The original design of precision roller chain dates back to the late 1890s, although various types of drive chains have been in use for centuries. The early automobiles used roller chains extensively as the final drive. The industrial use for roller chains grew substantially, resulting in the desirability of standardization. The perfected American standard chain of today has evolved to meet the demand for ever-increasing horsepower and higher speeds, as well as accurate timing.
In 1913, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) published formulas for calculating the roller chain length, sprocket tooth profiles, and other important design criteria. Recommendations from the Roller Chain Committee of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) followed in 1917 with dimensional standards for the various components and assemblies. Early in 1920, through the cooperation of these two groups, roller chain standards were formulated and recommended for acceptance by industry. The progress was followed in 1921 by organization of a sprocket committee of the American Gear Manufacturers Association (AGMA).
ASA Sectional Committee B29, Transmission Chain, Sprockets, and Cutters, was organized in 1924 by the American Standards Association with ASME, AGMA, and SAE as sponsors. A subcommittee on roller chains was established to study modern practices of roller chain manufacture and use. Its recommendations on standards were approved by the Sectional Committee in May 1929 and approved by the American Standards Association in July 1930. Theywere published as B29a-1930, Roller Chain, Sprockets, and Cutters. This roller chain standard ensured interchangeability and optional sources of supply.