140 years since Renold was founded!

1879 our company was founded

1880 we patented the bush roller chain

140 years on and we’re still innovating!

It was in 1879 when Hans Renold acquired the James Slater Company in Salford, near Manchester, a small manufacturer producing simple textile chain—and the Hans Renold Company was founded. Little did he know what was about to unfold as his new company was set to become one of the largest and most innovative chain manufacturers in history.

In 1880 the new Hans Renold Company patented the bush-roller chain, a precision steel chain for transmitting mechanical power that was designed to last significantly longer than the textile chains that were all that were available at the time. So began our long and proud history of chain innovation and manufacturing that continues to this day. 140 years later we’re still the leading chain manufacturer and we’re still innovating!

The original design of the bush-roller chain was so successful that it remains the same basic design of transmission chain to this day. It is essentially comprised of a series of journal bearings, held in precise positional relationship to each other by constraining link plates.

Each bearing consists of a bearing pin and bush on which the steel roller revolves as the chain moves around steel sprockets during operation. This was a highly advanced design for chain at the time with impressive wear resistance and load bearing capabilities.

Just two years before the Hans Renold Company was founded, John Kemp Starley, another great innovator, had just formed a company with William Sutton, in Coventry, to design and manufacture bicycles that would be safer and easier to ride than the Penny Farthing. The Starley & Sutton Company initially began manufacturing tricycles that by 1883 were being sold under the Rover brand.

In 1885 Starley launched the Rover Safety Bicycle that was designed with two wheels of a similar size on a diamond-shaped frame and a seat that was low enough for the rider's feet to touch the ground. The bicycle was driven with pedals, connected by gears and chain to the wheel at the back. This was to keep the pedals, and the rider's feet away from the front wheel for safety reasons, for a better ride and for ease of use.

Renold's bush-roller chain was the perfect solution for the Rover Safety Bicycle as the simple textile pin chain—previously all that was available—would have worn out too quickly on the bicycle's gears and sprockets. As a result the Rover Safety Bicycle was a huge success and it remains the basic design of bicycles to this day.

After inventing the bush-roller chain the Hans Renold Company grew rapidly, changed its name to Hans Renold Limited and moved to new premises, but the philosophy of quality, precision engineering and innovation continued. In 1885 Renold applied for a patent for block chain but then gave the idea to cycle manufacturers to be used freely, an act that won great respect and many friends in the industry.

Throughout our history we have maintained innovation and quality at the core of our values and continue to do so to this day. Many early innovations involved improving methods of manufacturing such as in 1888 when we began riveting the bearing pins on assembled chain. Some of our early innovations were groundbreaking in manufacturing techniques and required the design and manufacture of our own specialist machinery.

Of the many examples two of note occurred in 1889 when we designed and manufactured a plate-hole punching machine and a machine for the Dry Tumbling (Jingling) of chain components. Further product enhancements were made through improved materials technology, such as in 1893 when we began using hardened components.

We went on to develop more machinery and processes to improve manufacturing techniques and pioneered many new ideas such as in 1906 when we developed a machine for the centreless grinding of bearing pins. This was long before centreless grinders became the factor in machine shop practice that they are today.

We are famous for a long list of innovations and continuous product improvements that increased in pace as chain found more applications on a wider range of new industrial machinery, and demand increased from the bicycle, automotive and motorcycle industries.

Many of of our original products are still part of our range today, but with continuous improvements, and the changing requirements of our customers over many decades, these products have evolved into modern super chains when compared to their early counterparts.

For example, Renold Synergy is an advanced, high performance variant of the original bush-roller chain that offers incredible fatigue and wear resistance on the most demanding modern applications.

Its performance remains unrivaled. Independent tests show that Synergy's wear resistance is up to six times better than the highest quality competitor's chain and its fatigue resistance is, on average, 30 percent better under repeated shock loading and continuous heavy loads.

Proper lubrication has always been the most important factor in achieving long chain life. Standard steel transmission chain should last 15,000 hours when lubricated correctly, but poorly lubricated chain is certain to suffer from premature wear and early failure.

It was Renold's ambition from the outset to produce a lubrication-free chain and experiments with this idea began in the very earliest days of innovation. In the 1950s our design team succeeded and was able to produce a lubrication-free chain for some industrial applications on a customer-specific basis using sintered bush technology.

The way this works is so clever that it's almost like having a chain that thinks for itself. A crude analogy of the sintered bush is to liken it to a metal sponge, full of little holes, that are impregnated with lubricant.  During operation the lubricant is released onto the bearing surfaces and the faster the chain runs, generally, the more the lubricant is released.

When the chain is not operating it returns to the sintered bush, a bit like water being soaked up by a sponge. Not only is it as if the chain is lubricating itself but the lubricant is contained within the chain on the bearing surfaces avoiding the possibility of it dripping onto manufactured product.

Over the years this technology has been improved upon, taking advantage of new materials, lubricant technology, and enhanced manufacturing techniques. A boxed, off-the-shelf version of the product was launched in the 1960s and today, the most advanced lubrication-free chain ever, Renold Syno, is available for a wide range of applications where lubrication is not possible, undesirable, or not practical.

There are even three options in the Syno range that extend the types of applications on which customers can benefit from this technology. Previously, only certain applications and operating conditions were suitable for lubrication-free chain, but now most applications can benefit.

A nickel plated version of Syno, Syno NP, is for hygiene-sensitive applications, such as in the food industry, Syno PC is a poly-steel chain for wet conditions, suitable even for applications where the chain is operating under water, and Syno PB, is designed with a polymer sleeve between the pin and the bush for heavy-duty applications.

So successful was Hans Renold's bush-roller chain that he became known not only as the father of the modern chain industry but also one of the fathers of the bicycle industry. In fact, after his death in 1943, Professor Dempster Smyth wrote a eulogy in the Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, stating: 'Few realise how extensive is the influence of Renold's inventiveness on both civil and industrial life throughout the world.'

Underlining his opinion is the little known fact that the Starley & Sutton Company, that invented the Rover Safety Bicycle, went on to become the Rover Cycle Company. Shortly after Starley's death in 1901 the Rover company began manufacturing motorcycles and later cars. Without Renold's bush-roller chain the history of modern day bicycles, motorcycles, and Rover Cars could have been very different.

Our 140th year anniversary promises to be an exciting one for customers according to our UK Chain Centre manager, Alec Annand. There are plans this year to launch more new products and innovations that will further benefit our customers across a variety of industries.

The Renold Chain Centre is the largest in the UK and offers the widest range of attachments for both conveyor and transmission chain, custom chain design, such as specialist surface treatments, and a 24 hour service for urgent requirements. The five engineers that form the management team, with Alec, at the Chain Centre have amassed over 200 years of experience between them—over 60 more than Renold's anniversary!