60 million double strokes and 18-months’ life: igus cleanroom e-chain still scores top marks

Member News

Energy chain “e-skin flat”: igus proves abrasion resistance with
first industry test of its kind, and is 20% cheaper than standard ribbon cables

Energy chains and other
components designed for cleanroom environments must be certified to
international standards. Cleanroom-compatible energy chains of the e-skin flat
series still meet the highest cleanroom class even after 18 months of
continuous use and 60 million double strokes. That is the outcome of a unique
test, carried out in a cleanroom laboratory set up by motion plastics
specialist igus together with the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing
Engineering and Automation (IPA).

Cleaning and dusting are never-ending; as soon as you’re happy about squeaky
clean surfaces, the first new dust particles land. The situation is similar for
manufacturers of displays and semiconductors, but with far more serious
consequences. In such super-clean environments every particle, no matter how
tiny, can damage electronic components. In the strictest cleanroom class, ISO
class 1 according to DIN 14644-1, there can be a maximum of 10 particles of
0.1mm (micrometres) – measuring just 0.0001mm – in one cubic metre of ambient
air. To achieve this purity, all suppliers of components for cleanroom
production plants must meet the strictest requirements. igus has developed the
e-skin flat for these applications.

The flat cable routing system
made of abrasion-optimized, high-performance plastic ensures safe and
particle-free management of power and data cables in moving production plants
and thus achieves the standard for ISO class 1.

Unique test setup: e-chain
runs for 1.5 years in dirty and dusty environments

“The cleanroom energy chain
e-skin flat is ideally suited for robots and other automation systems in
electronics production, for example in semiconductor and display production,”
says Justin Leonard, director of chain and e-chain systems at igus UK. “They
are so abrasion-resistant that contamination by suspended particles is no
longer an issue.” But until now, it was unclear how strong the particle
abrasion in plastic is after very long and intensive use. To find out, igus has
started a test setup that is unique in the e-chain industry. Part one of the
experiment took place in igus’ in-house laboratory. The energy chain moved in
an environment with normal dust and dirt exposure for about 18-months, carrying
out 60 million double strokes during this time.

Still the highest cleanroom class after 60 million double strokes

Part two of the test took place in a cleanroom laboratory, which igus built with the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation (IPA), the development and certification partner of igus for over 17-years, in Cologne. At its heart are three so-called laminar flow boxes with high-performance filters that enable tests in uncontaminated air. Here, the e-chain moved for 100 minutes, while sensors detect the concentration of particles in the ambient air. “Even after 60 million double strokes, our e-chain e-skin flat has still reached the highest cleanroom class. It is an insight that gives operators of cleanroom productions additional security,” says Leonard.

Modular design for flexible filling

The e-skin flat performs both with its extreme abrasion resistance and also its modular design. If a defect occurs on a profile in which the cables are inserted, the user only needs to replace this single module. Many commercially available solutions would require the entire system to be replaced. In addition, the module plug-in mode allows individual profiles to be connected to each other. The cable routing system thus grows with the requirements and guarantees protection of your investment.

When combined with the specially adapted chainflex stranding structure called CFCLEAN, the complete system offers a very high level of reliability. In addition, the complete system has globally recognised certification from the renowned US standards organisation Underwriters Laboratories (UL). And last but not least, the cable guides are 9dB (A) quieter and 20% cheaper than standard ribbon cables on the market.