Posted at 31 March 2021

How not to lubricate chain

Paul Skade
By Alex Mills
Product Manager, Gears, Motors & Drives, ERIKS UK & Ireland

I joined ERIKS in 2011 after moving back to the UK following 10 years in the United States. I have an extensive background in modifying and restoring classic cars...

Read full bio

Lubricating roller chain can be time-consuming, costly and – for food and beverage applications in particular – can cause a host of unwanted problems. So why do it? Instead, choose a chain which lets you lose the lubrication.


Chain which needs lubrication needs maintenance – even if that’s only a lubrication regime.  An automatic lubrication system can do the job in place of a maintenance engineer, but the equipment can be costly. Remove the need for lubricant and you not only remove the cost of the engineer or the system. You also remove the cost of the lubricant itself, which for a food grade option can be expensive.

Where a lubricant is present, drip guards are required for protection: representing an additional component cost. And even so, there is the ever-present risk of product contamination.


Renold introduced lubrication-free chains during the 1950s, and have been refining and improving them ever since. Now the latest generation offers a range of options, designed for cost and efficiency in a range of applications.

False economy

All good quality lubricant-free roller chain should be directly interchangeable with the same size standard chain, with no need to invest in new sprockets. Yet some customers still believe changing to a lubrication-free chain is costly or difficult.

In fact, persevering with a roller chain requiring lubrication can prove even more expensive.

One large beverage company found the ‘premium’ roller chain they used required replacing every three months, at a high cost in terms of chain, downtime, and lost production. Investigation revealed the cause was simple. In an attempt to reduce the risk of lubricant contamination of product and packaging on the line, maintenance engineers had lubricated inadequately.

By replacing the chain with a Renold Syno chain, the customer realised immediate benefits.

Lubrication was eliminated, as the sintered bushing contains food industry approved lubricant, and the roller has a food industry approved coating. The chain was continually operated at optimum lubrication. And the replacement chain lasted five times longer than the original ‘premium’ chain. The result was an annualised saving to the customer of over £30,000.

One, two, lubrication-free

The Renold Syno range comprises three different lubrication-free solutions. These have been designed specifically for particular applications, from food manufacture to car assembly plants, and from steel mills and textiles to electronics, saw mills, paper manufacture and more.

Syno NP is Renold’s innovative version of the most common type of lubrication-free chain. Made from carbon alloy steel with an oil impregnated sintered bush, this type of chain releases lubricant from the bush onto the bearing surfaces during operation, but the lubricant always remains inside the chain.

Where Syno NP improves on basic lubrication-free chain is in its custom nickel plating process. As well as providing excellent anti-corrosion properties, this incorporates a food grade lubricant within the sintered bush. In addition, an innovative food industry approved treatment process is applied to its roller surfaces, for greater performance and durability. 

Dimensionally interchangeable with standard chain, Syno NP is designed with ISO standard pin diameters, and can be supplied with standard attachments on the outer links.

Renold Syno NP usually needs little or no maintenance during normal service life.

Syno PC and Syno PB are Renold’s lubrication- and lubricant-free chains.


Syno PC is made from poly-steel, with polymer inner links and high grade stainless steel pins and outer plates. With metal completely eliminated from the bush and roller components, absolutely no lubrication is required. This allows a wider range of lower power applications to benefit from a lubrication-free chain solution. It can even be run under water!

Lightweight and corrosion resistant, Syno PC accepts all standard attachments on its outer plates.

Designed for heavier duty applications, Syno PB is a polymer bush chain, providing greater wear and fatigue resistance. There is no metal-on-metal contact in the critical area between the pin and bush. Instead, Renold’s polymer sleeve – constructed from a specially developed material – protects the interface of the two surfaces. A corrosion resistant surface treatment is also available.

So now you know how not to lubricate roller chain. Simply choose Renold roller chain that doesn’t need lubricating.

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