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The missing link: Lighter link chains for the cargo industry

Dyneema® Max Technology: Optimum lifetime endurance at lowest weight for highest productivity and safety

Metal-based link chains are used worldwide to secure heavy cargo during sea, road, river, rail and air transport. Dyneema Max Technology – a recent breakthrough born from DSM’s cross-competence scientific know-how – enables the design of synthetic link chains that are equally strong, but up to eight times lighter. The result: They are significantly less physically demanding to work with (saving energy and time) and safer for cargo workers – as well as being more durable than steel.
Tycan® chains made with Dyneema®

A word about Dyneema fiber

Dyneema fibers are made from DSM’s ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene (UHMWPE), the world’s strongest fiber on a weight-for-weight basis. Which is why it has become a flagship product with many applications - not least in the transport and offshore sectors, where Dyneema fiber has been used to create industrial synthetic ropes that are up to ten times stronger per unit weight than steel wire ropes.

Maximum lifetime endurance in cargo chains

For many applications – like heavy lashing, tie down and heavy lifting – steel link chains have clear advantages over industrial ropes and slings, which both can be become stiff and difficult to shorten.

Docker carrying synthetic link chain

Over the course of their lifetime these link chains take some punishment and are exposed to violent forces and impacts such as torsion, stretch, bending over sharp edges, shock load, abrasion and corrosion.

Dyneema fibers can deal with these violent forces - particularly the DM20 fiber grade - available through the Dyneema Max Technology platform. Originally developed for the long-term mooring of oil rigs, this fiber has some outstanding new properties, we discovered – notably its ability to resist bending, tension, abrasion and torsion. In fact, properties of DM20 grade enable the synthetic chain to match or to beat the lifetime endurance of steel link chains.

Competences converge

Smart use of DSM’s different scientific competences and cohesive project management within our organization was key in developing this solution.

The first step was to create a novel new molecule with not only creep-inhibiting properties, but extended mechanical lifetime performance via specific molecular-side chains (or via specific polymer design); next they needed to be synthesized on a large scale to develop the optimal conditions for being spun into fibers.

This in turn required backward and forward integration along the production chain - literally, making use of our competences including Materials Sciences, Chemical Sciences, Macromolecular Sciences, Engineering Sciences and Analytical Sciences.

Docker handling synthetic link chain

Making the perfect chain

Today, Dyneema Max Technology is benefitting several customers in synthetic ropes as well as a our notable partner in synthetic chains, Load Solutions from Norway. They are using DM20 fiber grade to manufacture lightweight TYCAN® industrial synthetic link chains that deliver economic, environmental and safety advantages over metal ones.

In fact, their slogan Linking Productivity to Safety™ perfectly summarizes the huge advantages of TYCAN chains with Dyneema - in terms of less port stay time, faster and safer handling, less labor time, fewer injuries, reduced damages to freight and equipment, as well as less energy consumed.

Lighter, greener, safer

The TYCAN chain is up to eight times lighter than regular steel link chains with the same strength – all while demonstrating longest life time endurance under heavy, permanent loads. Being so much lighter, the chains are much less physically demanding and dangerous to work with than steel versions, with better ergonomics - from less back strain to fewer hand lacerations. And compared to the deafening sound of steel they are virtually silent – with sound levels up to 50 times lower – which apart from saving the ears of cargo workers also improves safe communication among crew.

Dyneema® fiber

A truly flexible solution

Another key benefit of chains made with Dyneema Max Technology is that they can be moved into and out of position much faster, which is crucial when every extra minute spent loading and unloading ships in harbour costs money.

Their chemical resistance is very high, which prevents rust – and of course, unlike steel, they don’t conduct electricity. Meanwhile thanks to very good mechanical stability, the synthetic chains deliver excellent endurance against both static and dynamic forces – including rough weather and salt water. They can, for example, be wrapped over sharp edges without suffering damage – or indeed damaging cargo or equipment. The chains can also withstand the sudden and inevitable “shocks” that happen when sailing in very stormy weather. And because the chains are lighter than water, they don’t sink – which makes recovery no problem if they fall into the sea.

For a cargo industry under pressure to keep its workers safe and use sustainable materials that deliver the highest performance in the toughest of conditions, synthetic link chains made with Dyneema Max Technology really are providing the missing link for the transportation industry.