Cables on oil platforms or in steel works often can be found hanging loose without any kind of guidance or protection, posing a significant safety risk. Cables are subjected to continuous flexing movement as they are moved back and forth. Cable carriers prevent them from bending too tightly, tangling or incurring damage from debris. They also separate and guide them through smooth linear motion.
The faster and more frequent the movement, the more important exact positioning of the cables becomes. But previously only steel cable carriers could be used to guide and protect cables in extremely demanding environments.
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Igus says the maintenance-free design of its new Energy Chain E4.350 plastic cable carrier, which will be available in 2009, addresses many of the inherent shortfalls that come with steel. "No other plastic cable carrier has ever been manufactured to this size before," says Joe Ciringione, national e-chain sales manager at Igus. "Until now, only metal cable carriers existed in this size and could withstand such high loads.
Additionally, steel cable carriers of this size are usually custom-made, whereas the Igus E4.350 will ultimately be available directly from stock."
As a general rule, polymer cable carriers are less expensive than similar-sized metal carriers. Because plastic weighs less than steel, this also reduces the power necessary to move the carrier and eliminates the need for complex support systems, explains Ciringione. "Plastic is also corrosion-free, quieter than metal and non-conductive," he says. "It also requires no lubrication because of our tribologically optimized material compounds. Plastic cable carriers also snap together and do not use the metal fasteners of their steel counterparts, which can shake loose and get jammed inside the carrier."
Igus' largest-ever plastic cable carrier's design and modular components are geared toward rapid assembly times for the customer and will be available in completely pre-harnessed systems, if required, to further save time. "The company's focus is to develop cable carriers in line with advancing automation technology capable of achieving higher loads, faster speeds and longer distances," says Ciringione. "The E4.350 can take loads in the region of 70 lb/ft. Generally speaking, Igus cable carriers are able to travel distances over 1,400 ft. and reach speeds faster than 1,000 ft./min., depending on the fill weight and rate of acceleration involved."
The plastic cable carriers were created to move nearly 50 ft. up and down, which helps to protect and guide heavy hydraulic cables when a drilling rig is skidded on to an oil platform or during the drilling head's stroke, for example. The giant cable carrier has an internal height of approximately 14 in. and a variable inner width of 8 in. to more than 3 ft. Large cables and hoses with diameters up to around 12 in. can be guided by the plastic chain.
The company says E4.350 is designed to ensure extremely high torsional rigidity and stability. Interlocking links and the large bolted joint between them were used to make the movement smooth. It also is designed to increase lateral stability significantly and prevent the cable carrier from coming apart. Integrated sliding surfaces, larger wear surfaces and extra-strong stop-dogs are included to lengthen the service life. Center links increase stability further and make it possible to extend the width of the cable carrier almost without limitation.
Triboplastics are the basis of all Igus products and systems. "Tribological interactions occur whenever one material slides over another," explains Ciringione. "This wear can result in loss of material from one or both of the interfacing surfaces. Wear is typically minimized by using a layer of lubricant to reduce surface contact. In contrast, Igus plastics inherently contain solid lubricant as microscopic particles released in tiny amounts during movement. All Igus products are, as a result, completely lubrication-free, greatly reducing the need for maintenance. We're continually developing new polymer blends for every application scenario, all of which are developed for longer life at lower cost. More recent tribological developments mean that we now also offer special materials optimized for use in electrostatic discharge (ESD) and high-temperature environments."