Equipment & Technology

Plastic: Treotham’s strongest link

Treotham Automation’s energy chains are helping bulk handlers protect critical cables from salt, dust and downtime.

Treotham Automation’s energy chains are helping bulk handlers protect critical cables from salt, dust and downtime.

Most major mobile material handling machinery depend on cables, often using a festoon system to operate.

If these cables are damaged, or the festoon system requires maintenance, it can cost an operation serious money in lost productivity.

John Sharp, Bulk Materials Handing Specialist at Treotham Automation, said mobile machinery could create violent motions between the trolleys on a festoon system, leading to damage over time.

“Cables are also exposed to the elements, which can degrade them,” he said. “Cable reelers can be helpful, but if you need to add an additional cable, for water or data, you will need another reeler, which can get expensive quickly.”

Related stories:

German manufacturer igus has developed a solution to these issues, which Treotham imports for Australian businesses. Its energy chain – also known as a power chain, drag chain or cable chain – supplies, guides and protects moving cables and hoses.

The cable chains use high-durability plastic and, as a result, suffer from significantly less wear when compared with metal components. They can also be run in environments with sand or near corrosive salt water.

Sharp said the plastic used in energy chains has a low coefficient of friction and low-wear, providing additional longevity.

“Most people can’t see the difference between different types of plastics. We make sure to pick the right one for the job,” he said.

“In most bulk handling situations, dust is an issue, which can cause issues for festoons. This can cause the premature demise of a system.

“Energy chains can last 10 to 15 years, virtually maintenance-free, with extremely high duty cycles because of its construction. It’s also significantly cheaper than stainless steel or steel versions.”

Energy chains are moulded on the inside so any cables within don’t experience any wear and can handle high use in harsh environments like ports and wharves.

If a component begins to wear, the design of the energy chains makes it easy to inspect and replace. They are also customisable and made from a catalogue of standard parts that can be tailored to a specific application.

Energy chain can also be used in areas where a significant travel is required. Treotham offers specific solutions for longer travel lengths, as potential challenges can arise when the length of chain goes over 400m at cable loads of 50kg per metre.

Sharp said igus also developed ways to incorporate the chains into the Internet of Things (IoT), using sensors to detect the push and pull forces while the chain is travelling.

“Globally, the technology has been used in more than 1000 facilities across a range of industries, from the mining and ports sector to manufacturing and warehousing,” he said.

“Australia is more conservative when it comes to upgrading certain parts of its infrastructure. There’s often a tendency to stick with what you know, even if it is potentially outdated.

“Engineers who are looking to embrace innovation have seen the benefits of energy chains. A lot of the time once they realise the benefits, they’re rolled out across the whole site.” 

Send this to a friend