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To guide and protect

04 July 2016

Choosing the right hose or cable carrier for your equipment can help prevent kinks, tangles, and other damage as machine parts extend and retract.

An energy chain from igus was used to guide and protect the hoses from the vehicle’s base to the end of the boom

This prevents downtime and repair costs. Justin Leonard, director at igus, looks into how such solutions perform under harsh conditions, such as those found in the construction, quarrying, and recycling industries.

When hydraulic or pneumatic lines connect to a moving machine component, such as a backhoe loader, telescoping hoist platform, excavator or drilling rig, there are several ways to accommodate the motion. While the easiest is to simply allow slack hose, this method can lead to excess flexing, premature hose wear, and damage from pinching or catching on the equipment or working area. The use of hose reels is another possibility, but generally they are useful only for single lines and offer no physical protection for the hose. 

A more effective approach is to use a cable and hose carrier that forms a flexible guide for multiple lines, preventing them from tangling, and paying out the services with a smooth, rolling action. They essentially consist of multiple links with pivoting joints that, when linked into a chain, ensure a minimum bend radius for the services inside whilst offering physical protection. They can carry any combination of services side by side, even allowing quick additions or changes of services to be made.  Hydraulics, fluids, air, data, power and even fibre optic cables can be used together in such a system. Usually referred to as ‘energy chains’, they are the umbilical cord of modern machines and help minimise downtime by protecting and guiding cables and hoses

For applications involving harsh environments, steel has sometimes been the constructional material of choice for energy chains, and it’s not hard to understand why. Steel is strong, relatively inexpensive, reasonably durable and readily available. But it also has significant shortcomings, particularly for use in harsh areas such as the construction and quarrying industries.

When steel is exposed to weather extremes and mud or chemicals, it is susceptible to corrosion that greatly reduces its life. It is also heavy and, while strong, can be bent and distorted if exposed to impact or unusual loads, leading to a catastrophic failure. Finally, when systems with moving parts are fabricated from steel, regular lubrication is essential, or the reliability and operational life of the system will be dramatically reduced. Stainless steel solves many of these problems but comes at a cost premium, and is still heavy and requires regular lubrication

Plant builders are always under pressure to offer more efficient machinery to increase productivity. Modern high-performance engineering plastics offer the chance to meet these goals.

Often as strong as steel for a given size yet much lighter, plastics are increasingly proving themselves in the harshest of applications. They are inherently resistant to corrosion and weathering, and the best types are unaffected by exposure to virtually any type of chemical and petrochemical, as well as by exposure to UV from the sun.

Fabricating energy chains from high performance plastics brings all of the benefits above and more. Because they are much lighter, they allow OEMs to build a more efficient machine, maybe with more reach or payload. They are self-lubricating so require no maintenance and have long working lives, making them a very cost-effective choice. Yet, they remain robust enough to meet the demanding conditions in these industries. Plastic is also inherently vibration dampening, which offers better fatigue resistance than metal, as well as being flexible so avoiding permanent bending or distortion. Plastic energy chains from igus have been proven, by exhaustive testing and in the field, to function reliably even at extreme temperatures and in adverse weather conditions. They are also available in ATEX compliant versions for potentially explosive environments. 

Improved safety - working platform

Most mines use extending booms for replacing overhead-suspended equipment and piping. To accommodate multiple functions, more than one piece of equipment is used to lift, locate, and fasten overhead equipment and piping in place. However, Marcotte Mining Machinery Services enhanced the functionality of one of its larger utility vehicles, the Multi-RAM, to complete all of these actions with just one piece of plant. 

The existing boom design had hoses hanging between each extending section. This inhibited the functionality of the service platform because the hoses were at risk of becoming tangled or damaged. To limit the amount of hydraulic hose hanging underneath the platform, Ian Martin, designer at Marcotte Mining Machinery Services used an energy chain from igus to guide and protect the hoses from the vehicle’s base to the extension boom’s gripper. 

Ian Martin, designer at Marcotte Mining Machinery Services said this working platform is usually used for underground mining. Up till now, hoses and cables hung loosely from it, which meant they could easily get caught and become damaged. This problem was quickly solved by fitting igus energy chains. All lines and cables are now routed cleanly along the side of the boom, improving worker safety considerably.

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