Material dogmatics versus functional requirements
Functionality without any compromise is key to developing systems and components for data or energy transmission. Only an unbiased analysis focusing on the individual application parameters can deliver convincing results, otherwise you run the risk of not only excluding solutions for an application, but also failing to meet customer requirements.
Kabelschlepp Metool engineering manager Marcus Richards says: "It is the application that determines the proposal for a specific cable carrier, and the material used. Our customers have a choice." Steel, stainless steel and plastic materials provide different advantages. Material properties can also be combined in hybrid carriers, for example combining GRP plastic chain bands with aluminium stays.
The specification of a cable carrier system is predominantly determined by technical parameters, such as dimensional requirements, accessibility of the compartments, the unsupported travel to cover or the additional loads to be managed. It needs considering that in long unsupported travel applications a plastic carrier will need twice the geometry of a steel chain - thus annihilating the cost advantage of plastic materials.
But there are many more determinants to consider in the choice of materials. Extreme operating conditions trigger excessive wear, such as mechanical loads, abrasive or acidic matters, or the extreme temperatures found in steel mills. There are industries with very special requirements like clean rooms, explosion and fire proofing in oil and gas processing, the need for anti-static carriers, or the radiation resistance required for nuclear applications or medical technology. There may be restricted clearance or access, noise reduction requirements or simply extended maintenance cycles. Last but not least there is energy efficiency: reducing friction with plain bearings may allow for smaller drives, motors and frequency modulators.
Kabelschlepp product manager Stefan Engel stresses: "Balancing these parameters is different in each application." He claims it is common that, even for very similar installations, customers choose different options and materials from the Kabelschlepp range. Whilst some engineering companies are quite open to work with plastic carriers, others are dedicated followers of steel or stainless chains. "This endorses of our approach to offer a choice of different materials," concludes Engel.
Regardless of the material, Kabelschlepp continues product development based on state of the art technology. Improved properties delivered by new material compounds are consequently used for new product development. One example is the Easytrax and Quicktrax carrier ranges based on 2K technology. Chain links are of durable, special GRP material allowing long unsupported travel. The cross stays and clips are made from a flexible plastic, allowing quick and easy maintenance and cable access without any tools.
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