Contributed by Jody Muelaner
Plastic cable carriers are fitted to machines to protect and guide cables and hoses. Cable carriers are constructed as a chain of rigid plastic sections. These form an articulated rectangular box section through which cables and hoses are inserted. Enclosing the cables and hoses prevents some forms of damage. The articulated nature of cable carriers allow machine motion while constraining the cables to a defined path and limiting the bend radius. This prevents the high stresses that can occur if a cable is forced into a very tight bend radius, while also preventing entanglement or entrapment in moving machinery.
Although the first cable carriers were made from steel, plastic cable carriers are now more common. They are better suited to most applications, except where very high loads or temperatures will be encountered. Advantages of plastic include corrosion resistance, ability or easily form into complex shapes, self-lubrication, and lower cost.
When specifying a cable carrier, the cables and/or hoses that it must carry should first be considered. Important considerations include the diameters of the cables, their minimum bend radius, and their weight per unit length. Weights for hoses must include fluids they carry. The machines total travel distance is also vital. Most applications will require a single linear motion, but cable carriers can also be specified for multi-axis motion and rotation. Given these parameters, the cable carrier can be sized to suit the application.
It is also important to consider the operating environment. This will include any debris or fluids present, humidity and the presence of corrosive chemicals, temperature, vibration, and any clean room requirements. If ingress protection is required than a closed cable carrier will be required. Humidity and corrosion are generally not a problem for plastic cable carriers but some chemicals may be. Temperatures of over 600 degrees will normally require a metal cable carrier and even significantly lower temperatures will cause issues for some plastic cable carriers. If there is any concern over chemical resistance or temperature, check the cable carrier specification. If operating in a clean room environment it is important that any particulate matter produced by wear will be within the allowance for the clean room specification.