The need for lightweight designs that can operate in harsh environments is continuing to bring changes to the manufacture and use of cable management systems.
More end users are looking for lightweight, nimble designs that allow more compact motors to power them. This, in turn, allows steel carriers to generate less noise and continue to improve along with the machinery they drive, said David Smith, director of sales for U.S. Tsubaki Power Transmission’s KabelSchlepp Div. “We’ve improved the technology so that cable tracks can travel at a higher speed than they’ve been able to do in the past,” Smith said. “As you see an increase in productivity and higher machine rates, the cable tracks can now handle those.”
Mark Cunningham, sales manager, Gortrac Div., Dynatect Manufacturing, concurred, saying, “Productivity is a focus of manufacturers, and machines are required to have longer travels and higher speeds that lend themselves to the use of cable carriers to protect and manage cables and hoses.”
Research into the plastic cable carriers that igus is known for has allowed it to optimize how they function, said Dan Thompson, junior product manager for Energy Chain systems at igus. For example, “recent developments in machine tools have allowed cable carrier manufacturers to refine the details and precision of their designs, and create more complex geometries,” he said. “This leads to a part that is more efficient as far as strength to weight, as well as more aesthetically pleasing.”
While a number of new machines are driving some of these changes, nothing has had a greater impact on the manufacture of cable carriers than the automotive industry.
“Traditionally, cable carriers have been used on machine tools, transfer carts and so on, but are just recently making their way into vehicles as more moving parts are added and systems become increasingly complex,” Thompson said. “igus is currently developing custom cable carriers to be used by several automotive manufacturers in vehicle doors, windows, convertible tops, and wiper arms.”
Smith added that working with auto manufacturers has led to a change in how the cable carriers are manufactured and supplied to the end user. Not only must the carriers adhere to strict regulations, they must be low-cost and easy to assemble and install. This has led to the greater use of modular, preassembled units.
Cunningham agreed, adding, “Many customers are seeing the advantages of plug-and-play assemblies to reduce complexity and takt time. In addition to simply installing cables and hoses in tracks, many customers are looking for the cable carrier to come as a complete system with all associated mounting fixtures, junction boxes, manifolds and support structures.”
Thompson added that simplicity in use is also growing in importance. Consider how difficult it can be to open a carrier and change out the cables or hose that are running through them. Eliminating that hassle is another opportunity for preassembled units. “Advances in molding technology have enabled advances in the opening mechanisms of cable carriers. Some new carriers have an integrated molded hinge that allows the carrier to be opened completely flat, allowing for easy filling. Another example is the igus E2.1 micro, which has a special opener, specifically designed to rapidly open and close the carrier.”