Home > XXL process crane with 500 ton capacity featuring igus energy chains

XXL process crane with 500 ton capacity featuring igus energy chains

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article image The 500-ton process crane in Kranbau Köthen's production facility. The energy chain from igus can be seen.
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The Kranbau Köthen GmbH has built a process crane featuring a lifting capacity of 500 tons, with the weight distribution in two axes finely balanced by means of a special shaft end support. The signal and energy transmission takes place via energy chains and cables from igus.

‘Anything but standard’: this describes the development and production programme of Kranbau Köthen GmbH in a nutshell. The company, engaged in crane manufacturing since 1934, specialises in sophisticated process cranes that are closely integrated into production systems. Example applications of these cranes are in the steel industry, for which Kranbau Köthen builds slab, charging and foundry cranes. In this field of application, the company has further reinforced its indelible footprint since it was incorporated in the Georgsmarienhütte-Holding (GMH) in 1998, and thus into a leading steel group.

Requirement: 500 tons of well-balanced load

The cranes often work under adverse environmental conditions such as heat, dirt, and high mechanical stresses. In this regard, a recently built process crane is not required, but the needs are really unusual and extreme in many respects. It is used in an ABB plant in Sweden, which manufactures large transformers. And 'large' here means really massive: while the predecessor type series weighed a maximum of 300 tons, the new transformers, which offer higher performance and improved efficiency, weigh up to 500 tons.

This weight increase required the investment in a new process crane, and the Kranbau Köthen GmbH was commissioned for its development and production. A special feature had to be taken into account: the centre of gravity of the transformers is distributed very unequally. The crane must adapt accordingly and always ensure a smooth and sensitive lifting and lowering of the heavy load.

Flexibly adjustable and rotatable heavy-duty shaft end support

Based on these specifications, the Kranbau Köthen engineers developed a process crane with a lifting capacity of 500 tons and a special heavy-duty shaft end support. It consists of two carriers whose spacing is changed by lead screws. The two attachment points on each carrier are also adjustable so that each of the four winches can be positioned separately. The transformer can therefore always be attached in such a way that the weight (up to 500 tons) is evenly distributed over all four attachment points. In addition, the entire shaft end support is rotatable. It is suspended on a load-measuring bolt of impressive dimensions.

A ‘clean’ crane

In addition to its extremely high load-bearing capacity, the crane itself also has some special features. These include three auxiliary strokes, each with a loading capacity of 20 tons, and an extraction system on the trolley travelling winch. The reason for this is that if impurities get into the large transformer during the assembly process, this can have serious consequences for its function. For this reason, ABB produces these plants in a very clean environment and demands that the crane does not generate any abrasion during operation.

Energy chain with strain relief and floating moving end

Cable must be guided on the crane girder to the 30-metre-wide bridge; here a standard energy chain from the E4 4040HD series in the igus product range is used. This type of chain has proven itself worldwide in crane technology. Due to the special design of the chain links with undercut design, the chain is able to absorb high push-pull forces and also provides very good strength to absorb lateral forces. And the material of the energy chain – igumid G with an ‘HD’ design – ensures optimised sliding properties and, as desired, a very long service life with low abrasion.

The design of energy chains follows a standard process at Kranbau Köthen. Dipl.-Ing (FH) Tom Kuhnt, in charge of electrical projects: "We use a form that contains all the necessary information such as specifications, installation situation and options. This allows igus to design the chain quickly and reliably." In this case, the extras included a double strain relief and a floating moving end, which compensates for any lateral misalignment and wheel clearance in the trolley drive. Kranbau Köthen has already had good experiences with this system in other projects.

Chain plus cables: The advantages of the system

There was also good experience with the purchase of chain and cables from a single source, which is igus. Tom Kuhnt: "From our point of view, it has proven to be a complete system, which is designed precisely for the individual conditions." Here the collaboration with igus has been well established. The chainflex cables were developed specifically for use in mobile systems. Due to the favourable environmental conditions (normal climate window, no high travel speed), cables with PVC outer jacket can be used in the ABB process crane. They are more cost-effective than TPE cables and also generate less abrasion than PUR jackets (ensuring cleanliness).

The electrical connection between the two shaft end supports, which can be moved towards each other, is also ensured with energy chains and chainflex cables from igus. The E4 series e-chains are also used here. The undercut design provides firm grip in lateral acceleration and inclination of the shaft end support. An integrated brake offers very smooth running.

At the rotating joint of the shaft end support, an enclosed triflex R energy chain with twistable cables from the chainflex product range ensures mobility in the rotary axis. This chain was originally developed by igus for robotics. In the process crane, it is virtually unchallenged in terms of dynamics, but protects the cables reliably in the rotary movement.

Sophisticated acceptance tests

Before a crane leaves the site of Kranbau Köthen, a factory acceptance test takes place. Here, the crane is fully evaluated and tested jointly with the customer. This elaborate test is a standard procedure at Köthen and shortens the commissioning time of the crane system at the customer.

Subsequently, the crane was distributed over several flat bed vehicles and transported to Sweden. Part of the route was by sea, so ferry loading of the fragile cargo was inevitable.

Kranbau Köthen received support for the project from its local sales and service partner Svenska Lyft AB. The company, which has a high level of expertise in crane electronics and works regularly with the Swedish igus subsidiary, will be in charge of the crane's service in the future.

The test and final inspection of the process crane at ABB also posed special challenges to those in charge; 625 tons of test weight (corresponding to 125 percent of the maximum nominal load) had to be provided for the acceptance test. Tests of the emergency stop device at full speed were also part of the test series. At the customer's, the acceptance was carried out thoroughly. Maik Stern, Head of Production at Kranbau Köthen: "After all, as a globally leading technology company, ABB is also a specialist in the field of crane technology and therefore also a critical and competent customer."

The high quality igus energy chains and cables are available from Treotham Automation. Treotham are also able to service cranes in Australia and New Zealand as well as recommend special solutions for users.

For more information, please visit the Treotham Automation website www.treotham.com.au or call 1300 65 75 64. 

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