When you hear word automation, everyone agrees: processes are required that are as precise, reliable and fast as possible, that can be cyclical and work around the clock. Without exception. Cable chain systems are an indispensable part of process automation, as almost every production site can find applications in which machine parts need to be continuously supplied with power, data or media, such as air and water. On this page, you will find out what exactly is meant by a cable chain, when it is used, which materials are available for cable chains, what arrangement and assembly options are available, and last but not least what you need to keep in mind when selecting the appropriate cables.
What is a cable chain and what task does it perform?
A cable chain is a mechanical system that protects, supports and guides cables and media hoses in permanently moving machine applications.
The movements in the cable chain are performed in a controlled manner so that the forces permanently acting on the cable or the media hose do not cause premature damage or failure. Cables and media hoses are ultimately subjected to millions of bending movements along the travel distance in the cable chain.
Are cable chains and power chains the same?
However, LAPP deliberately calls this system a cable chain, as it protects, carries and guides much more than just power cables.
In our eyes, the phrase drag is a very good illustration of the function and performance of a cable chain, as its definition states “pulling something behind itself under a great deal of effort/strain and moving it somewhere”.
What are the main functions of a cable chain?
Where are cable chains used?
Cable chains are one of the most gruelling usage locations for cables. In a cable chain, power, servo and data cables are located close together and move back and forth as a machine works. Sometimes faster than five metres per second with more than five times the acceleration of gravity. They supply moving machine parts with power, signals, data or even compressed air and liquids. Cable chain systems have proven themselves for many years in all applications where movements are automated and continuously carried out.
What advantages does a cable chain have compared to cable trolley systems?
Competitive advantages of the cable chains as compared to the traditional systems, like conductor bars and festoon suspensions and cable trolley systems are:
- they shine thanks to the ability to carry different kinds of utilities (power, signal and data cables as well as hydraulic and pneumatic hoses),
- they can be used unconditionally in critical environments where dust, moisture, chemicals and aggressive substances can be present in the atmosphere on a daily basis.
- they can withstand high speeds and accelerations.
- cables can be installed, replaced or installed at a later date.
- in addition to horizontal, vertical, diagonal and circular travel distances are also possible.
- maintenance work is easy to carry out, but it is generally less maintenance-intensive.
- they require a much lower media length for comparable travel distances, as the media are linear in the cable chain rather than sagging.
Which cable for the cable chain?
Cables and hoses suitable for cable chains are sometimes flexed very strongly and continuously. As a result, they are permanently exposed to the stresses resulting from the bending movement in the cable chain. Unlike three-dimensional torsional movements, this bending movement is always linear and always in one direction.
The flexibility of a cable has a direct impact on its bending radius, which indicates how much a cable can be bent without impairing its functional capability.
The tighter the bending radius, the greater the stress on the cable and the more difficult it is to achieve the long service life required.
The flexing ability for cables and hoses can therefore be defined as follows:
How are cables arranged in the cable chain?
In order to ensure that the cable chain functions smoothly and to avoid any damage to the media, the cables and hoses to be guided, which are relevant for the chain size and composition of the components, should be thoroughly evaluated before selecting the cable chain.
To name just a few examples, make sure that:
- cables/hoses lie loosely next to each other in the chain chambers. They should be separated as much as possible using separators.
- cables/hoses are installed symmetrically in terms of their weight and size. Those with greater diameters and weights on the outside, those with smaller diameters and weights on the inside. They can also be placed in descending size order from inside to outside. Avoid arranging the cables above one another without the use of a shelf.
- in one section only media with the same outer sheath is used to avoid unnecessary friction.
- defined clearance between the cable/hose and the separator is guaranteed according to a medium so that the cables/hoses can move freely and allow the media to move relative to one another and to the cable chain.
Configuration options for a cable chain
The majority of cable chain systems are equipped with a single chain. However, they can also have multiple chains in the same way. If the number of chains is greater than 1, the chains run directly next to each other, in a ring shape or layered together. Often, the chain has a constant, linear motion direction – a so-called displacement. In many applications, however, rotations inside the cable chain are also required, sometimes of up to 600° and in these cases can only be achieved using a multi-chain configuration. There are also countless chain configuration options available for combined movements, i.e. for displacements and rotations.
Which configuration could be the right one for your application? We'll explain:
What chain configurations are possible?
A cable chain can be self-supporting or sliding.
What assembly options are available?
What material are cable chains made of?
All materials used at LAPP to manufacture cable chains are environmentally friendly (RoHS and WEEE).
The cable chains are distinguished by the materials used for the chain links and the materials used for the cross frame. We therefore divide the chains into: