The world's longest e-chain® runs for over 10 years

November 29, 2018 Kerri Whelan

A coal-fired power plant in the Czech Republic receives energy through an igus® e-chain®. This plastic cable carrier, which has continuously been in operation for ten years, travels over 2,017 feet. Result: a world record.

At the Tušimice power station, which is operated by the ČEZ Group, lignite (brown coal) is extracted from an opencast mine and transported directly into the station. To prepare for the possibility of interrupted coal production, large back-up quantities of coal are stockpiled onsite. This coal is automatically piled with a stacking machine. Energy is supplied to the machine through an e-chain®.

The record-breaking long carrier is the 5050RDH energy chain—“R” in its name, as it is a roller-based chain. For this application, rollers enable a dramatically low coefficient of friction when the upper run of the chain runs on the lower run. Up to 57 percent of the required drive energy can be saved with the low-friction system.

Before the igus® energy chain was installed at Tušimice, a traditional cable drum was used. The system caused failure and unplanned downtime due to the cables constantly freezing up during winter weather. Since the e-chain® was installed, it has been operating for ten years without fail and only visual inspections needed. Over the years, just ten crossbars have been replaced, which takes seconds.

Two additional systems at the power plant are also equipped with igus® energy chains. One carrier travels 1,312 feet, the other 492 feet. These systems supply energy to a machine that removes coal from the pile and transfers it to the conveyor belt that runs to the power station.

Inside the energy chains are various chainflex® flexible cables from igus®. The cables are designed specifically for use in energy chains. For this application, motor and control cables are used, as well as a fiber optic cable for data transmission. For the sprayer at the end of the stacking machine, which is used to spray heaps of coal when there is accumulated dust, a water hose is routed together with a heating cable. The heating cable prevents water from freezing inside the hose.

One challenge of the power station is that if push/pull forces of the chains become too high, they can switch off the system. This can happen when debris are present. To prevent shutdown, igus® smart plastics were implemented. The modern technology is able to detect the degree of wear in igus® components with sensors and monitoring modules, and an alarm is emitted as soon as repair or replacement is necessary.

The isense EC.B break and EC.P push/pull modules, among the smart plastics range, are integrated in the chain. For abrasion monitoring, the isense EC.W is used to continuously measure wear and provide a reliable indication of the remaining system service life. With innovative smart plastics, planned maintenance without sudden failure has been achieved.

The Tušimice power station has been supervised by igus® from the first system design and detailed planning, to the assembly and even routine maintenance. With reliable service through both the igus® team and durable e-chain® systems, the operators have trusted that their power station will work reliably. Harsh winters and dangerous conditions are no matter, as the world’s longest plastic cable carrier is expected to continue operation and remain a record-breaking solution.

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