What does your crane application need; a busbar or energy chain?

busbar or energy chain

Busbar or energy chain? The performance and reliability of a crane is directly dependent on how power reaches the system. There are various power supply options available and each option has certain parameters and requirements to be considered. This can mean that selecting the best type of system to implement can be complicated. Here we look at 2 possible options; Busbar and energy chains.  


Busbars or energy chains? Busbars have historically been popular power supplies for cranes. However, busbar systems do have some shortcomings. One of the main problems is that busbars requires downtime for maintenance as they require frequent inspections. This is not only inconvenient but expensive!

Busbars are also limited in the type of energy they can supply. On a busbar system, each conductor requires its own conductor bar and collector. To add additional conductors should they be required, extra conductor bars must be installed on the hanger brackets. There is usually issues with space restrictions, so this is sometimes not a feasible option. This limits busbars usability. Another potential set back for the busbar system is should there be a requirement for additional hoses or other cable types. These have to have a separate system. This is important to consider when looking at intelligent plastics; Industry 4.0 and again whether the logistics of additional external cables are feasible.  

Further difficulties with busbars continue with the exposure of bare loaded conductors to the surrounding environment. This then becomes a health and safety concern, Something many companies simply cannot have, especially when dealing in hazardous or explosive environments. Busbars are not suited to these environments and can become a costly choice if dust or debris are in the air. Problems such as corrosion, which is likely in applications installed near seawater occurs causing devastation for the system.

energy chains

igus® e-chains® are uncomplicated. They are constructed of parallel side links that connect with crossbars along the top and bottom of the chain. As a plastics specialist, we have specific designs and materials available which suit various types of motion and environmental applications. Unlike steel systems, plastic energy chains are designed to resist abrasion and corrosion. The igus® e-chains® are lighter than steel and are 100% maintenance-free. Our e-chains® can carry all types of cables and hoses in a single system,. These include power, data, fibre optic, media and hydraulics. Our chainflex® cables are designed with jacketed multi-conductor cables for continuous flexing applications. We are so confident in our products that we offer 36 month guarantees on our e-chains® and cables.

With the e-chains® systems, it Is also easy to change the cables if required. These are secured to the chain with strain relief clamps, which are installed at each end. If the cables need to either be replaced or upgraded, the existing cable can be released from the ends and used to pull in a new cable.  

The tribologically optimised polymers that the e-chains® are manufactured in, allow them to remain stable, even when subjected to high loads, high temperatures and adverse weather, showcasing the primary reason the energy chain is more suited to crane applications than the busbar.

Want to find out more about cranes? Visit our frequently asked questions section here:

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Industries that e-chains® are commonly used in are other than the crane industry are agriculturalautomotive, material handlingpackaging and Robotics.

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Why do we need energy chains in engineering applications?

Energy chains are often called by other names, such as drag chains and cable carriers. Fundamentally this is what they are. These chain systems are designed to guide and protect cables and hoses carrying energy, data and liquid safely. The goal is to ensure an uninterrupted supply.

Many moving parts within a machine need to have a power source supplied to them. This means there will be cables connecting the power source to the component. These cables need to be protected. Why spend money on a product for your machine without ensuring it is going to run as efficiently as it can?

But these chains have to be able to do more than that. They must be able to withstand harsh environments, extreme temperatures, a whole range of diverse environmental influences and how many energy chain systems can cater for all these diversities?

igus® energy chains, or e-chains® as they are referred to in the igus® world, have been designed in optimised tribological materials which ensures that the maximum operating lifetime is achieved. 

The range of sizes, widths and materials available enables us to be able to offer energy chain systems for most applications and allows us to be able to replace metal drag chains for plastic versions.

The metal v plastic debate

There is still a stigma surrounding plastic e-chains®; will they be able to cope in the extreme weather? Can they survive in adverse environments will plastic be able to hold the weights required?

This misconception is simply that, a misconception. igus® have invested a lot of time and resources into ensuring that the polymer chains produced are thoroughly tested and proven in all possible applications. There is a designated testing laboratory at igus® Cologne which is running 24 hours a day. This is continually testing a multitude of variants.

We have energy chains made from specific materials especially for certain industries. These range from the e-skin®; suitable for cleanroom environments and conductive ESD e-chains® for explosive environments.

“Talking” technology

There are also other unique features to igus® energy chains. We have industry 4.0 intelligent chains. Tis technology reports wear or damage back to the control system before it becomes detrimental to the application or machine. This conditioning monitoring system increases safety in machine efficiency due to the regular wear detection.

We offer a 36-month guarantee or 10 million strokes, whichever comes first. This is offered with all energy chains, proving the confidence we have in the products.

We have free online configurators which allows customers to have confidence in the chain system you pick. You have control over the parameters you enter. Another online tool we offer is the 3D CAD portal. Here you can find CAD files to help you incorporate these energy chains into your designs.  

These essential energy chains can also be recycled! So even after you may consider them to be at the end of their life cycle, you can send them back to igus® in exchange for a voucher. These will be re-granulated into more energy chains! This is only a small element of their sustainability. Even producing these chains has a more positive impact on the environment. You can read more about how in this blog

There are more positive reasons to ensure you are using igus® e-chains® in your application . However if you need convincing further visit the new e-chain® product page.

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Industries that e-chains® are commonly used in are agricultural, automotive, material handling, cranes, packaging and Robotics.

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The igus® Chainflex® CASE – the Cost-effective & Innovative Storage Solution

Sometimes it is the simplest of things that create the biggest stir and this is certainly the situation with the new igus® chainflex® storage case.

This ingenious idea not only reduces costs in delivery and storage space, but with its integrated QR code system, it makes reordering so easy. Let me explain…..

Ship’ n store

It is being referred to as the igus® “ship’n store” solution and the versatile packaging idea is achieving savings on so many levels, as well as accomplishing environmental goals. Let’s look at some facts:

  1. It is 84% more cost-effective when shipping as no pallet is required.
  2. Manufactured from reusable materials it is part of the sustainability project that we have at igus®.
  3. Easy to reorder. Each chainflex® case has a QR code relevant for the cables supplied with the case, so for easy re-ordering, simply scan the QR code and it will load the repeat order into your basket on the website. Couldn’t be easier!
  4. Easy to store and unreel. Having it as a compact simple system allows unreeling to be done quickly and efficiently and the box can be stored anywhere! You can stack up to 3 boxes on top of each other.

One of the highlights of the box for a lot of people, is the environmental impact the packaging system has. The environmental footprint is reduced and the whole system becomes a lot leaner and more streamlined. This includes the drum inside the chainflex® box.


As mentioned earlier, being manufactured out of recyclable materials has a positive impact on the environment and this is vitally important for us as a company and for our customers.

Also, having a more compact storage and shipping method reduces shipping and handling costs. Ordinarily, the cost to ship large reels would have been high as they would have required palletising, however this new system allows the cables to be shipped on a standard shipment method.

It isn’t always the biggest or most elaborate products or ideas that are the most effective, but this method of storing, shipping and re-ordering is cost-effective, simple, easier and sustainable.

What more could customers need?

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How can intelligent 3D printed parts make your life easier?

intelligent 3D printed parts

As with all igus® products, our aim is to improve technology, reduce costs and make life easier. If we can combine the two then surely that is a win-win situation?

“Smart” plastics or “intelligent plastics” are not a new form of technology for igus®. However combining this “intelligence” with the low-cost 3D printing technologies has enabled us to integrate sensors within the structure of the parts. This issues warnings to the control box before damage is done to the machine or application. And impressively, it is now available even more cost-effectively.

How has this been achieved with 3D printed parts?

This has been achieved through the multi material printing technology recently unveiled by igus®.

These intelligent components are created through a multi-material 3D printing procedure. I have discussed this procedure in more detail on this blog; This is a process in which tribo-filaments can be combined with other materials within a component. This supplements the high degree of wear-resistance with further mechanical and functional properties.

During the printing cycle, the sensor layer is applied to the main areas of the component that will be subjected to load.

This has allowed us to create wear-resistant parts with integrated sensor layers made from our wear-resistant filaments iglidur ®I150 or iglidur® I180. This also  includes specifically developed electrically conductive 3D printing. This conductive electrical resistance of the sensor material is measured continually. This allows a warning to be issued before overloading or before the wear limit is reached.
This triggers a required action by the customer. It is pre-empting that something needs to be done in order to prevent damage within your application.

Prevention is better than cure

Another key feature of these new 3D printed parts is that they cannot only tell you if your part is wearing. It can also alert you if your application is suffering from overloading, therefore preventing damage before it occurs!

As with all igus® parts, these have been thoroughly tested in the igus® laboratory. Being 3D printed parts means there is minimal waste, making the parts sustainable!

To the best of our knowledge, there is no other company on the market offering products that can effectively measure wear, live throughout the life of an application. This ability to “talk” to the controller enables you to adjust your maintenance schedule accordingly.  

This cost-effective way of producing intelligent industry 4.0 technology opens many more doors. The speed in which the igus® technology is progressing means we can support even more customers with their applications and machines than ever before! Prevention is always better than cure.

If you want to try out this new technology, please get in contact!

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Industries suited for these would be; Food & Packaging, maintenance, Automotive car plants and automation & Robotics

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Automating warehouses; can igus® technology improve your processes?

Automating warehouses

Automating warehouses can be challenging and 2020 has been a testing year for everyone! But there have been some positive steps within many industries, such as the wider acceptance of the need to automate and improve production, ensure safety of staff and to get the most out of production efforts.

Some people perceive this to be negative, assuming people will lose jobs because of processes being automated, but the truth is that in many cases, this isn’t the reality.

Automation doesn’t necessarily mean replacing humans! In some cases, robots are being implemented in areas/ roles that humans might have been in before, but someone still needs to program, maintain and be responsible for these machines, that is all they are!

Large warehouses already have many processes running automatically and this year, staff safety and social distancing has forced companies to ensure that many of the processes that should have been automatic, have been implemented.

Areas such as material handling solutions and automated storage and retrieval systems, areas where automation is essential.

Which igus® products are beneficial in automating warehouses?

There are 2 main igus® products or systems in the e-chain® range; the autoglide-5 and the guidelite ECO vertical that can help with automating warehouses.


energy chains in Automating warehouses

The autoglide-5, an alternative to a busbar system, can save up to 88% assembly time compared to traditional energy chain and trough combinations. Not only is this system quick to assemble, it is also cost-effective at approx. 40% of the cost of a standard energy chain system. It retains all the benefits of an e-chain® system though – uninterrupted end-to-end cable connections, no risk of wear or corrosion on contacts and collectors and above all, the ability to have any form of power, data, fibre-optics or fluids, together in one system.

Effectively, the design is a cable guided system which is attached to the floor, the steel cable connects to the funnel shaped cut out on the back of the crossbars on the chain. Another key feature is that you can have the autoglide-5 fully harnessed, which includes the energy chain, the cables, the hoses, steel rope and connectors. Install and run!

igus products

guidelite ECO vertical

The lightweight guidelite ECO is another method of replacing busbar systems, this time for vertical mast travels. This is an uninterrupted guide trough system which is supported by a simple console every 500mm.  As with the autoglide-5, it is quick to install, saving time on installation and assembly. Comparable to traditional steel or aluminium containment systems, the guidelite ECO is 59% lighter!

If you need convincing further…

Benefits of all igus® products and why they are ideal for application such as these:

  • Maintenance-free for 24/7 use
  • Save installation space and weight
  • Low noise and low vibration
  • Easy assembly
  • Fast delivery
  • Service life calculation

Read about the common misconceptions people have on plastic products here:

As I mentioned earlier, automation doesn’t need to mean loss of jobs for humans. It simply means making processes easier and safer FOR humans and now more than ever, we need to make our lives easier wherever we can.

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What Can Curved Rails Offer That Standard Rails Can’t?

Curved rail seems like a rather strange phenomenon but actually the requirement to be able to have a curvature in applications is more common than you think.

igus® drylin® linear rails are immensely popular. None more so than the drylin® W range. So, based on the popularity of this already flexible linear collection, it made sense to try and see if we could develop this range but curve it!

So, that’s what we did. However, this was no small task. We quickly realised that our vision for this curved rail was going to prove to be slightly more difficult than we had anticipated. Saying that, after years of planning, designing, re-designing, crying ( I am sure there were tears along the way) and extensive testing in the drylin® laboratory, we achieved the goal. Curved linear rail!

We can now offer standard bend radii which are available as a stock item. Now that we have the technology and resources to facilitate this production, we are able to offer bespoke curves; custom designing of the radii, profile and also the coating.

Application examples:

The individually designed drylin® W curved linear guides have allowed igus® to help with innovative solutions for applications with limited installation spaces. A prime example of this would be within driver’s cabins of utility vehicles. A small enclosed space where monitors and control systems are designed in a tight space to ensure safe and easy accessibility.   

Unlike the standard drylin® rails, the curved rail offers even more flexibility. This allows linear rails to be used in applications where it previously would have been ruled out. Examples such as; curved doors on machine guards. Or even on train doors, where safety and reliability are of utmost priority. With no lubrication required and low coefficient of friction, the drylin® rails are ideal for applications when smooth running is essential.

We have also provided curved rails in Marine applications such as hatches on boats, showing the versatility of the products.

One of the key features that makes these systems stand out is the unique design of the carriages. These carriages can run on a straight rail that leads to a curved section and then back to a straight section. This is achieved through the use of specially designed spherical balls. These sit snuggly within the housings, which connect the carriage to the rail. These are made from iglidur® polymers and will compensate for any misalignment, ensuring smooth travel.

Look around at your machines. I am confident there will be applications you have where a curved rail will improve functionality and production for you.

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Ever tried putting a round bearing in a square hole?

Often people want a slewing ring bearing to form part of an application, but the size just doesn’t fit nicely in the space they have allowed. igus® have spent years developing a thinner version, a lighter version and an all polymer weight saving option. We have even made a square version with reduced fixing points.

“Show us the problem and we will find a solution”, this has never been truer and it’s with help from the likes of product managers, such as the PRT Product Manager Dean Aylott, who work with the igus® customers,  that the correct product is found and is suitable for the application.

In recent times, we have seen a shift in the market and the industries looking to use the PRT range. Many wanting to have a higher level of friction to give a feel of quality so that the product doesn’t turn under light loads or vibration, without having to break the bank.  Examples of this could be areas such as luxury interiors for automotive or aircraft.

Despite having a fairly large range of slewing rings, this doesn’t prevent us from having the option of custom making or custom adapting to create the optimum version for your application.

This could be a simple adaptation such as increasing the hole in the centre of the ring to allow product through, or maybe doing away with the hole altogether, adding a keyway or anodising the part in a different coating or colour.

But igus® want to do more…..

Make it predictable

To make life even easier, igus® now offers PRT slewing rings with isense technology, these report their wear status which detects and monitors maintenance requirements via remote diagnostics and informs as soon as wear appears. If the iglidur® polymer sliding elements have to be changed, the system is informed accordingly, all of this avoiding sudden machine shutdowns.

And as with all other igus® products, the online tool “Expert system for slewing ring bearings” is available for free to calculate the predicted service life.

The special tribological properties of iglidur® PRT slewing ring bearings enable a wide variety of applications, some mentioned previously but other areas of use could be:

  • Vertical turning machines
  • Base of robot arms
  • Lighting equipment
  • Shop construction and furniture manufacture
  • Turning stations

iglidur® slewing rings, as versatile as they are, are not designed for high speeds or heavy loads, something to be mindful of.  For such cases, conventional multi-component bearings with lubrication and large interspaces are advantageous.

So, 50 years on, our promise remains the same, “show us the problem and we will find the solution”. If you have a rotational application that is turning axial, radial or moment loads then contact igus® and we will help you get the perfect slewing ring.

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Introducing the range of igus® FDA and EU compliant products

FDA and EU compliant products are hard to come by, igus® has been developing and producing various products for the use in food production which comply to FDA (Food & Drug Administration) and EU-10/2011 (European food standards) for many years, and the range has grown year on year. So, it was only fitting that the specialised product group had a designated page to showcase our various products!

If you have additional questions about FDA and EU compliant products at igus® visit our frequently asked questions page here

Last month, the new FDA and EU 10/2011-compliant page was released, and this blog is to highlight some of the key products within the FDA category.

The FDA and EU compliant products at igus are:

iglidur® plain bearings

FDA and EU compliant products within our range of iglidur® plain bearings allows most applications to be considered. There are various high-temperature options, blue variants and materials resistant to extreme high chemicals.  There is a selection of both sleeve and flange bearings that are available from UK stock.


The blue iglidur® tape is perfectly suited to applications where space constraints are in place. The tape comes in both self-adhesive and non-self-adhesive versions and in various widths and lengths. This versatile tape can also be adapted to any custom shape!

Knife edge rollers

These products are one of the unsung heroes that people tend not to realise we sell. These overlooked little products are vital in areas of food and packaging to ensure conveyors run smoothly, connecting different areas of the conveyors for a seamless transitional journey from A to B. There are different materials available in the FDA range; ranging from iglidur® A180, commonly known as the “all-rounder” to the iglidur® A350, the high-temperature endurance runner.

chain compliant

TH3 energy chain

The innovative design of the TH3 energy chain is the first hygienic design to be developed. The base material is resistant to chemicals and aggressive cleaning agents and with its distinct blue colouring, it is perfect for food & packaging applications and FDA and EU compliant products.

iglidur® polymer rod and plate

Similar to the knife edge rollers, the range of FDA-approved polymer rods and plate is fairly substantial, which allows nearly every food application to be covered. We have high-temperature and high chemical- resistant materials, media- resistant materials, all lubrication- free and available in many different sizes, ready to be machined or used as simple wear pads.

dryspin nuts & stainless-steel linear units

These go hand in hand in some cases. The stainless-steel linear units are ideally suited for aggressive environments. These can be fitted with A180 or A160 liners and also A180 leadscrew nuts. This combination ensures a completely food- approved system.

Tribo coating

tribo coating FDA complaint

The newest addition to the FDA family. igus® has developed a few variations of tribo coating using the tribologically-optimised polymers in a powder form. These can be applied to numerous metallic surfaces to create a low wear sliding surface. The IC-05 has been designed for the food and packaging industry and with FDA & EU 10/2011 certification it is perfectly suited for applications where space is an issue, you require a surface which has direct contact with food yet needs protection from wear and to increase the service life of your application.

3D print materials

3D printing is taking over the world, so it is obvious to see why the A350-PF filament was introduced. This high-temperature filament not only has FDA & EU- compliant certification it also complies with the fire prevention requirement of the FAA for aircraft interiors. Versatility is essential and with such prominent properties, this filament is adapted perfectly for varied applications and environments

All of the Food- Approved products have relevant certification should you wish to view it. Go and check out the new page and see where the FDA products might be suitable for your application.

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Why is the single pair ethernet the future?

This question has been asked a lot recently and I had no answers! Why is there so much fascination on the single pair ethernet? (or SPE as it is referred to) Why can it be described as “the future?” After a very in-depth conversation with the chainflex® Product Manager John Barker, I started to unravel the simplicity of the seemingly complex topic….

Back to basics

Fundamentally, the science is this; previously, the more advanced the technology, the bigger the cables needed to be. However, more recently technology is evolving. It is evolving at such an extensive rate that despite the cables getting smaller the technology is becoming more advanced.

So, what is the fuss about with the SPE?

SPE technology allows a cable that ordinarily would have 4 pairs of cores to have only 2 cores. This is whilst maintaining its ability to transfer data and power via Ethernet protocols. igus® has developed an SPE product, designed for guaranteed lifetime. This is when used in igus® energy chain cable carrying systems. One of the main benefits of SPE technology is a significant reduction in the overall cable diameter. This has been reduced up to 25% when compared to other 4 pair ethernet products. The additional benefits from this change mean that installation spaces can become smaller. It also means reducing weight and improving performance. Even saving costs!

Why SPE?

The purpose of SPE is to allow continuous ethernet communication from the control right up to the end of the production line. The SPE cable gives the customer the clearest most effective data transferred quicker than ever before.

So, who wants SPE?

Ideally, this cable needs to be designed into the machine or application at the beginning of the design stage! The SPE is not devised to be retrofitted into legacy Ethernet systems once a machine is already up and running, it requires specific SPE technology to interact with in order to perform. There are design engineers all over the country who are tasked with updating technology and the SPE is a simple, efficient and cost-effective way of achieving this.

Why choose igus®?

igus® offers an electrical and mechanical 36-month or 10 million double stroke guarantee, whichever comes first. This is igus’® way of reassuring customers of the confidence that we have in the products that we sell. We also have these in stock in the UK for delivery in 24 hours so there really is no reason why you shouldn’t visit the website for more details….

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How to use tribo-tape in the Food and Packaging industry

When companies are trying to optimise the service life of products, it is sometimes the most inoffensive and understated product that can help. These are the products that no-one really considers until an issue arises which needs rectifying. What if you could prevent rather than waiting until you require a cure? In industries such as Food & Packaging and labelling there are a multitude of applications that can benefit from a simple product. A product overlooked due to its simplicity; the igus® tribo -tape.

What is tribo tape?

The tribo-tape is an iglidur® high-performance designed tape which was developed for lining surfaces as a method of protecting the sliding surface. It also allows the goods passing over the surface, therefore reducing potential damage.

This is especially suitable in areas where there are high production frequencies within the application. These are areas such as conveyors and bottle production. Using iglidur® properties for the tape ensures a long service life is achievable. It allows s a low coefficient of friction surface for products to slide along.

This tribologically developed tape is perfect for applications such as under conveyor belts, reject chutes and label applications, providing protection of products that pass over stainless-steel sheet conveyors.  By simply adding a segment of tribo-tape can be invaluable.  Items such as bottles are fragile but with the protective layer of tape, this acts as a cushion effectively preventing breakages and enabling a safe uneventful transfer from A to B.

There are two options for attaching the tape to the required surfaces. One is to manually clamp or screw into the film. This is not a usual manner of attaching the tape but is it a possibility.  This also depends on the contour and the support surface. The other method is to simply use the adhesive backed version. The tribo tape is available with or without a self-adhesive back. The self-adhesive back must be removed from the protective film and, can be placed onto the surface, as long as the surface has been thoroughly cleaned.

Quick and easy!

If the tape is fixed correctly and ever needs replacing it is easily done by peeling off, ensuring the surface is clean and free from any dirt particles and replacing with a new section of tape. Quick and easy!

In order to appeal to all application requirements, the tape is available in various materials from a high temperature version to an FDA version, from a black to a white version, there really is something for every application.

The tribo-tape is versatile with its properties and this versatility is apparent through the varying widths, which range from 20mm wide to 500mm wide as standard, as well as various material options. You also have the choice between having a self-adhesive version or non-adhesive.

So really, the choice is yours. Which one will suit your application?

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