Drives and Controls Magazine

Energy chain system is a rival to busbar

01 December, 2005

Energy chain system is a rival to busbar

A novel system for carrying power, air supplies and communications to horizontally moving systems such as conveyors, gantry cranes, automated storage systems and industrial gates, has been developed by igus. The Micro Flizz system is based on a specially adapted energy chain that runs inside an aluminium guide channel which separates the upper and lower chain sections to save weight and cut friction and wear. The channel (shown with a cutaway below to reveal the energy chain) also protects the chain from dust and dirt.

One application for the technology is to supervise drives on moving equipment remotely from stationary control boxes without needing to use radio or infrared remote controls. This reduces the mass that needs to be moved in applications such as materials conveyors, allowing them to move more dynamically, says igus. Copper or fibre data cables can be incorporated, as can pneumatic hoses to power items such as grippers.

The special energy chains used in the Micro Flizz system incorporate tiny fins which fit into grooves in the guide channel, preventing the top section of chain from falling onto the lower section, thus cutting friction by a factor of three. The fins also prevent the chains from lifting out at speeds of up to 6m/s and acceleration rates up to 50m/s2.

"There is no limit to the speed and acceleration," says igus` chief executive, Frank Blase. "Stretches of up to 60m already look promising in the test phase."

In trials, the system has completed more than one million cycles at a speed of 4m/s - equivalent to covering 6,000km - with very little wear. Feedback from initial users "confirms that Micro Flizz is reliable, and far exceeds expectations," Blase reports.