Manufacturing AUTOMATION

Cable carrier competition showcases challenging applications

May 6, 2010
By Mary Del

igus, a leading manufacturer of cable carriers and continuous-flex cables, recently announced the winners of its worldwide cable carrier competition. The competition, which is in its second year, rewards challenging applications that use cable carrier systems.

Cable carriers—also widely known as cable tracks, energy chains, cable chains and drag chains—are the umbilical cord of modern machines and ensure the safe supply of energy, data and other media. Cable carriers are suitable for multi-purpose use in the crane and machine-tool industries, as well as in robotics, cleanrooms, material handling, and more.

This year more than 110 companies submitted entries to the competition, spanning a variety of countries including China, India, Korea, and Singapore, to the USA, Canada and Brazil and  Europe.

The gold award and €5,000 prize money went to the Czech power supplier, CEZ Group, for the longest travel in the world ever to be accomplished with a plastic cable carrier: 2,018 feet in a lignite-fired power plant in Tušimice. A heavy-duty roller cable carrier system from igus’ 5050 RHD series is installed on the conveyer unit of the lignite excavator, which operates in extremely demanding conditions. Roller cable carriers, developed by igus for long distances, have been in use around the world for more than ten years.

CEZ Group says the robust system – which is also equipped with igus’ Chainflex® continuous-flex cables – makes a significant contribution to operational safety. System downtimes caused by cable breakage, for example, have been reduced to zero compared with before.

The jury awarded the silver Vector Award to the National Mineral Development Corp. Ltd. (NMDC) in Hyderabad, India. The state company belongs to the Ministry of Steel and carries out exploration work, among other things.


NMDC use a 61-feet long plastic cable carrier system with a rearward bending radius (RBR) on a bucket-wheel reclaimer in a steel mine. The reclaimer can rotate by +/- 180 degrees, while operating in an area that is difficult to access. The loads the cable carrier must withstand are enormous: the cables alone weigh over 36 pounds per foot.

The heavy steel chain used previously in this application was damaged after just two years. According to NMDC, the igus cable-carrier system has been running reliably and with little maintenance and no downtime since its installation.

The bronze Vector Award and €1,000 prize money went to Rene Petsch, a design engineer from Deckel Maho Seebach GmbH. In this application, a traveling column milling machine underwent advanced development to make it more accurate, adaptable and economical than its predecessor. The rigid machine bed made from composite mineral and the symmetrical traveling column were to ensure improved precision.

To keep the design space compact, the Y and Z-axes of the machine use just one cable carrier: System E4.1 from igus. The E4.1 system ensures higher lateral stability, which was necessary due to the high lateral acceleration through the X-axis of 26 feet per second². The cable carrier was attached in an upright position with the run bent in at one side.

All the cable carriers applications submitted can be found on the competition website at

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