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Automation Technologies 2/2015

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Automation Technologies 2/2015


COMPONENTS AND SOFTWARE Polymer energy chains: more efficient than ever The demands on modern energy supply systems are high and extremely varied. Many industries require special materials for their production processes at once such as conductive materials for electronics. A German company developed two plastic energy chain families that reliably supply energy, data and other media to virtually all moving machinery and equipment due to their modular design. When Sebastian Burkart, 44, enters the workshop, it often becomes unusually quiet. Although the machines are in place, they do not move. What you are missing is power: No energy – no production. “Energy supply systems are often only considered at the end as an afterthought. Then it may well happen that the space required for the energy chains is not available,” explains Burkart. The industrial engineer works in technical sales at igus GmbH, a provider of plastic energy supply systems. Burkart supports machine and plant manufacturers in selecting the right energy supply system. In addition to equipping new machines he is also called on when equipment has to be modified or an alternative to a previous system is planned. Modularity is the key The first question is what energy chain is the right one. Two families of energy chains from igus – the E2/000 and E4.1 – are used to meet the needs of machine builders in 80 % of cases. At igus they are known as the “all-rounders” because they can meet the majority of applications. Over 30 years of research and development have gone into the two e-chains, which have now grown into two large families, whose series are used in all industrial sectors. The name of each energy chain derives from its structure. The E2/000 consists of two parts per chain link. It is inexpensive and is used in medium duty applications with inner heights from 21 to 45 mm. The E4.1 is in four parts per link and was conceived for demanding and high loads. Both can be assembled as energy chains or can be supplied as semi- or fully enclosed energy tubes. The diverse use of these two e-chains is demonstrated by entries of the vector-award. With this competition, the company presents a challenge to designers every two years to submit novel and demanding applications for energy chains. The competition entries cover a variety of applications ranging from cranes and hydraulic presses, from light machinery up to transportation solutions. Many industries require special materials for their production and processes – abrasion-resistant energy chains for clean rooms, conductive materials in electronics or enclosed plastic AUTOMATION TECHNOLOGIES 2/2015

COMPONENTS AND SOFTWARE next page tubes to withstand constant wood or metal dust in the machine tool industry. One reason for the universal use of the E2/000 and E4.1 e-chains are their modular structure. Different designs, size options and interior separations enable a huge variety of combinations. The available filling space can be varied with different crossbar sizes. The tribo-optimised plastic crossbars are designed to ensure very low abrasion whilst still being strong and robust. Compared to aluminium, they do not deform permanently. To ensure that cables and hoses are not twisted together or forced to abrade against each other, shelves and separators can be used to give horizontal and vertical divisions. Care was also given to the geometry of the individual parts – the inner contour of the chain links is smooth and the crossbars are slightly rounded. In addition, the materials of the chains work well with the jacket materials of the chainflex cables. The chainflex cable range has been specifically designed for constantly moving applications and for a long service life of energy chains. Now it has 1,040 cables in stock. High-performance plastics together with the careful geometric design of the individual parts ensure a long life in e-chains. The service life of each can even be predicted online. This is unique and made possible only because igus has been testing its e-chains and chainflex cables for about 20 years in its in-house laboratory. About two billion test cycles are performed annually in about 50 test facilities. The results are incorporated into a database from which the product’s service life can be calculated precisely. This feature is accessible to anyone via the online calculator. About Company name: Igus GmbH Headquarters: Cologne, Germany Turnover: € 427 million Employees: 2,400 worldwide Products: plastics for longer life - e-chains, plain bearings, linear bearings, piston rings, low-cost automation The all-rounders are versatile for different orientations. The energy chains can be used horizontally, vertically and side-mounted. When moving both vertically and horizontally, the cables must be routed safely so that they are not crushed. In order to withstand the high impact of a side mounted application, a lateral wear pad is integrated into the links. The e-chains run quietly due to the special contour of the links. For this reason they are often used in Any orientation: horizontal, vertical and side-mounted In order to obtain an interior that is particularly sympathetic to cables, the space can easily be divided with six different types of separators and horizontal shelves. Among them there are locking separators, space-saving narrow separators for many small cables and notched separators that can be accurately positioned in five-millimetre increments and offer a firm grip even for side-mounted energy chains. The E4.1 range is regarded today as the standard for energy chains and e-tubes at igus. 01 Due to its extensive modular system the E4.1 can be combined in many of different ways AUTOMATION TECHNOLOGIES 2/2015


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