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The choice makes the difference

The choice makes the difference
In automation, materials of machine components and their respective properties have a crucial role. With applications as versatile as operation conditions, manufacturers of cable conveyor systems need to review their product offering and decide whether to specialise or diversify.

For cable conveyors used in machines and automation, the choice of product and material is determined by the operation conditions of the application. There is no universal solution as such - as materials have functional limits indeed. It seems the pros and cons of available are subject to ongoing and almost dogmatic discussions. Whilst the primary objective for any customer is the best possible solution for their application, supplier proposals will be a subjective choice, substantiated by technical details, material properties and commercial aspects. 

Some 50 years ago, there was little choice. Gradually, material properties were subject to substantial improvements and in recent years and plastic cable conveyors became a suitable alternative to steel. In many cases this resulted in faster, lighter or more economical systems. 

However, plenty of applications remain beyond reach for plastics. First, there are commercial reasons: some materials are simply not feasible for volume manufacturing in machine production. Second, there is the chemical composition of plastics. Applications with high mechanical loads, long travel, high weight, high temperatures, or radiation are the limits even for high tech plastics. Steel would certainly be the choice. 

The reasoning for a material can be very sophisticated. "The right choice is a very fine line" summarises Thomas Wendig, R&D manager for cable conveyors at Kabelschlepp in Germany. "The effect of certain operation conditions, options available, whether higher investment is balanced by reduced down times - this is a vast field for users, considering the common lack of practical specialist knowledge out there." As a consequence, design engineers prefer development partners with level expertise and an equally broad offering of product. 

Other than in a lab, it appears conditions gained in field trials with manufacturers are more specific and therefore representative as a result. "Practical applications demonstrate the importance of choice in any product offering," says Wendig, explaining the philosophy behind Kabelschlepp's product range. "It simply enables us to issue unbiased proposals.
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