Traditional cable management systems have many shortcomings and require regular maintenance, but users are often reluctant to consider alternatives. Kasen Cranes worked closely with igus engineers to implement a new system for its on-site demonstration gantry and then used this to showcase the benefits to customers.
Manufacturing and processing plants frequently need to handle and transport large heavy items. Indoor cranes and overhead gantries are often used to transfer materials to, through and from the manufacturing or processing line. These cranes and gantries must often traverse significant distances, reliably and precisely moving heavy loads at high speeds. Electrical cabling is required to power motors, as well as sometimes hydraulic or pneumatic lines, and even data, for sensors. The conventional cable management method is to mount them above the line using festoons supported by steel rails. As the gantry travels down the line, it pulls the cables along with it on multiple trolley mechanisms.
Kasen Cranes, based in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, are specialists in industrial cranes, gantries and lifting equipment, from design to manufacture and installation, through to service and repair. Since most of its systems are bespoke solutions, its highly skilled engineering team works closely with manufacturers across a wide range of industries to understand their specific application requirements and specifications. This enables them to design and deliver solutions that meet even the most challenging customer needs. Regular inspection, maintenance and repair is also a key part of the service offering to ensure costly downtime is minimised and production is kept running smoothly.
Cable management is critical to the smooth operation of the cranes and gantries, with the cabling supplying power and control. While festoons are the traditional method of providing cable management, Kasen Cranes recognised inherent challenges with this approach. Substantially longer cable lengths are required and critically, festoons also often lead to cables being damaged after becoming snagged, twisted or tangled. This compromises the services being carried and necessitates more frequent repair or replacement. The trolley mechanisms also require regular maintenance to ensure smooth running, and particularly in harsh environments, such as galvanizing plants, may also be subject to corrosion.
Kasen Cranes recently engaged with igus to pilot an alternative, improved cable management and energy supply solution for use on its overhead gantry cranes. igus guidefast is a steel guide trough which can be quickly and easily mounted directly to the side of crane or gantry girders. Since it does not require the welding of brackets, installation time is reduced significantly. An energy chain is then used within the guide trough to carry all the necessary media and services: power, data, control, even hydraulics or pneumatics. Cables, lines or hoses can be easily added, replaced or removed, and cable lengths are considerably shorter than with the traditional festoon approach, saving space and reducing cost.
“At first glance, it seemed like using guidefast and energy chains from igus might be costlier than the traditional festoon approach. However, we saved substantial time in design and assembly – and further down the line, maintenance and service costs will also be lower,” says Daniel Tolmay, Managing Director, Kasen Cranes. “This elegant cable management solution enables rapid installation, as well as reducing cable and energy costs. It also delivers improved safety and is quieter, more reliable and virtually maintenance-free, compared to conventional festoon systems. And we were impressed with the collaborative approach of igus, which aligns well with our own - offering full end-to-end project management, designing, manufacturing and installing all elements of the system.”
The rugged but lightweight e-chain safely guides and protects the cables from any external mechanical stress, eliminating tangles and ensuring cables travel within a defined bending radius – meaning the cables last longer. Maintenance requirements are dramatically reduced and in the future, smart plastics technologies could be utilised to add intelligence and connectivity, enabling real-time automated condition monitoring and predictive maintenance.