Limited Installation Space? Here's How to Guide Your Cables

October 23, 2020 Marco Thull

Building a big house in the country on a 10,000ftplot is no problem, but it's trickier in a 2,000ft2 gap in a big city. Here, strategic thinking is required to make the best possible use of space. This situation is similar for industrial machines, plants and robots where space at the application site becomes more valuable. At the same time, requirements for dependability are increasing. This presents designers with new challenges when guiding cables and hoses. The answer is compact and modular energy chains and matching cables for highly flexible applications. (Pictured above: Festoon with cable trolley systems)

Crane Systems: Save Up to 85% Installation Space with e-chains® 

Crane systems can be made more compact with igus® energy chains. Until now, many of these load carriers have been working with festoons—cable trolley systems in which the energy and data cables follow the trolley along the crane jib. Similar to a curtain rod, loops are formed that require space. The average installation height of festoons is around 10ft.

Other crane systems work with motorized drums that wind and unwind cables simultaneously with the movement of the trolley. They have, depending on the travel, a diameter of up to 8m. Space is also required for the motor and slip ring body. In both cases, operators can save space. How?

Long travel

Length of travels up to 1,000m with igus energy chains

This is where e-chains® from igus® come into play, which are more compact than festoons or motorized drums. If the chain folds, the upper and lower run reach a height of around 800mm. This saves the operator around 75% installation space compared to an average cable trolley system. In addition, the cable station and 10% of the steel construction is eliminated. Compared to the motorized drum, the space savings is up to 85%.

Aluminium Oxid Stade GmbH (AOS) processes around two million tons of bauxite every year. Before processing, the material is stored in a large heap. (Source: igus GmbH)

In the meantime, e-chains® are used in a correspondingly large number of indoor and outdoor crane systems.

“Less maintenance expenditure, greater availability, the possibility of guiding all different cables and hoses in a single system, electronic Push/Pull Detection System – all these benefits have fully convinced us of the advantages of igus® products”, Fabian Wilhelm, Head of Electrical Power Engineering at Aluminium Oxid Stade GmbH (AOS), said. “I would always use igus® energy chains.

However, e-chains are not only found in huge crane systems. Designers in almost all industries use the space-saving energy supply systems made of light and wear-resistant high-performance polymers – from medical technology to aviation and the food industry.

Pictured left: The energy supply system to the stacker with a travel of 330m (Source: igus® GmbH)

Save 20% Installation Space With Compact Control Cables

How compact an e-chain® can be also depends on the diameter of the cables inside. Therefore, igus® is making efforts to reduce the outer diameter of its cables. The control cables of the chainflex® series achieve this by using a thin TPE insulation. For example, if a customer uses a CF5 cable with PVC jacket, he can save about 20% installation space by switching to the CF98 control cable with TPE outer jacket. And yet the cables are tough. This is demonstrated by long-term tests in the company’s own 41,000fttest lab, which allow for reliable predictions of our cables' service lives. This also explains why igus® offers customers an above-average guarantee of 36 months for all of its cables.

If e-chains® are very compact, the cables inside must allow small bend radii. The challenge is if the bend radius is less than five times the outer diameter of the cable (5xd), a classic cable material like copper reaches its physical limits under long-term stress. In its development work, igus® is therefore focusing not only on reducing the outer diameter of the cables, but also on finding suitable conductor materials and innovative conductor designs. These cables include the chainflex® control cable CF98. Its high-strength special alloy with a softer molecular structure and cores wound in layers with a very short pitch length means that the cable can withstand even small bend radii of 4xd under continuous load.

Tested and Proven in Practice

Among others, the control cable is used by Hamburger Hochbahn AG. The company uses the cables for trap detection in the passenger doors of its tube trains. Each year, the cables have to survive around 50,000 locking operations. In the case of copper-based cables, wear problems occurred after six months of use. The CF98 control cable, on the other hand, mastered 450,000 door cycles during test rig trials without error messages. Hamburger Hochbahn AG is expecting a damage-free service life of at least 20 years.

There is an extremely limited installation space on site at Hamburger Hochbahn. The energy supply system and the control cable for narrow bend radii have no problems with the approximately 50,000 closing operations per year. Their service life is virtually unlimited.

Tech Up, Cost Down: Now More Than Ever

As per our motto, “Tech up, Cost down”, we will support you in finding the most cost-effective solution that meets the requirements of your application.

Interested in learning more about chainflex® flexible cables? Visit our webpage, or reach out to chainflex® Product Manager Don Nester with any questions. 

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