In some environments, corrosion and dust has been known to cripple systems within weeks. Systems designed to deliver power and control to moving machines are susceptible to corrosion and dust from both a mechanical and electrical perspective.
As a designer and manufacturer of Power and Data Transfer systems such as conductor bars, Festoon systems (some times called catenary systems), cable reels, cable chain and slip rings for more than 50 years, Conductix-Wampfler has extensive experience and special products for this field and offers in this article suggestions for managing corrosive and dusty environments.
The options available for dealing with corrosive and dusty environments are many and varied. They can be grouped into 3 main categories:
- Use of corrosive and dust resistant base materials.
- Surface protection to isolate the base material from the environment.
- Design features to manage the environment
The most commonly used corrosive resistant materials are copper, aluminium, stainless steel (304, 316,316L etc.) bronze and various forms of PVC’s and other polymers. Copper has excellent resistance to material erosion but is subject to a build up of oxidation if not regularly “exercised”. Copper conductor bar systems for example should therefore only be used in corrosive and dusty environments where regular use is assured.
Aluminium is also prone to this build up, but when coupled with stainless contact surfaces, such as in the Activ-8 Conductor bar system from Conductix Wampfler, is most suited to highly corrosive environments.
In some cases, one is better to use a polymer or plastic material which is not subject to material corrosion or build up, even though the mechanical strength may be less. For example, a nylon, Teflon or polymer bush on a festoon trolley would have a shorter life than a roller bearing in a clean environment, but in a severely corrosive environment it may provide a longer life and lower cost than material such as stainless steel.
There are many forms of surface protection such a hot dip galvanizing, zinc plating and epoxy painting. Hot dipped galvanizing is clearly the most common as it provides a complete and cost effective protection. As Conductix Wampfler manufactures in Australia it is often called upon to design and manufacture custom solutions which are then easily hot dip galvanized. Conductix Wampfler also supplies a unique conductor bar product called Duracoat.
This conductor bar is manufactured from aluminium with a stainless steel contact surface and incorporates an epoxy coating on the aluminium. It is ideally suited to chemically corrosive environments such as galvanizing and electro-winning plants. The limitation of a surface protection approach is that once the surface is broken, the corrosion can proceed quite rapidly. It is therefore essential to ensure the mechanical design protects the coated surfaces.
With more than 45 years of experience in the very dusty and corrosive Australian environment, Conductix Wampfler has developed a range of standard products and has produced many custom solutions to provide long term and reliable solutions.