How certification of chainflex cables increases safety

Topics such as energy technology, including
decentralised control technology or the establishment of energy management
systems must be on the agenda for mechanical engineering companies, just as
intelligent sensors and autonomous cable monitoring systems, to name just a
few. Geopolitically too, both small and large companies have to stay on the
ball. Those who are negligent today about export and obtaining country-specific
approvals or internationally binding guidelines and laws are jeopardising their
good business relationships and not least their existence.

Missing
certificate for cables means the red card from customs

For plant constructors, it is helpful to have a closer
look at the product data sheet when purchasing components such as Treotham’s
igus chainflex cables. If you find information there, such as country-specific
approvals called UL, EAC CTP or DNV GL, you can confidently place your order.
The same applies to national and international guidelines such as RoHS or
REACH, which protect the environment and health. One who buys cheap ultimately
pays double the price and also often gets the red card from customs during
shipping and export to the customer. Not infrequently, it means:
“Unapproved components are not allowed for the time being.” Since a
long time, topics such as the approval or compliance of cables and other
components are not issues that should be left to the purchasing department alone
for budgetary purposes. For an estimated 60 percent of installed electrical
systems – measured in terms of the total extent of a manufacturing plant – the
installation of cables without approval has far-reaching economic consequences.
Of course, it is possible to subsequently get such an approval for almost every
plant in the scope of the commissioning on site. However, it will likely cost a
lot more money due to delays in the start of production, longer required
service staff at the customer and last but not least the external inspectors.
Not to mention the negative impacts on your own image and customer
relationships.

Safety
through a multitude of tests

If, on the other hand, you already invest time in the
planning phase for the selection of approved, certified and compliant cables,
such as those in the igus chainflex cables, your overall process becomes leaner
and more efficient. The range of cables could not be more diverse. There are
over a thousand types of approved control cables, servo cables, motor cables
and robot cables, bus cables, data cables, encoder cables or fibre optic
cables. For every metre of the chainflex cables that the customer plans and
installs in their machine, a large number of approvals assure compliance with
the rules, unrestricted reliability and a long service life. Companies such as
igus confront the high and dynamic market requirements through constant
advancements in the in-house test laboratory. Among others, chainflex cables
for moving applications in energy chains or for robotic applications are tested
here for operational reliability.

The result: valuable insights for research as well as
development and the increase in product quality for the customer. The
performance of human and machine is impressive and is also very unusual: on
more than 2,750 m_ floor area, igus carries out test series for cables in
endurance tests in e-chain movements. That surpasses what all well-known
manufacturers achieve combined. A closer look at the details reveals the high
standards that the motion plastics specialist sets: 800 tests on chainflex
cables on average, in parallel. That adds up to more than 2 billion test
strokes per year. And that’s not all: 292 million double strokes for production
monitoring resulting from approximately 1,561 production monitoring tests per
year. This performance is also achieved thanks to the 63 test facilities, where
just under 1.4 million electrical measurements are carried out in twelve
months. The whole thing can only be topped up by more than 3,500 tests on the cables,
i.e. every year. All the parameters to be assumed are simulated using a climate
chamber, external tests, a noise chamber and a 130-metre-long travel or robot
systems. This large number of test series and the results collected over the
last 20 years now provide every customer with a clear answer to the
applicability of their chosen cable for their specific needs in the igus online
service life calculator. If the service life result does not fit or is too
good, a less sophisticated chainflex alternative can always be selected and
recalculated. An absolute unique feature is the option to secure a guarantee
from igus for 36 months or alternatively for 10 million cycles for a chainflex
cable.

All
for one: chainflex cables and their many approvals

Also important
in the complex quality assurance process are tests according to various
guidelines, such as for the UL approval. Mechanical engineers need them for
export and successful, smooth commissioning in the USA and Canada. Cables used
in maritime environments such as oil rigs, gas drilling platforms or
pipe-laying vessels are prepared for approval by the DNV GL in the igus
laboratory. The EAC and the CTP for the Eastern European region, above all for
Russia, are similar to what the UL certificate is for North America. Regardless
of the location where a semiconductor or pharmaceutical production facility is
running, the chainflex cables used here always require proof of their cleanroom
suitability. The foundations for this test by the Fraunhofer IPA (Institute for
Manufacturing Engineering and Automation) are also laid at the igus test
laboratory. Similarly designed is the test procedure for RoHS and REACH
approval or conformity, which, among others, refers to the restriction of
hazardous substances. It does not matter which specific approval is required.
Only when all the traffic lights in the igus test laboratory are green will the
external inspectors of the independent bodies, agencies and organisations are
brought on site. After numerous stringent tests, they award the valuable
approval certificates for the different types of cables. Due to its worldwide
offices, customers can source the same chainflex qualities on every continent
in the world. In the 34 branches worldwide and 51 dealers (including Treotham
in Australia and New Zealand), more than 1,354 cables types can be ordered
without any problems, without minimum order quantities, minimum quantities,
minimum quantity surcharges and, of course, without cutting charge. All that
the customer needs is some time because only then can the best possible choice
be made from the huge assortment of types. And that’s impressive: 1,044 types
with UL/CSA approval, 919 NFPA-79/2012-compliant types, 1,023 types with CTP
approval, 1,268 types with EAC approval, 387 types with Germanischer Lloyd/DNV
approval and 918 types with cleanroom classification (classes 1 and 2).

Types
of approval: Details matter

The immense technical performance behind development,
production and laboratory testing can only be measured by taking a close look
at the stringently set parameters, which must be fully and demonstrably
fulfilled before an approval is granted. The UL approval for North America is
likely to be one of the most important at present due to the tough economic
policy, particularly when exporting machinery to the United States should occur
smoothly. Because this approval convinces the independent inspector from the
Nationally Recognised Testing Laboratory and the so called Electrical Inspector
(authority having jurisdiction) respectively of the quality and safety of a
machine. Experienced mechanical engineers with long-standing US relationships
know that regulatory requirements vary from state to state. All the companies
that adhere to the highest standard – the UL approval – have maximum
flexibility and freedom. Topics such as the compatibility of the cables to the
large number of all US network systems play just as important a role in the UL
approval as the different requirements for feeder circuits or branch circuits.
Plant manufacturers with UL-approved cables are on the safe side throughout
North America.

On the other side of the world – more specifically in
Russia and its neighbouring countries – the EAC/CTP approval is expected in
most cases by customers and customs. This certificate is the official proof of
compliance with the harmonised technical regulations (TR ZU) of the
participating countries of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). The CTP standard
focuses on the fire behaviour of cables and the flame retardancy of the materials
used.

On
water, on land and in the air

At least as complex, but completely independent of
national borders is the DNV-GL approval. This approval for use in the maritime
environment focuses on topics such as the Federal Maritime Responsibilities Act
or the Ship Safety Act. Today, material is only approved by the DNV GL, which
takes into account the so-called Class Rules for the operation of machines in
the maritime environment. Pipe handling systems or pipe-laying ships were
hardly automated until very recently, which required completely new test
methods for permanently moving cables in e-chains. And to date, only chainflex
cables meet these special requirements and withstand the complex test
procedures. Approved are only those that incorporate all parameters that ensure
safe and stable operation of offshore installations. Specifically, for example,
operating temperatures down to -40°C or the UV resistance of chainflex cables.
Incidentally, this also applies to a very sensitive topic in the maritime environment,
working with oil. The chainflex cables are oil-resistant according to MUD
NEK606; this means maximum safety for an oil rig.

This safety can be had with the RoHS II approval,
which is offered by Treotham for its igus chainflex cables. RoHS stands for ‘Restriction
of Hazardous Substances’ and regulates the use of selected hazardous substances
in cables such as phthalates, also known as plasticisers. REACH has a similar
significance for igus. This European Union regulation has been adopted to improve
the protection of human health and the environment from the risks posed by
chemicals. REACH applies to all chemical substances and assumes the burden of
proof on companies. For Treotham, this means there is complete proof that all
materials used in the jacketing of igus chainflex cables are known and their
processing and placement on the market is safe and manageable.

Maximum safety and, above all, absolute purity are
also important in the regulated environment of semiconductors, medical devices
and pharmaceutical production. This purity grade for its chainflex cables can
be demonstrated by igus through the IPA for cleanroom classes 1 and 2. And they
should know it: Only those that fulfil all conditions will receive the ‘Tested
Device’ certificate issued by the independent Fraunhofer Institut Рand their
cables and components are allowed to be offered, for example, for manufacturing
plants for medical products. With its variety of chainflex cables available
from stock, the quality assurance measures in the igus laboratory and, last but
not least, the enormous and unrivalled variety of approvals and certificates,
the Cologne-based company is already thinking about tomorrow and making a
valuable contribution to the export and future viability of German mechanical
and plant engineering and therefore nobody needs to take their company
signboard down.

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

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