What is a Drive Pulley?

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  • Written By: Alexis W.
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2019
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A drive pulley is a pulley that drives or moves a conveyor belt. A good example of a drive pulley is the belt and drive pulley that turns the rotating brushes in an upright vacuum cleaner. In vacuum cleaners, the drive pulley is made up of a drum comprised of a wheel and axle. Pulleys can have belts, chains, cables, or ropes that run over a wheel, which sometimes has a groove to accommodate them.

A pulley is one of the six simple machines, along with an inclined plane, lever, wheel and axle, wedge and screw. Mechanically speaking, a pulley will change the direction of applied force and will transmit this rolling motion to something else. A pulley system can also multiply force.

A drive pulley, in particular, is a powered wheel and axle that moves a conveyor belt. Also called belt conveyors, a conveyor belt is a loop of material that runs between two or more pulleys: drive pulleys and idlers. The purpose of conveyor belts is to move objects along the belt to another location.


In the conveyor belt system, a drive pulley has power applied to it and an idler is a pulley that has no power. The drive pulleys will cause the belt to move toward them, while the idler pulley simply turns over and allows the belt to move. The power can be derived from a motor or can be provided by hand. The larger the materials or goods that are moved by the conveyor built the pulley is powering, the stronger the motor or other power source will need to be that drives the drive pulley.

There are two kinds of conveyor belts that use drive pulleys. These include belts that handle material, like moving products or boxes along in a factory, and those that handle bulk material, like coal or grain. Material conveyor belts are usually found inside, like in a grocery store to move along the items for purchase at checkout. Bulk material belt conveyors are usually found outside.

The belts operated by drive pulleys typically have two or more layers and are usually made of rubber. The inside layer is the strong layer, called the carcass, that is next to the pulley, and the outer layer is called the cover. For strength, the carcass is usually made of cotton or plastic mesh and the cover is rubber or plastic.


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