefits.

Innovation works best when there is purpose behind the advancement. The adoption of new and emerging technologies and processes is more than just a lot of bells and whistles; the introduction of these better approaches provide a number of impactful benefits, both immediate and long term, including:

  • Lower Production Costs
  • More Consistency
  • Better for the Environment

LCM and Innovation

While we have a long history in the production of chains and accessories, our vision is firmly set on the future. That’s why you’ll find advanced approaches to nearly everything we do from process to products.

Galv360® Laclede Chain offers several finishes for your steel chain, including our revolutionary Galv360® treatment. By diffusing zinc atoms into the steel, it creates a highly corrosion, abrasion and heat resistant product that serves as an excellent base for powder coating. Galv360® is the most eco-friendly coated metal chain available, using less energy than hot dip galvanizing while requiring less material—with no toxic runoff, fumes or air pollution. This green approach has earned Galv360® the EPA’s Most Valuable Pollution Prevention technology (MVP2) award.

Powder Coating- We have invested a decade of research and more than a million dollars to develop our own, advanced powder coating line for increased durability and performance. Our powder coating can be applied in any color over hot dip galvanized, EG, or Galv360Ⓡ-treated chain, for a more advanced level of corrosive protection and higher visibility for a safer working environment.

Custom Development- Using over 200 years of combined industrial experience in chain and the latest 3D printing and CAD technology, we’re always advancing how we help our customers solve their biggest challenges. We can help develop prototypes for testing, as well as design the right custom configuration of fittings and chain before production even begins.

Learn more about our advanced approach to chain.

Innovation sits at the forefront of our process. We’re always using the latest advancements in technology and manufacturing to produce the best chains on the market. Learn how we bring innovation to the factory floor with our specialized manufacturing and finishing capabilities. Contact a dedicated expert at Laclede Chain today.