Durability and dependability with igus chainflex cables on a long-travel basket loader for baby nutritional drinks.
Durability and dependability with igus chainflex cables on a long-travel basket loader for baby nutritional drinks.

Abbott Labs finds durability, reliability in igus cables

Chainflex helps Abbott Labs develop enduring solution for long-travel basket loader.


One of the world’s leading manufacturers of medical products has found durability and dependability with igus chainflex cables on a long-travel basket loader for baby nutritional drinks.

Abbott Labs installed 33ft and 20ft chainflex cables on a basket loader after cables on the previous units failed after three months. The units complete 1,500 cycles per day.

The loader has a moving carriage with a track above it that places bottles into a basket at the end of the packaging cycle. The head attached to the carriage includes sensors and other electronics. The cable that had been installed to communicate with the carriage needed replacement after three months. A customized, and more costly, solution installed in an effort to gain more extended service life failed after four months.

“Because it is moving from end to end, the loader was causing a lot of wear on the cables and it just kept wearing out,” says Todd Mumford, a senior manufacturing engineer who works in the Abbott Nutrition Supply Chain in Columbus, Ohio. “We had to replace the cable every three months and we had to make sure we replaced it before it failed.”

Problem solver
With the frequent monitoring and replacement of the cable, the team at Abbott sought a more enduring solution.

An electrician new to the Abbott team recommended a switch to the igus chainflex cables. Mumford doubted the durability of the igus cables but found them to be much more reliable than previous parts. “We don’t have the downtime that we had in the past,” he says.

The igus cables used in the application have an unsupported travel distance of up to 1,312ft and are guaranteed for up to 10,000,000 cycles. igus CFBUS cables are used for very high mechanical load requirements and include a TPE outdoor jacket. The shielded cables are oil and bio-oil resistant, flame retardant and hydrolysis and microbe-resistant, which are critical features in this application. The cables also have a 10x d bend radius.

The solution for this project included customized CFBUS-301 cables. CFBUS cables are used in a wide range of applications, including high-bay warehouses, indoor cranes, semiconductor insertion, cleanroom, and machine handling.

Long-lasting cable
The replacement cable in the unit is still operating efficiently, more than 18 months after it was installed.

“For this application, the primary benefit is the long life,” Mumford says. “It can bend a lot tighter and a lot more times than the cable we had been using. We expect we will get at least two years out of the cable. I was shocked at how well it has done.”

Abbott is a global healthcare leader whose portfolio of life-changing technologies spans the spectrum of healthcare, with leading business and products in diagnostics, nutritional and branded generic medicines.

For more information about igus cables, please visit the igus website.

Increased innovation, digital presence
Motion plastics leader sees 30% online growth amid worldwide pandemic

An increase in the pace of innovation and emphasis on expanding its digital presence in the face of a worldwide pandemic helped igus increase online sales by 30% in 2020.

Innovations range from telescopic robot tube packages to dry-running ball bearings with 21x the standard service life to large scale 3D printing. Engineers and OEMs can find 168 innovations from all departments at igus 2021 Motion Plastics Show. The virtual trade show booth is at https://exhibition.igus.com/

“Even in the wake of the global virus, our bold and swift steps helped igus remain in the forefront of innovation and providing unparalleled customer service,” says Rick Abbate, vice president of igus North America. Online sales in the U.S. mirrored that of the global growth, rocketing up more than double during the pandemic. “Our company’s customer-focused culture helped us navigate through a period of uncertainty that impacted businesses the world over,” Abbate says.

Product innovation
At the Hannover Messe Digital edition in April, igus unveiled 168 new products and product extensions, more than ever before. Its range of new Tech Up, Cost Down products stretched across a wide range of industries and applications.

After two years of development, the ReBeL, a new robot drive element, allows customers to construct their own robot arms quickly and cost-effectively from a modular kit. The core of the ReBeL is a greatly improved plastic gearbox. An integrated BLDC electric motor with power electronics can be connected to various controls. In addition, a suitable low-cost control system from igus is available free of charge as a download, so that the automation can be simulated in advance.

In the field of “large” industrial robotics, igus launched the TRX energy supply system, a solution that rethinks the subject of robot hose packs. The energy supply system twists, lengthens and shortens in a spiral, and cables are inserted in the form of a spiral. This enables a weight savings of 83% on the 3rd axis, in less than half the space.

In lubrication-free and maintenance-free bearing technology, engineers at igus achieved a breakthrough in service life. In the application cases of low loads and high speeds, this was increased by a factor of 21.

Expanding online capabilities
A significant amount of financial and intellectual capital went into online shops and online tools. All website shopping outlets were renewed and made more informative for customers. New online tools for the configuration and calculation of gears, rollers, linear modules and stepper motors are accessible on the internet free of charge and without registration.

In May 2020, igus introduced a virtual trade-booth stand that has been located in an exhibition hall in Cologne Porz-Lind. It was recognized with the iF Design Award.

"We are in our second year without trade shows,” igus CEO Frank Blase says. "This time we can start the presentation of our new products at full digital speed."

The new trade show stand has been optimized based on experience gained in virtual customer consultation and tours last year. Solutions for various industries can be seen in separate areas at the stand, which established the industry standard for virtual trade show booth displays.

The orange trade show stand has hosted 55,000 visitors worldwide. Another 16,000 visitors have also taken advantage of a digital visit with igus specialists.

"We would normally have been represented at 222 trade shows and conventions last year, but we only made a total of 26,” Blase said. "So we are very happy that the stand has become a fixed part of daily communication with customers."

Plastic becomes a sustainable resource
While innovating products and expanding digital capacities, igus also continued to develop products that have less impact on the environment during use, are produced in a CO2 neutral manner, and recycled afterward. A new building currently under construction will be climate neutral from the outset, and this will apply to the entire igus factory by 2025.

To further reduce emissions, igus is investing in modern technologies. For example, injection moulding machines that save up to 40 percent energy and are barely audible have been purchased in large numbers.

In addition to mechanical recycling of energy chains, igus also relies on new types of chemical recycling. The company increased its investment in Mura Technology to €5 million. Mura's HydroPRS technology converts plastic waste back into oil. Investments increased by 29 percent overall in 2020.

A year of change
The year saw extreme change for igus in many areas. For instance, the early expansion of machine and raw material warehouse capacities in the third quarter of 2020 enables fast delivery times in the rapid recovery phase of the current engineering climate.

At the same time, igus expanded its stock at every location in the world. In addition to the USA with 23,000 individual parts and Europe with 88,000, 21,000 parts are now available in China in 24 to 48 hours and are assembled by igus in millions of models. The offer of easy online configuration and ordering together with the short delivery time was welcomed by many customers.

While sales fell 4.8 percent for the company overall, aggressive innovation and expanded online options for purchasing, testing, and configuring place the company in a positive marketplace position in the post-pandemic business environment.

"Politics, technology, mobility, entertainment, climate and health - the world is changing rapidly at the moment,” Blase says. "We want to be active shapers. So I am proud of the igus colleagues for how they have applied themselves, changed and improved during these times."