Animating a Chain Link in Blender

How to set up a chain link animation in Blender (for use with a bike or motorbike) and although this is fairly straight forward, it does require a basic understanding of how to use blender. – If you have any questions please do leave a comment.

MESH and PATH SET UP:

  1. First model or download a chain link mesh (you will only need one link). It should be placed at the centre of the world origin.
  2. Press Shift+A and add a bezier circle (for the chain link mesh to follow).
  3. In edit mode edit the bezier circle into the desired shape (usually an oval of some sort).
  4. Add a curve modifier to the chain link mesh and in the modifier select the bezier circle as the curve object.
    1. NOTE: You may need to change the ‘Deform Axis’ in the Curve modifier to align the mesh to it correctly.
    2. NOTE: Or rotate the actual mesh in edit mode – so it faces in the direction you want.
    3. IMAGE BELOW: Chain link following the bezier circle.

Chain Link and Path

ARRAY MODIFIER:

  1. Add an array modifier and add the required number of chain links to create a chain and that’s now done :)
    1. NOTE: You will need to increase or decrease the count number for the links to all fit.
    2. NOTE: Also you will need to adjust the Relative offset to line up the chain links correctly.
    3. NOTE: The image below is 26 and 0.7
    4. NOTE: Make sure the curve modifier is at the bottom of the modifier stack.

Array and Curve Modifiers

chain link with array modifier

  1. Move the bezier circle path forward or backwards and the chain will animate moving forwards or backwards.
  2. Or if you move the chain link mesh it will rotate around the chain path whilst staying in the same place.

Additional Animation:

  1. Add an empty (Plain Axes type is good, but can any be used).
  2. Parent the chain link (as an object) mesh to the Plain Axes empty (make sure the empty is the active one – it should be highlighted in yellow).
  3. Moving the empty backwards or forwards (moving on the X-axis in this example) will now animate the chain around the bezier circle path.

Parenting mesh to empty

  1. Add a bone or empty. (Adding a bone is better if creating animation for a video game or exporting to another program).
  2. Move it in front of or behind the chain link mesh.
  3. Select the empty (plain axes) and in the Transform Tab > Location X-Axis  > Right-click and Add Driver.’

  1. Set up the driver so that when the bone (or empty) spins on its axis (in this case the y axis) it drives the x-axis location of the empty. – Which is turn moves the chain link. Driver settings are in the image below.

COMPLETED ANIMATION:

  1. Now the chain link mesh is linked to a bone (or empty) that will act as a wheel that drives the chain and you can also parent a model of a wheel, cog or circle to the bone so it turns in sync with the chain.
    1. NOTE: If your chain goes in the opposite direction of your bone then select the bezier circle and in edit mode > select segments (top leff hand of screen) and switch direction.

Final Chain Animation as described above

Close Up Chain Animation used in Motorbike

Motorbike Turn Turntable Animation