We are so excited to introduce such an illustrious brand that is igus®. We were granted access to an exclusive Q&A with their Product Managers of the continuous-flex cables covering a deep dive into the design and product development. Read on!
Don Nester, Product Manager and Tim Marran, Product Specialist (igus® Inc., USA), and Rainer Rössel Unit Manager (igus® GmbH, Germany, pictured below), all for chainflex® cables, give customers an inside look at the continuous-flex cable development process. Even with more than 25 years of cable design and production experience, igus® still aims to improve. That is why its 29,600 square foot test lab is so important – to detect cable breakdowns before they even happen while operating in the field.
Q: Can you tell us about the continuous-flex cables development process? How and where are the cables created?
A: All chainflex® cables are created at igus® headquarters in Cologne, Germany, we are always driving our development team with new targets, such as what kinds of new material and design combinations can help increase the lifetime and reduce the production cost. When we discuss the cable design, we define all the details of the structure, starting from the copper stranding, discuss all the materials in detail, down to the manufacturer of the plastic materials, and what types of machines would be able to produce the best cables.
After we create a new prototype, the most important part of the development process begins – the testing program! Even today, though we have more than 25 years of cable design and production experience, we still have to test our new designs and materials in our test lab before presenting the cable to the market. Some of the new products being released in 2016 were designed four years ago. Yes, that’s right – our testing can take four years before we are happy with the result and begin selling!
Q: igus® has one of the largest labs in the industry where cables are tested in real-life settings. Can you explain some of the different equipment and machinery within the lab?
A: I believe that igus® is operating the largest test lab for moving cables in the world. We began the development of our testing processes and procedures more than 25 years ago, of course, the lab was much smaller at that time. Today, we are operating our 29,600 square foot lab with more than 60 testing machines which are completing approximately 2 billion test cycles, and more than 1.5 million electrical measurements each year.
These test results and testing parameters go straight into our database, and from all these years of collected data, we have created our online lifetime calculator, and we are also able to offer a three-year guarantee on all our cables. One of the main benefits of testing in the igus® lab is that since we have the design of both the cables and cable carriers in our hands, we are able to test them together and optimize the design of both products.
Q: How important is the testing lab in the development of continuous-flex cables?
A: The test lab is the main development tool. We are still learning new things day by day, even after more than two decades. Of course, we are also constantly engaged in batch testing, meaning that we are taking our cables from our production line, following a statistical rule, and testing them in the lab. This allows us to maintain the same level of production quality of our cables, and ensure it is always up to our standards. This offers protection for our customers, so they can be sure that our cables will always offer the same levels of performance.
Q: During the testing phase, what happens when a cable does not meet the chainflex® standard? How do you overcome issues and challenges that arise?
A: Having the occasional failing test is better than only having positive results because we know our tests are effective. If you only see good results from every test you run, chances are your testing procedures are not as good as they should be. Instead, if we see test results that are not the best, we can analyze the possible reasons for the poor results, check to see what we can change, and go all the way back to the prototyping stage if necessary, and start again.
It’s truly hard work to get the right product out there and igus® surely understands that process. Be sure to check out their line of products on MISUMI’s site!