chainflex cables and three-dimensional e-chain ensure reliable operation even with the tightest bending radii

Whether unique store concepts, concrete staircases in futuristic design or modern facades, the company Aectual from the Netherlands makes very special architectural projects come true with the help of its XXL 3D printer. For reliable "lights-out" operation of the robot, the designers opted for highly flexible chainflex cables in a triflex R energy chain with a pneumatic retraction system. In the 7th axis, an E4/light cable carrier supplies the robot with energy and data.
They are unique, modern and functional: the projects of the Dutch company Aectual. The company produces customised floor coverings, walls and stairs that create a very special experience. This enables Aectual to turn even the most complicated wishes of designers, project developers, builders and architects into reality. The printed works of art can be found, for example, in Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport: here, 2,000 square metres of floor space with an integrated floor guidance system adorn the airport concourse. The façades and interior elements are produced with an XXL robot printer. It is one of the largest of its kind in Europe and the only printer that runs in "lights-out" mode (i.e. remotely without server access). Print speeds of up to half a metre per second set it apart. Aectual's extrusion technology is integrated directly into the robot. In the extruder, the granulate, which consists of bio-based or recycled material, is melted and fed directly into the pressure nozzle via a screw. The extruder uses several different sensors and driven components. The routing of the power, analogue and digital signal cables proved to be a challenge. The many cables had to be laid as compactly and robustly as possible in order to maintain lights-out operation. The motion plastics specialist igus was able to supply the suitable cable protection system with its energy chains and cables.
Safe cable routing on the robot thanks to retraction system
"With the help of the chainflex robot cables, we were able to make our system cleaner, more reliable and more efficient. Since all cables have the same connectors, they can be easily replaced during maintenance. The easy cable replacement also gives us the possibility to equip our extruder with other digital fabrication tools in the future," explains Hedwig Heinsman, Co-Founder & Chief Commercial Officer at Aectual. All cables are safely guided by a triflex R energy chain. The energy chain is specially developed for three-dimensional applications on robots. It ensures that no cable gets twisted or fails. For retracting the cables at the robot head, Aectual relied on a pneumatic retraction system (RSP). "In this way we guarantee safe guidance of the cables and hoses even with large arm diameters and very complex movements," explains Jörg Ottersbach, Business Unit Manager e-chains at igus GmbH. "The retraction forces are infinitely adjustable to the individual application through the use of a pneumatic cylinder." Aectual not only relies on motion plastics products from igus in the robot's six axes, the developers also use an E4/light energy chain to supply the robot via the 7th axis in order to move the cables safely. The chain is characterised by its low weight, its large interior space as well as a cost-effective price.


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