A chain drive is a method of transferring mechanical energy in a robotic system from an actuator to a manipulator or end effector. It can also be used in wheel-drive propulsion systems. The system consists of a chain and a set of wheels with sprockets.

The main asset of the chain drive is its simplicity. It can provide additional traction compared with a cable drive, because the chain is not likely to slip on the sprockets. Another asset is the fact that variable speed and power can be obtained by using sprockets of various sizes, in conjunction with a shifting mechanism. On the downside, the chain can come off the sprockets. The chain requires lubrication and maintenance, and can be noisy in operation. A common example of a chain drive is found in any bicycle.

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