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Cable Drag vs. Drag Chain Conveyors

Which drag conveyors are best? Should I go with a tubular chain drag conveyor or a tubular cable drag conveyor?

If these questions are on your mind, we can help. At Spiroflow, we have more than 45 years of experience in the dry bulk material handling industry and we make both types of drag conveyors.

Before we go any further, I want to make a few things clear. This article will only discuss chain drag conveyors that operate within a tube. We consider these heavy-duty chain drag conveyors.

We talk about chain drag conveyors that operate within a structural pipe in a different post. We classify these ultra-heavy-duty chain drag conveyors as those that operate only inside a structural pipe with discs that can be made from a variety of materials including steel and cast iron.

Ok, now that’s out of the way, let’s get into what qualities are shared between chain and cable drag conveyors.

Drag Conveyors: Similarities

Q: What are the similarities between chain and cable drag conveyors?

A: Chain and cable drag conveyors aren’t completely different. They share general features including low energy consumption and are both good with medium volume applications. Both conveyor types are dust-free, enclosed and hygienic. Both can maintain blends and convey fragile products gently. Both conveyors smoothly integrate with other bulk material handling equipment in a process. Keep reading for more shared features, functions, conveyed materials and options. 

Shared General Features

  • Drag conveyors are good with low and medium volume applications (0 to 20 tons per hour).
  • Drag conveyors can run at variable conveying rates.
  • They have low energy consumption.
  • Multiple conveyors can be linked together to cover longer distances.
  • Auto-tensioning is a standard feature for both types of conveyors which maximizes your cable or chain life.

Shared Functional Features

  • Enclosed system
  • Dust-tight
  • Hygienic design and construction
  • Explosion proof versions available
  • Gentle action
  • Multiple inlets and outlets
  • Multiple planes
  • Can elevate
  • Dust filtration not required

Bulk Materials Handled by Both

  • Dry products
  • Maintains blends
  • Fragile products

Options Offered on Both Conveyors

  • Tubes & chain in 316 Stainless Steel
  • Sanitary finish
  • Inlet support base
  • Corner sprockets (90° Idler Housing)
  • Hinged access covers
  • Hinged inlet chute access covers
  • Inlet vibration – electric or pneumatic
  • Tube mounted inlets
  • Tube mounted outlets
  • Tube valve with chute (Pneumatically actuated inline discharge valve)
  • Extended capacity chute with dust hood, splash guard & lid options
  • Manual or pneumatic inlet baffle
  • Rotation sensor (highly recommended)
  • Air purge
  • Level probes – NEMA 4 or 7
  • Mobile base
  • Controls (with or without VFD)
  • XP switch
  • Static grounding
  • 90° sweeps
  • Sweeps at custom angles


Drag Conveyors: Differences

Q: What are the differences between cable and drag chain conveyors?

A: Cable and chain drag conveyors have very similar designs but different sprockets. A cable and disc assembly costs less than chain and disc assembly, meaning that cable drag conveyors have lower upfront capital costs. Additionally, the higher run speed of a cable drag conveyor cuts down on costs by enabling processors to achieve the same conveying capacities with a smaller diameter conveyor. Chain conveyors, on the other hand, may last longer, meaning lower maintenance and replacement parts costs over time. For more differences between chain and cable drag conveyors, keep reading. 

Cable Advantages

  • The cable and disc assembly costs less than the chain and disc assembly which means this medium duty conveyor that will have a lower capital cost.
  • Our cable drag conveyor runs at higher speeds: up to 140 ft/min (43m/min) which is faster than the chain drag conveyor that runs as 100 ft/min (30m/min). Processors can, therefore, achieve the same conveying capacities using a smaller diameter conveyor which can yield a lower capital cost.

Chain Advantages

  • The heavy-duty chain drag conveyor is more robust and will last longer due to the strength of the chain compared to the strength of the cable. This translates to lower maintenance costs and minimal replacement parts purchases. The strength of the chain also makes it a logical choice for processors conveying higher density and/or abrasive materials.
  • The maximum length of a single Chainflow conveyor is 500 ft – 25% longer than our Cablevey cable drag conveyor which has a maximum length of 400 ft. Depending on layout constraints, processors may save money and streamline their layout by utilizing fewer conveyors.
  • The chain and disc assembly in a chain drag conveyor is crevice-free, which makes it ideal for hygienic applications in the food industry. The crevice-free surfaces make the chain & disc assembly easier to clean. It’s also easier to eliminate cross contamination for processors conveying more than one type of material.

Use a Test Lab

Q: Should my dry bulk material conveyor be tested with my specific material before I purchase the conveying equipment?

A:  No matter what route you take, we suggest you work with a specialist manufacturer that can test your material beforehand. We will gladly test your material in a cable and/or a chain drag conveyor because we want to make sure you are getting the best process equipment and the results you need. At Spiroflow, we help processors determine the right conveying method for their applications every day. So if you need some help or advice, contact us!