Equipment & Technology

igus puts automated high-speed system into operation

Motion plastics specialist igus has commissioned a new outdoor automated test facility for long-distance polymer energy chains.

Motion plastics specialist igus has commissioned a new outdoor automated test facility for long-distance polymer energy chains.

One of the biggest challenges facing power plants, mines and cranes is guiding data, energy and media safely over long distances.

High speeds combined with a high fill weight can pose problems for certain energy supply systems, such as motor cable drums, busbars and festoons. An alternative to these is igus’ energy chain systems from Treotham.

Also known as power chain, drag chain or cable chain, energy chain systems supply, guide and protect moving cables for automated equipment. They make use of highly durable plastic, which is light and suffers from significantly less wear compared with metal components near sand or saltwater.

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Energy chain systems can move over distances of more than one kilometre with a fill weight of 50 kilograms per metre. They guide flexible cables smoothly with low-friction in long travels through guide troughs and enclosures.

To guarantee customers the energy supply system will work reliably over long distances, igus has now begun operating a new automated test facility.

New test rig for long distances

Energy chains and cables are tested at the igus outdoor facility in the south of Cologne, Germany, at a speed of up to eight metres per second on a track of 200 metres, which corresponds to a 400-metre-long travel. With additional units, travels up to 1000 metres could be simulated in the future.

The automatic system accounts for a wide range of applications in terms of acceleration and speed. In addition to the mechanical load caused by the movement of the transfer vehicle, environmental influences act unimpeded on the tested energy chains and cables. The test rig is part of the industry’s largest 3800 square metre experimental laboratory.

More than 10 billion test cycles per year are carried out with e-chains and chainflex cables at a total of 180 testing stations. Around 4100 energy chain system tests are performed annually on 180 systems such as the climate chamber or on robots.

The P4 series of roller chain is tested in outdoor facilities and has been used in more than 1000 crane and gantry applications worldwide. These applications have included travels of up to 800 metres, speeds of more than five metres per second and several million cycles with low vibration and traversing noise.

Rollers integrated in the chain link reduce friction to a minimum and increase service life. Due to the offset between upper run and lower run, the plastic rollers are not rolled over, and instead roll past each other to allow smooth running. As a result, the coefficient of friction decreases, and the drive power is reduced by 57 per cent.

Polymers also further increase the service life of the energy chains. For example, in the P41.56 for long distances, lubrication-free and maintenance-free tribo-polymers are integrated in the bearing for pivoting motion, which doubles the service life of the energy chain.

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