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The package must be right - Retrofitting energy supply systems and cables on machine tools with chainflex


  • What was needed: Long-term partnerships with companies that act just as quickly and reliably
  • Requirements: Small energy chain bend radius of 15 mm, extreme ambient conditions, permanent bending stress
  • Products: chainflex cables, Plastic energy chain & Ready-to-connect readychain
  • Field of application: Large machining centre that machines parts of aircraft fuselages
  • Success for the customer: Conversion successfully completed in a short time and the machining centre is ready for operation again

For retrofitting machine tools: A traditional but strongly growing business area for Erhardt + Leimer Automatisierungstechnik GmbH (E+L) is the modernisation and optimisation of existing plants. This work takes place to a large extent on site, i.e. at the customer, and the time factor plays a major role. Here, E+L has comprehensive know-how and extensive experience. They are not only responsible for the electrical planning, but also for the construction of the switch cabinets and control panels. And of course they are responsible for the installation and commissioning of the control technology on site.  Retrofitting in particular requires flexibility and speed, because the systems are at a standstill while work is in progress. 

Energy chain with chainflex cables

Vulnerable steel chain


The energy chains of the x, y and z axes at the large machining centre had reached the end of its life cycle, when E+L received the order for the renovation.  One of the challenges of the project was the required small bend radius for the X-axis energy chain. The 360 mm wide chain, which covers a travel distance of 5 metres, was only allowed to have a bend radius of 15 mm as it is installed under the machine. Due to this installation position, the energy supply system and the cables have to withstand extreme environmental conditions, including lubricants, coolants and sharp-edged aluminium and titanium swarf. In addition, the chain is well filled with a total of more than 40 cables for motor sensors, measuring systems, servo drives, control system and data.
An old steel energy supply system had to be replaced on the Y axis. Sharp edges, bent and thus twisted separators repeatedly caused cable damage. In addition, the cables previously installed in the steel chain were not suitable for the harsh environmental conditions and continuous movement, which resulted in jacket damage and the so-called "corkscrews".


E+L chose igus as their partner for the energy supply systems including filling. Because the chainflex cables developed by igus are ideally suited for such applications. And because they were basically developed for use in energy chains, even under permanent bending loads and high speeds, they achieve very long service life. They also comply with the relevant standards and directives such as NFPA 79, UL, CSA, and VDE. "For the data cables, we jointly decided on the notch-resistant CF113 with PUR jacket, which was developed for the highest continuous loads," says Andreas Muckes. "With these specifications the cable is permanently insensitive to swarf and lubricants." Following the same principles, the selected servo cables of the CF27 series and the control cables of the CF77 series ensure uninterrupted and long-lasting connections.
For reasons of time, E+L decided to use a readychain. This means at igus, the energy chain is equipped with the high-quality chainflex cables and media cables, fitted with the required mounting brackets and delivered ready for connection - according to the "Plug & Play" principle.  Thus the conversion was completed in exactly one week, the energy chain was connected, the machining centre was ready for operation again, and the customer of E+L was satisfied.  

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Energy chain with chainflex cables


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