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CHAPTER XII. BELTS FOR TRANSMITTING POWER.
The traction of belts upon pulleys, like that of locomotive wheels upon railways, being incapable of demonstration except by actual experience, for a long time hindered the introduction of belts as a means of transmitting motion and power except in cases when gearing or shafts could not be employed. Motion is named separately, because with many kinds of machinery that are driven at high speed—such as wood machines—the transmission of rapid movement must be considered as well as power, and in ordinary practice it is only by means of belts that such high speeds may be communicated from one shaft to another.

The first principle to be pointed out in regard to belts, to distinguish them from shafts as a means of transmitting power, is that power is communicated by means of tensile instead of torsional strain, the power during transmission being represented in the difference of tension between the driving and the slack side of belts. In the case of shafts, their length, or the distance to which they may be extended in transmitting power, is limited by torsional resistance; and as belts are not liable to this condition, we may conclude that unless there are other difficulties to be contended with, belts are more suitable than shafts for transmitting power throughout long distances. Belts suffer resistance from the air and from friction in the bearings of supporting pulleys, which are necessary in long horizontal belts; with these exceptions they are capable of moving at a very high rate of speed, and transmitting power without appreciable loss.

Following this proposition into modern engineering examples, we find how practice has gradually conformed to what these properties in belts suggest. Wire and other ropes of small diameter, to avoid air friction, and allowed to droop in low curves to avoid too many supporting pulleys, are now in many cases employed for transmitting power through long distances, as at Schaffhausen, in Germany. This system has been very successfully applied in some cases for distributing power in large manufacturing establishments. Belts, among which are included all flexible bands, do not afford the same facilities for [49]taking off power at different points as shafts, but have advantages in transmitting power to portable machinery, when power is to be taken off at movable points, as in the case of portable travelling cranes, machines, and so on.

An interesting example in the use of belts for communicating power to movable machinery is furnished by the travelling cranes of Mr Ramsbottom, in the shops of the L. & N. W. Railway, at Crewe, England, where powerful travelling cranes receive both the lifting and traversing power by means of a cotton rope not more than three-fourths of an inch in diameter, which moves at a high velocity, the motion being reduced by means of tangent wheels and gearing to attain the force required in lifting heavy loads. Observing the operation of this machinery, a person not familiar with the relations between force and motion will be astonished at the effect produced by the small rope which communicates power to the machinery.

Considered as means for transmitting power, the contrast as to advantages and disadvantages lies especially between belts and gearing instead of between belts and shafts. It is true in extreme cases, such as that cited at Crewe, or in conveying water-power from inaccessible places, through long distances, the comparison lies between belts and shafts; but in ordinary practice, especially for first movers, the problem as to mechanism for conveying power lies between belts and gear wheels. If experience in the use of belts was thorough, as it is in the case of gearing, and if the quality of belts did not form so important a part in the estimates, there would be but little difficulty in determining where belts should be employed and where gearing would be preferable. Belts are continually taking the place of gearing even in cases where, until quite recently, their use has been considered impracticable; one of the largest rolling mills in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, except a single pair of spur wheels as the last movers at each train of rolls, is driven by belts throughout.

Leaving out the matter of a positive relative movement between shafts, which belts as a means of transmitting power cannot insure, there are the following conditions that must be considered in determining whether belts or other means should be employed in transmitting power from one machine to another or between the parts of machines.

1. The distance to which power is to be transmitted.

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2. The speed at which the transmitting machinery must move.

3. The course or direction of transmission, whether in straight lines or at angles.

4. The cost of construction and durability.

5. The loss of power during transmission.

6. Danger, noise, vibration, and jar.

In every case where there can be a question as to whether gearing shafts or belts will be the best means of transmitting power, the several conditions named will furnish a solution if they are properly investigated and understood. Speed, noise, or angles may become determinative conditions, and are such in a large number of cases; first cost and loss of power are generally secondary conditions. Applying these tests to cases where belts, shafts, or wheels may be employed, a learner will soon find himself in possession of knowledge to guide him in his own schemes, and enable him to judge of the correctness of examples that come under his notice.

It is never enough to know that any piece of work is commonly constructed in some particular manner, or that a proposition is generally accepted as being correct; a reason should be sought for. Nothing is learned, in the true sense, until the reasons for it are understood, and it is by no means sufficient to know from observation alone that belts are best for high speeds, that gearing is the best means of forming angles in transmitting power, or that gearing consumes more power, and that belts produce less jar and noise; the principles which lie at the bottom must be reached before it can be assumed that the matter is fairly understood.

(1.) Why have belts been found better than shafts for transmitting power through long distances?—(2.) What are the conditions which limit the speed of belts?—(3.) Why cannot belts be employed to communicate positive movement?—(4.) Would a common belt transmit motion positively, if there were no slip on the pulleys?—(5.) Name some of the circumstances to be considered in comparing belts with gearing or shafts as a means of transmitting power.


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