Equipment & Technology

Treotham’s energy chain keeps cables moving

Component supplier, Treotham Automation, is helping bulk handling machines protect and carry vital cables with its igus energy chain technology.

Component supplier, Treotham Automation, is helping bulk handling machines protect and carry vital cables with its igus energy chain technology.

Cables help power and control the heavy machinery responsible for handling bulk materials. If they are damaged, it can cause serious headaches for everyone involved.

Traditionally, reelers and festoons are used to carry several cables to these large pieces of equipment. However, John Sharp, Bulk Materials Handing Specialist at Treotham Automation says these systems often have limitations with reliability or speed and cause damage to the cables over time.

“For festoon systems, when the machine moves it can create violent motions between the trolleys these collisions lead to failure and damage. Cables are also exposed to the elements, which can degrade them over time,” he says.

“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.”

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To simplify cable management, Treotham provides a solution called an Energy Chain. Also known as a power chain, drag chain or cable chain, Energy Chains supply, guide and protect moving cables and hoses for heavy machinery.

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

Sharp explains it is possible to run a maintenance free system for 10 to 15 years with extremely high duty cycles because of its construction, which he adds is also significantly cheaper than stainless steel or steel versions.

“The engineered plastic offers a lower cost solution with a significantly higher lifespan. Energy chains are moulded on the inside so that any cables within don’t suffer any wear and can handle high-use in harsh environments like ports and wharves,” he says.

“If a component begins to wear, it’s easy to inspect and replace. It’s also customisable and made from a catalogue of standard parts, that can be tailored to a specific application.

“They’ve been used on container cranes, on stacker/reclaimers and all sorts of other heavy machinery.”

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

Treotham’s system engineers can tailor the chain to a company’s specific operation, providing travel lengths of up to 800 metres long and high additional loads of up to 30 kilograms per metre. A new design of Energy Chain is used in these scenarios, suitable for the mining, warehousing, and crane industries.

Treotham has installed Energy Chains at the Port of Esperance for a ship loader handling iron ore. Sharp says the company’s cable festoon option was only providing power, but with the installation of an Energy Chain system it could also provide water for the dust suppression system and fibreoptic cable for cameras, data and control.

“Bluescope Steel has also used the technology to upgrade its ship unloading operations. Previously the machine’s power came from a trolley crane with a busbar, which was limited in speed and required a lot of maintenance,” Sharp says.

“After the upgrade, the crane had the connectivity for autonomous use and vision systems, allowing the grab to unload the ship. This also mean the company no longer required an operator, letting them use the employee in a higher value task.”

The company will be attending the Australian Bulk Handling Expo, which will take place at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre from 8 – 10 September 2021. There, the company will be exhibiting its offering with samples of the product on display.

Sharp says speaking to the industry is important, as it helps Treotham explain how its energy chains can be used.

“One of the biggest problems we have faced historically was people asking for a steel chain – they don’t fully trust plastic,” he says.

“BULK2021 offers us the opportunity not only to meet with decision makers from the east and west coasts of Australia, but also lets us show examples of how well our system works.

“Massive port operators like Dubai Ports use an igus chain system. We can show people who doubt our claims the product in action, which tends to change a lot of minds.”

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