Belt Length

First posted on April 27, 2020

I recently needed to calculate the relationship between pulley diameter, center to center spacing and the length of a belt going around those pulleys. The references I looked at all gave an approximation for the case where the difference in diameter between the pulleys is small. So I decided to do the geometry myself. We assume circular pulleys, and that belts lie tangent to pulleys. WLOG assume \(D1 > D2\), where \(D1,D2\) are the diameters of the pulleys, \(CC\) is the center to center spacing.

Belt Arrangement
Belt Arrangement

\[ \beta = sin^{-1} \frac{D_1 - D_2}{2cc} \] \[ S = \sqrt{CC^2 - \left(\frac{D_1 - D_2}{2}\right)^2} \] \[ L = 2S + \pi\frac{D_1}{2} + \pi\frac{D_2}{2} + 2\beta\frac{D_1}{2} - 2\beta\frac{D_2}{2} \]

That is: the total belt length is the sum of two the straight parts, the half circumferences of each pulley, and the two arcs of arclength \(\beta\) on the larger pulley, minus the two arcs of arclength \(\beta\) on the small pulley.

In my particular application I need to know what center to center spacing will let me use a 610mm belt with pulley diameters of 40.74mm and 125.41mm. The small difference (small angle \(\beta\)) approximation gives a center to center spacing of 169.28mm, while the exact form gives 163.27mm. This difference is more than enough to make the exact formulation preferable.