New energy chain guide for storage and retrieval machines proves successful in practice

New energy chain guide for storage and retrieval machines proves successful in practice

After a test phase, SIVAplan has started using the new guidelok system from igus in series production

The SIVAplan GmbH & Co. KG is a specialist in sophisticated storage systems mainly for foodstuff logistics. For its storage and retrieval machines, SIVAplan has successfully tested a new energy chain guide system, which offers a weight advantage while making the installation much faster. Meanwhile, the “guidelok slimline P” system from the motion plastics specialist igus has proven itself in series production.

The SIVAplan GmbH & Co. KG has made its mark all over the food industry as well as in other industries as a specialist for automated storage and conveyor systems.

When companies are posed with the challenge, for example, of storing 12,000 pallets of frozen cakes or the production in an industrial pizza bakery requiring an uninterrupted refrigeration chain, they turn to the company based in Troisdorf. SIVAplan came into being over 40 years ago as a pioneer in the field of channel storage systems, but now the range of expertise includes all common types of warehousing. Dipl.-Wirt-Ing. Christian Langsdorf, responsible for distribution and project services explains: “We mainly work for companies who see a perfect logistics chain as a success factor. Our customers are primarily medium-sized companies, which maintain a similar corporate culture as SIVAplan.


Storage and retrieval machines from its own development and production

SIVAplan has been collaborating with some customers for many decades, planning extensions and modernising their warehouses besides new structures – if the user so desires (and this is increasingly the case) and also as a general contractor. It features key components of a general contractor supply such as the steel racking shelf system, roof and wall of well established suppliers.  The control engineering, the handling system and also the storage and retrieval machines (SRM) are however basically sourced from our own development and manufacturing. 

Energy supply under demanding conditions

In every SRM project the tasks of electrical engineering include the designing of the energy supply to the load suspension device. In addition to the electrical energy for drives these include the signal transmission, network connection and bus communication. This is a challenge because the SRMs have high dynamics are always on the move. On the one hand the hanging chain must be guided in such a way that it moves freely vertically, and on the other hand that it remains in the track in two axes even at high acceleration or under braking.

This can be ensured by the guidelok slimline guide system, whose first generation was developed by igus several years ago. It provides a secure hold for hanging energy chains. In every guidelok segment an automatically actuated rocker provides a secure location of the energy chain and reliably prevents unwanted swinging or knocking of the chain. When the chain moves in the radius through the segment, the rocker is pressed outwards and unlatched, so that the energy chain can move through freely. If the radius of the chain leaves the segment, the rocker pushes itself inward again and re-secures the energy chain.

SIVAplan relies on the principle of this guidance system since 2010. Dipl.-Ing. Michael Huse, manager electrical engineering: “We use the guidelok system for our storage and retrieval machines, because it perfectly covers the system-related requirements.” SIVAplan designers have been using energy chains and chainflex cables from igus already for a much longer time, that is, for more than fifteen years. The close proximity of both companies allows close cooperation and has already led to various joint developments.

Quiet and easy to install: guidelok slimline P

For this reason it is also not surprising that SIVAplan was the first user of the guide system in the latest generation, the guidelok slimline-P (GLSL-P). This product was unveiled by igus at the 2015 LogiMAT.

Christian Strauch, the igus industry manager for materials handling: “We have developed the new system on the basis of constructive criticism and wishes of our customers, who wanted a more straightforward and above all faster installation.

The special design features of the new guide system GLSL-P include rocker holder made of plastic and plug-in guide-rails. The advantages for the customer are obvious. On the one hand the whole system is lighter and cheaper by the use of plastic for the holder, on the other hand a drastic reduction in installation time is achieved by the plug-in GRP guide rails.

Another advantage of the plastic novelty is that vibrations and noise are better absorbed. Christian Strauch: “The GRP guide rails are simply plugged into the guidelok plastic segments, instead of being screwed as in the previous version. This allows a simple and very quick installation almost without any tools.” The GRP angles are very dimensionally stable and cold-resistant. Knocks against the rails have no effect compared to the metal troughs, which would immediately show dents or other deformation. Even in cold storages in up to -35 degrees Celsius, the guide rails are tough enough to withstand vibration or shock.

First tests with rapid prototyped parts

After igus had produced the first parts with a rapid prototyping process, SIVAplan installed the new GLSL-P in a new storage and retrieval unit with a height of 24 metres. Three months later, the components were replaced by serial products, manufactured in the injection moulded process. The advantage of quick assembly came to the fore already at this stage. Michael Huse: “We replaced all 28 holders on site with serial components in just three hours.”

Another advantage of the new system is the very stable guidance through enlarged guide rails. These now have a gliding pad of 40 millimetres, instead of the 30 millimetres of its predecessor. The modular system consisting of the plastic guide GLSL-P and pre-assembled energy chain with chainflex cables that have been specially developed for dynamic applications, have been very satisfactory for those at SIVAplan. “Cables for energy, signals and bus systems are housed in the chain, and in most cases also with data cables for video or image processing systems,” said Michael Huse. In this way it was proven that the energy chain supplied by igus is already preassembled as a ‘readychain’, that is, ready for installation.

“When we still had the chain ‘unready’, that is, procured as separate parts with unassembled chainflex cables, we had to insert the cables into the chain always with great effort and then we also had to check them. Now we can dispense with that entirely. The completely equipped chain has become a single part number.”

Laboratory tests prove the high abrasion resistance

Before the production launch, igus tested the new guidelok slimline P extensively in its own laboratory. Even after 1.5 million cycles on a vertical axis, there was no wear on the GRP material of the guide. Given these characteristics, it is not surprising that many other companies in the materials handling technology sector have decided to use the new GLSL-P. Christian Strauch: “The interest in this novelty is big in the industry. Storage and retrieval machines must always become more energy efficient and lighter and precisely here we can offer the right solutions to our customers with our plastic solutions.”