Andy Pye examines one approach to overcoming the cable management challenge of automating cleanrooms with low contamination risk.
In many industries, such as medical and pharmaceutical research and production, contamination control and air purity are essential. Cleanrooms control the level of environmental pollutants present, such as dust, airborne microbes, aerosol particles and chemical vapours, that can have a damaging impact on products and processes. At the same time, cleanrooms are embracing automation with more and more complex robotics and handling systems being installed. Automating cleanroom processes helps increase production, reduce cycle times and decrease manufacturer’s costs.
Contaminants can be generated by people, processes, facilities and equipment. In automated handling equipment, such as pick & place machines, the energy supply and management system can be serious particulate generators and a major design challenge. Up until recently, corrugated tubes have been used to fully enclose the energy supply system, which could include sensitive bus, data and fibre optic cables, as well as air and fluids.
Cleanrooms are classified according to the number and size of the particles permitted per volume of air. There are two accepted cleanroom specifications, ISO 14644-1 and Federal Standard 209E; however in Europe ISO 14644-1 is more commonly used. To give perspective, the everyday air we breathe contains about 35,000,000 particles per cubic metre, 0.5µm and larger in diameter, corresponding to an ISO 9 cleanroom, while an ISO 1 cleanroom allows no particles in that size range and only 12 particles per cubic metre of 0.3 μm and smaller.
Igus specialises in energy supply systems for cleanrooms and offers a broad range of approaches. A series of tests began in the Dryden Engineering Company (CA, USA) and were continued in the Igus test facility in Cologne, Germany and at the Fraunhoufer IPA institute with an extensive test and certification programme. One of the most recent developments is e-skin – a lightweight, versatile alternative to the corrugated tubes used in pick & place machines, printers and other machines
The simple and reusable opening mechanism allows for trouble-free maintenance and inspection of the cables. e-skin can also be tailored to an individual application and is available in a variety of materials and various colours. Interior separation modules enable cable-friendly cable guiding.
“Comprising an upper and lower shell, which when fitted together is completely closed, the e-skin is simple to open and close,” says Igus director Justin Leonard.
This easy-to-open hose is suitable for a variety of delicate ISO Class 1 applications, where demands on the energy supply systems are not particularly high. It comprises an upper and lower shell, which when fitted together is a completely closed system.
Unlike conventional corrugated tube, e-skin has a defined movement direction and can therefore be used as a horizontal energy supply for short unsupported lengths. In addition, thanks to its oval design, the modular tube offers more space than round corrugated tubes. Interior separation modules offer cable-friendly cable guiding.