What are the best cables for robotic applications?
By Erin KemalAutomation Machine Building noads
Sponsored by igus
Specialized cables for robotic applications resist abrasion, kinking or even breakage.
The robotics industry has seen exponential growth across the globe in recent years, thanks in no small part to the ongoing pandemic. Companies want more production output for less money, meaning more automation and less human interaction. On top of that, everything needs to work smoothly.
This growing trend is one that igus® is already heavily invested in with our robotic cables, triflex® robotic cable carriers and dress packs. We offer robotic cables as part of the chainflex® cable range, but why do you need specialized cables for robotic applications?
Special cables for robotic applications
Robots provide their own set of challenges when it comes to designing cables. Often, they rely on rapid, rotational movements that put extreme stress on the cables being used. If the cables aren’t designed for such movement, or if they aren’t properly secured and supported within a cable carrier, they become prone to damage such as abrasion, kinking or even breakage.
Our chainflex® robotic cables are designed to meet extremely high industrial stress requirements, being able to withstand torsional stresses of ± 180° for every 3 feet of cable and proven to last over 3 million cycles.
Limits for cables in robotic applications
The limits for robotic cables are different to those in linear applications, as mechanical stress only occurs in one direction, normally horizontally. In robots, movements occur on multiple axes, so they require high flexibility in both the cables and the chains protecting the cables.
The rotational movements of the robots mean the mechanical stress of the cables can be extreme and can put pressure on the cables. The cables in robotic applications must be able to withstand the constant torsional movements that occur during operation.
Ensuring the cable’s compatibility with high demands is essential, as failure of such a cable often means that the entire production must come to a standstill. Downtime/maintenance in automated systems is often the most expensive portion of operational costs, running some companies upwards of $780,000 a year. With costs that high, using the proper cables is essential.
What robotic cables do igus® offer?
The igus® portfolio of robotic cables for robot applications is varied, ranging from control cables, data cables, measuring system cables, fiber optic cables, motor cables, single cores, bus cables and even hybrid cables. The chainflex® range expands and develops every year in order to meet the constantly growing market.
As already mentioned, cables for robotic applications must withstand higher stresses than most other cables. To achieve this, torsion-optimized shield structures are required. These can carry out the necessary compensatory movements due to special PTFE liners.
Protecting the robotic cables in robotic applications
Now that you know the proper cable to use in robotic applications, it’s important to discuss cable carriers, as any good cable can still fail if not properly secured in a carrier. There are a multitude of ways to protect cables on industrial robots, however, what gives you the best protection?
The cheapest–and least reliable–solution is corrugated hose. Often used due to its low cost, corrugated hose is a simple hollow tube that allows any wires inside to shift around. This causes abrasion and twisting of the cables, leading to premature failure. Not only that, corrugated hose offers no way to easily remove and replace wires, forcing a decision between potentially hours of maintenance, or an improper replacement that’ll fail even faster.
To optimize the robots’ capabilities and ensure that the production line doesn’t stop, many customers choose to protect their cables using the triflex® R series. These cable carriers have been specifically developed for robotic applications and offer high flexibility with built-in torsion stops and high tensile force absorption. Compared to corrugated hose, triflex® robotic cable carriers offer a defined bend radius, which greatly increases the service life of cables and hoses, ensuring a long-lasting, productive robot you can rely on.