25 Jul 2024

AUTOMATION FOR MANUFACTURING

Continuous energy chain is `world’s first`

At the recent Hannover Fair, igus unveiled what it describes as “the world’s first continuously rotating energy chain”. It predicts that system, called C-Chain, will open up new directions for machine construction.

The system avoids the non-productive return runs of conventional handling and transport systems in applications such as robots, pick-and-place systems, press feeders and conveyors. The traditional cycle of starting, stopping and moving back to the start position, is no longer necessary.

The C-Chain system (above) is designed to supply grippers, sensor systems and other devices with energy, date and media. By avoiding superfluous starts and return runs, it can approach the next position in a continuous movement, allowing operations such as loading, unloading and drilling to take place. The lightweight chains can achieve speeds of up to 8m/s, resulting in short machine cycle times. Travel lengths of 30m or more are possible.

The low-wear system consists of a low-friction plastic energy chain with rotary table guidance and, if needed, a supported upper run. It can accommodate power, control and communications cables as well as providing a route for fluids. It is supplied as a complete module ready for direct integration into a customer’s machine.

Numerous carriages can be connected to the continuously rotating chain to provide supplies to equipment such as grippers, suction cups or electromagnets, which can pick up workpieces, hold them, adjust them and set them down again.

In operation, the chain moves in its guide to the first carriage station where it feeds a circular line, to which all of the carriages are fixed. Each carriage can be addressed individually using electronic and bus technologies to enable it to work as required.

Conventional handling systems often need to be heavy-duty to cope with large masses being moved at high speed. They also need to be able to absorb the dynamic forces that result from starting, stopping and moving in two directions. According to igus, the C-Chain system can be much less bulky, saving space and energy.