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An innovative approach to corrugated tubing

An innovative approach to corrugated tubing

In medical research and production, contamination control and air purity are essential. Cleanrooms control the level of environmental pollutants present, but at the same time, cleanrooms are embracing automation by installing more and more complex robotics and handling systems. So how do these systems effectively operate without risk of contamination?

Classification of cleanrooms is according to the permitted number and size of the particles per volume of air. There are two accepted cleanroom specifications, ISO 14644-1 and Federal Standard 209E, however in Europe ISO 14644-1 is more commonly used. To give perspective, the everyday air we breathe contains about 35,000,000 particles per cubic metre, 0.5µm and larger in diameter, corresponding to an ISO 9 cleanroom, while an ISO 1 cleanroom allows no particles in that size range and only 12 particles per cubic metre of 0.3μm and smaller.

People, processes, facilities and equipment can generate contaminants. In automated handling equipment, such as pick and place machines, the energy supply and management system can be serious particulate generators and a major design challenge. Traditionally, corrugated tubes fully enclose the energy supply system, which can include sensitive bus, data and fibre-optic cables, as well as air and fluids. 

For over 20 years, Igus has been one of the forerunners in energy supply systems in cleanrooms and offers a broad range tried and tested solutions. The tests, which began in the Dryden Engineer-ing Company, con-tinue at the Igus test facility in Cologne, Germany and the Fraun-houfer IPA institute with an extensive test and certifica-tion programme. One of the most recent developments is e-skin – a lightweight, versatile alternative to corrugated tubes. The easy-to-open hose is suitable for a variety of delicate ISO Class 1 applications, where demands on the energy supply systems are not particularly high. It comprises an upper and lower shell, which when fitted together is a completely closed system. 

Unlike conventional corrugated tube, e-skin has a defined movement direction and can therefore be used as a horizontal energy supply for short unsupported lengths. In addition, the modular tube offers more space than round corrugated tubes, thanks to its oval design. Interior separation modules offer cable-friendly cable guiding. The simple and reusable opening mechanism allows for trouble-free maintenance and inspection of the cables. And e-skin can also be tailored to an individual application, with a variety of materials and colours.

Automating cleanroom processes helps increase production, reduce cycle times and decrease manufacturer’s costs. There is value in fully understanding how to deploy these system and related technologies in cleanroom environments to ensure a successful and clean process. 

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