igus energy chains helping move the stage without drama

With moving energy supply systems such as the e-spool
and the zig-zag system, complicated stage applications can be implemented even
in confined spaces and with high loads.

The challenge for every “stage builder” is
to create the perfect stage. Every job is different, because stages are not off
the shelf. Each one is unique, which means that each and every component not
only has to be powerful, durable and efficient but must also fit together
perfectly. In order to achieve this you need a competent partner who, on the
one hand, understands the specific problems of stage technology and, on the
other hand, offers a wide range of products with which any stage application
can be realised.

Treotham is an expert in the field of energy supply
and provider of highly flexible cables for dynamic applications. Treotham’s
low-friction maintenance-free plastic products open up new solutions especially
for theatre and stage construction, where there are very demanding technical
requirements. These challenges include high loads, such as those found in sound
and lighting systems, stage sets or entire stage platforms, which must move
safely and reliably. Whether for vertical, horizontal or rotary movement, much
has taken place in the theatre since the ancient times.

Back then, when the Deus ex machina was still moved by
hand using winches and pulleys and purely by physical strength; today a large
number of motors and cables are usually used to move stage machinery. However,
things that have not changed are the basic challenges of dynamic applications.
Physical and technical effects still need to move, but the systems themselves
must often remain unseen and unheard. This means that they must operate quietly
and out of sight, so as not to interfere with the performance. Ideal solutions
for stage technology are well hidden. Cables should be guided invisibly and
moved silently. However, there is usually only a small amount of space
available. Energy supply systems, data and bus cables must not only be silent
and space-saving, but also withstand high dynamic loads. Strength and
robustness are therefore necessary properties. The stage technician and
engineer need systems that are easy to assemble, require little maintenance,
and promise maximum service life. Otherwise the curtain will fall at the most
inopportune moment.

Treotham offers system solutions that are geared to
the special conditions in stage technology. As Treotham provides modular
systems and a wide range of igus components, it is possible to implement
customised applications quickly and easily. Ideal for an industry where every
theatre, every opera and every stage is one of a kind and serial production is
not possible.

the alternative to the cable reel – without slip ring

Traditionally, cable reeling drums of various sizes
are used for cable guidance on stages. However, they are reaching their
technical limits in many respects, in particular with the capacity to
accommodate different cable types and also the noise generated. The igus e-spool
from Treotham provides an operationally reliable alternative that is ideally
suited for noise-sensitive applications. The system is extremely compact and is
able to guide a large number of different energy, data, control or pneumatic
cables in very confined spaces.

In terms of design, this is a combination of two
proven igus product families, long-lasting e-chains and the flexible
“twisterband”. The continuous movement of the cables is reliable and
safe due to the e-chain. This offers protection from external influences, wear
and tensile strain, and significantly increases the service life of the cables.
Safety can be further enhanced by using Treotham’s own igus chainflex cables
designed specifically for moving applications in energy chains. As part of the
readychain product range, harnessed energy chain systems, plug-in connectors
and highly flexible cables are available from a single source – complete
systems of the highest quality. The e-spool in turn protects the e-chain, which
is safely stored on a drum.

During the reeling, an integrated retaining spring
ensures the correct tension of the chain at all times. The most important
innovation is the use of the twisterband, which connects the spool to the shaft
end block and forms the interface between fixed and moving cables. In this way,
the twisterband allows a continuous cable guidance during rotational movements
without needing a slip ring. The slip ring has serious disadvantages due to the
sliding contact. The abrasion primarily leads to wear, which in turn worsens
the electrical power and signal transmission. If fast and trouble-free data
transmission is required, cable drums with slip rings are not ideal and must be
“upgraded” with a special accessory. Here the e-spool is much simpler
and more efficient, offering a high technical quality.

e-spool as a solution for upper and lower machinery

Usually, two locations are defined in stage
technology: upper and lower machinery. In reality, the e-spool is suitable for
both. A key reason for this is its quietness, whereas systems with slip rings
can cause noise during operation. As the tests in the igus noise chamber have
proven, the e-spool is clearly the better option. With an appropriately
equipped e-spool, the noise level could be below 46 dB (A). When it comes to
the best signal and sound quality, such as in the upper machinery in Mountford
Hall, one of the largest concert halls in Liverpool, the lack of slip rings
pays off. There a customised cable guidance system with four e-spools supplies
moving power and signals for the entire loudspeaker system so that the best
possible sound balance is always achieved in halls of different sizes or during
different events. The uninterrupted connection between amplifiers and speakers
ensures optimum sound. The e-spools make as little noise as possible and
achieve a visually tidy effect. Even with the use of even more e-spools in the
upper machinery, the energy supply remains completely hidden from view.

At the Culture and Congress Centre in Torun in Poland,
a total of ten e-spools are moving the power cables for the lighting trusses.
Since the room configuration can be changed, the cables and connections had to
be highly flexible and resilient. A requirement profile that the e-spool system
was designed for! The Sydney Opera House, too, is already using the e-spool for
its upper machinery. But the e-spool is also well suited for the lower
machinery, as can be seen at the Cologne Opera House. A total of 18 e-spools
are there in the stage pit to ensure the necessary energy supply for stage
floor operations. At the same time, all cables for control, lighting
technology, the audio and video cables as well as the electrical power supply
must be unobtrusively routed. But there is only a very limited vertical
installation space available. Conditions that the e-spool meets with its
compact design.

Routed on the side of the podium legs to save space,
they ensure absolutely concealed cable guidance, so that despite their high
number there is no visual obstruction and passageways remain free. The stage
platform of the Cologne Opera also benefits from the free choice of colours for
e-spools and e-chains. All cable guides were kept in neutral black. For safety
reasons, yellow was used for the e-spools in the stage pit. In general, there
is always the option to choose the colour that best suits the function and the
background. All applications in upper or lower machinery show that the e-spool
ensures uninterrupted cable guidance with high transmission reliability, even
with limited space and tight radii, as well as a minimum of visual and acoustic
interference. These plus points also gained the e-spool the iF product design

features and variants for the stage such as the e-spool power

The igus e-spool is extremely flexible. It can guide
different types of cables and diameters, both vertically and horizontally.
Since larger cables can be separated, even cable diameters of up to 17 mm are
possible. The e-chains parts are easily openable and can be quickly filled with
cables. This allows a straightforward installation and also allows maintenance
or repair in case of damage. Cable retrofitting is possible in many cases, so
that more cables can be changed or added to the system later. The e-chains can
be quickly retracted up to their original position. Extension lengths from 4m
to 14m are standard in the product range. In addition, it is possible to
produce extension lengths of up to 50 m for special projects. The maximum
extension and retraction speed is 1 m/s. Accelerations up to 2 m/s2 are
possible. In the case of the lateral speed, a maximum value of 1 m/s applies
and for lateral acceleration a maximum of 1 m/s2 (radial) or 0.25 m/s2 (axial).

The e-spool was also intensively tested for its
durability and service life at the igus test laboratory, the industry’s largest
testing facility with a floor area of 2,750 m2. 24,000 double strokes were
completed at maximum rotational movement without any problems. Depending on the
application and filling, the achievable service life is up to about one million
strokes. After about 75,000 double strokes, the retraction spring must be
replaced during maintenance. Optionally, you can equip the e-spool standard
with one or two twisterbands.

An e-spool with only one twisterband has a drum
diameter of 600 mm and can weigh from 13.5 kg to 48 kg. If you want to carry
more cables, it is advisable to use an e-spool with two twisterbands. This
version has a drum diameter of 850 mm and a weight of 40 kg to a maximum of 55
kg. For heavy-duty applications, there is a special HD version of the e-spool
standard, with an extra-strong spring. The retraction force can be increased
again, especially for heavy, vertical applications, for example in acoustic and
lighting installations. For the e-spool HD there is always a choice between one
or two twisterbands. In general, all components of an e-spool are halogen-free
and comply with the general fire protection standards for building technology
and machines as well as those for building materials and components (DIN 4102
or DIN EN 13501). In addition to the standard options for the e-spool standard,
the e-spool is also available in various special variants that can meet the
individual needs of a stage application.

The mini e-spool was developed for very small
installation spaces. As the drum and shaft block are made of aluminium, it is
extremely light (only 3.3 kg) and can be integrated anywhere. It is designed
for extension lengths up to 2m and is ideal for small circular movements. If
only one cable is required, the e-spool can also be used with manual extension.
A detent mechanism reduces strain on the cable and prevents unwanted rewinding.
Despite an extension length of 5m, the diameter of the spool is only 300 mm.
However, the e-spool variant with the greatest relevance for stage technology
is probably the e-spool power. This has a motorised retraction system. As a
result, high fill weights and movements in all directions are possible. Instead
of a retaining spring as in the standard e-spool, a motor retracts the spool.
This overcomes the technical limitations of the standard systems. This is
possible because the motor increases the power and allows a higher cable fill weight.
This means more cables and larger diameters can be carried. At the same time,
longer travels of up to 50 m and more are now possible. With a maximum
extension and retraction speed of 1.2 m/s every additional metre is managed
quickly. As the e-spool power does not require retraction springs, the
maintenance intervals are further apart. There is no tensile strain on the
cables. Therefore, the e-spool power ensures a longer service life for both
itself and the cables. Since it is supplied with a drive and control system, it
can be integrated quickly into the respective stage machinery.

Unconventional solutions for unconventional theatres

Modular design and flexibility of the e-chains allow a
creative solution for vertically hanging applications that is not only
cost-effective, but also very space-saving and inconspicuous. If stages or
heavy stage platforms have to be moved, lifting heights of many metres and
heavy loads have to be managed. So far, systems that have been used are noisy,
space-consuming and visually intrusive.

With the “zig-zag” installation method using
igus e-chains from Treotham, there is an effective alternative for this, which
is characterised by its compact design. By using reverse bend radii, the
e-chains can be stored in a zig-zag pattern. In this way only very little space
is required. When the stage or platform is raised, the e-chain unfolds with low
noise. This installation method is possible with all e-chains of the E4 series.
The entire e-chain practically disappears as it is stored automatically in a
standardised zig-zag box, and this can be integrated in the stage pit or fixed
on movable lighting trusses. This box can optionally be chosen in matte black
or another colour. The e-chains are available in external dimensions of 75 to
500 mm with box lengths of 600 to 3,000 mm and box heights of up to 2,000 mm.
As standard, travels of up to 40 m can be implemented just as speeds of up to
0.4 m/s and accelerations of up to 1 m/s2. Even higher values are possible on
customer request.

The zig-zag principle has already proven itself in
practice in a wide variety of applications. An example from the theatre
technology field is again at Mountford Hall in Liverpool, where zig-zag
e-chains are successfully in use in order to supply the lighting trusses with
energy. At maximum height, the e-chains are fully retracted in their baskets
directly above the respective crossbeam. If these are lowered, the e-chains
unfold automatically. Everything is space-saving and as unobtrusive as possible
for the audience. An all-round flexible system that, as a specific customer
solution, could only be created through close cooperation in concept and
execution. Roger Kirby, installations director at Adlib Audio, the company
responsible for it, praised the good collaboration: “We were able to work
closely with the igus engineers at all times.”

slim alternative to zig-zag: The igus Liftband

The igus Liftband was designed for similar
applications, but following a different approach than the zig-zag method. It
was developed for vertical applications up to 13 m and with lower cable loads,
although higher fill weights are still possible with the use of nylon bands. It
moves very quietly and has a modular design that can be easily adapted to
different heights. Energy, data and pneumatic cables can be moved together. In
the process speed up to 1 m/s and acceleration up to 2 m/s² are possible. With
a bend radius of the cables up to 250 mm, the space requirement of the Liftband
is exceptionally low. The Liftband is therefore the perfect alternative to
zig-zag solutions, if very little space is available. The chain is stored in a
solid steel basket, so that the retracted system is barely visible. However,
for both the zig-zag box and the Liftband it is necessary to configure every
application individually. Therefore, a Treotham designer should be consulted in
the project planning. Only a little time is needed from configuration to
delivery – the simplest as a ready-to-install plug-and-play system with
pre-assembled cables and connectors.

and robust cables for stage technology

With the zig-zag principle, not only can different
e-chains be used, but all media cables (energy, data, hydraulics, pneumatics)
are also guided in one system. In stage construction in particular, a variety
of sensitive devices such as cameras and speakers are used. This requires a
wide variety of cable types. Energy, data and signals must be transported just
as reliably as, under certain circumstances, water or compressed air. With the
chainflex product range, there is an assortment of 1,354 cable and hose types
available from stock, from motor, control, servo, bus, data and encoder cables
to modern fibre-optic cables, with cable lengths of one to several hundred

Chainflex cables have been specifically developed for
moving use in energy chains and withstand very high mechanical stresses in
moving applications, even with twisting movements. Designed for many cycles,
high speeds and accelerations as well as long travels, they work reliably
without failure over long periods of time. They therefore have a unique
36-month guarantee. In addition to these general advantages, certain chainflex
cables have performance features that are particularly interesting for the
stage technology. Examples of this are the extremely bend-resistant and
flexible chainflex types, which can be safely used in confined spaces. Because
of the “low bending” concept, which is available for all cable types,
smallest bend radii are possible, even down to four times the cable diameter.
Cables with TPE outer jacket are halogen-free and flame-retardant, thus meeting
the required fire protection standards. Even more time can be saved with
ready-to-connect cables from the readycable range or with completely pre-assembled
e-chain systems, including matching plugs, from the readychain range.

for camera robots and guidance systems from Treotham

Igus “motion plastics”, plastic components
for moving applications, can be used in a variety of ways in stage technology.
Whether in stage construction, light or audio technology, low-friction plastics
are a cost-effective and easy alternative to conventional materials. They adapt
to any space and any type, get along without any lubrication and reduce
maintenance costs. An example of this are the energy supply systems of the E6
series, which are in use in the studio of ARD-aktuell (ARD current news),
where, among other things, the Tagessschau (daily news) and the Tagesthemen
(daily prime time news) are produced. The former independent specialist for
studio technology, Camerarobot Systems GmbH, was looking for a reliable
guidance system for its three camera robots, which guarantees not only long
service life even at high loads, but also works very quietly. The E6 modular system,
which can be ideally adjusted to the different travels, has chain links with a
special design with abrasion-resistant connections, which ensure extremely
low-noise and low-vibration operation. Additional noise-damping mats in the
guide troughs ensure very high smoothness during tracking shots. Since the E6
can also be used laterally, there are completely new freedoms in terms of
design and space requirements. Another compact and silent overall energy and
data supply system ideal for camera systems is the micro flizz. The smallest
e-chains can master even long travels in a guide channel. Virtually no noise is
emitted since a plastic spring attenuates the rolling noise of the chain in the
channel. With an acceleration of up to 50 m/s2, an operating speed of up to 6
m/s and data rates up to 10 Gbit/s, the micro flizz can execute fast tracking
shots safely, and all of these in the smallest of spaces.

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

Leave a Reply

© All Rights Reserved. All content published on this site is the property of Prime Creative Media. Unauthorised reproduction is prohibited