From cleanroom environments to applications with elevated temperatures, cables have to meet demanding performance requirements. Here we look at some of the innovations and solutions for cable management in these more challenging application areas.
Cleanroom environments represent particular challenges to automation systems, given the demands to eliminate the generation of particles which could contaminate the products and systems being worked on. This is a particular challenge when it comes to cable management, since cables rubbing against each other could create just such particles.
With the e-skin flat and the e-skin soft, Igus offers two new space-saving energy chain systems for use in these cleanroom applications. Developed for tight installation spaces on short, self-supporting travels, e-skin soft is made of a softer material than the standard e-skin. As the name suggests, e-skin flat is for very flat installation spaces. In noise tests, the e-skin soft had a value of 32.4dBA and the
e-skin flat 29dBA – which Igus claims are both quieter than alternative cleanroom cable management systems available on the market.
The new e-skin soft is based entirely on the modular principle of the proven e-skin. The upper and lower shells of the energy chain can be easily zipped together to make a fully enclosed tube, which is both dustproof and water-resistant. The e-skin flat comes as standard with three chambers, which are extruded from high-performance plastic. These connect together to expand the system to guide more cables or, to reduce the number, simply cut one chamber off – this system allows any number of cables to be guided together. The innovative design is flat, allowing a tight bending radius. In contrast to alternative cable management systems, the cables in the e-skin flat are not shrink-wrapped but are inserted into the chambers – each of which can be opened and closed for quick cable installation or replacement, thanks to its zipper system.
Another increasingly demanding application area is in motor control tasks, where the trend for variable frequency drives (VFDs) is moving towards more compact drives with the same or a higher performance level than their predecessors. The more compact design of the motors can result in higher temperatures within the system, compared to larger ranges of the same motors. The result is that the cable heats up via the connector contacts.
“Although there are no consequences for the motor and the connected components in the short term, serious problems might occur in the long term,” explains Justin Leonard, e-chain director at Igus. “If the insulation material for the cable does not withstand the elevated temperatures in the long term, short circuits can occur inside the cable and in the vicinity of the connectors, which in the worst case can lead to fires. Therefore, the insulation material plays a central role in the selection of the correct servo and motor cables.”
Smaller, plastic-insulated round power connectors such as the M16 or M18 are being used more and more for the new motor designs to be able to exploit their full potential. As a result, when selecting the cable, the engineer not only has to pay attention to the right combination of number of cores and cross-sections, but also to the electrical and thermal specifications. That is why Igus has developed a material that meets these new challenges for its latest generation of motor and servo cables. In tests, it was able to withstand a bend radius of 7.2 x d over 45 million strokes.
Igus says this makes it the only supplier in the global market to offer long-term tested ranges of VFD and servo cables for continuous use in energy chains, which meet the specific thermal and electrical requirements of the latest generation of motors. As with all chainflex cables, the new VFD and servo cables come with a 36-month guarantee.