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Igus’s energy chains have been used in the retracting roof used to cover Wimbledon’s Centre Court. The chains were ideal for the application, considering the constrained space, a desire to minimise noise and a requirement for the roof to blend into the historic venue.

As John Biggin, project manager at mechanical engineers SCX Special Projects Ltd — the firm chosen to design and build the retractable roof moving parts and control systems — explained: ‘There are plenty of retractable roofs on sporting stadia, but to date the majority have been flat roofs. The Centre Court roof was to be a concertina roof; sliding roofs lack the flexibility of this offering.’

The concertina roof project involved 148 axes of control, huge steel trusses and more than 17,000ft2 of fabric covering, with the assorted cabling. All this was controlled by 108 high-performance actuators, 40 servo motors and 196 servo drives, along with miles of cables.

The roof works on a principle similar to a folding fabric concertina — with metal ribs or trusses supporting a translucent industrial fabric. It comprises nine bays of tensioned fabric divided into two sections. The northern section has five bays, with four in the south. Each bay is supported on either side by a steel truss.

The ends of each truss are supported by a wheeled carriage or bogie which moves along a track positioned on the newly installed fixed roof of the Centre Court. The roof takes 10 minutes to close and if that’s being done because of rain, court covers will protect the grass in the usual way while the closure is in progress.

Key benefits of product application

  • With such a concertina design, preventing damage to the myriad of required electrical cables was a major concern. Igus’s energy chains guide and protect the cables while the intricate movements of the roof protect the playing surface below.
  • The energy chains are modular and therefore can be assembled quickly and easily to accommodate any length or orientation of travel, which enables engineers to save installation time.
  • The chains are tested and proven against environmental elements, high loads and speeds and noise.
  • The chains reduce downtime and increase the service lives of cables and hoses.
  • Biggin said that the energy chains ‘support and protect the cables. If we didn’t protect and control the cables they would keep getting bent as the roof concertinas and they would eventually fracture, so we put in the energy chains.’
  • ‘They are a unique solution. If you need to get cables across a gap and the gap moves they are the only way to go.’
  • Energy chains can also be partitioned to take a number of different cables.
  • The plastic energy chains can be colour co-ordinated to fit in with the overall design. In this instance they were moulded in white plastic.

Igus

Igus is the largest producer of reinforced plastic energy chains and injection-moulded polymer bearings. The range of polymer bearings includes Iglidur plain, Igubal spherical and Drylin linear bearings. They offer an excellent price-to-life relationship and are developed under the toughest conditions. They are oil, maintenance and lubrication free, low wear, resistant to dirt and dust, corrosion free and simple to fit. Igus also has the data to precisely predict the lifetime of these bearings within a specific application.

Igus is the largest producer of reinforced plastic energy chains and injection-moulded polymer bearings. The range of polymer bearings includes Iglidur plain, Igubal spherical and Drylin linear bearings. They offer an excellent price-to-life relationship and are developed under the toughest conditions. They are oil, maintenance and lubrication free, low wear, resistant to dirt and dust, corrosion free and simple to fit. Igus also has the data to precisely predict the lifetime of these bearings within a specific application.

Energy chains are the umbilical cord of modern machines. They minimise downtime and protect, support and extend the service life of cables and hoses. The broad range incorporates more than 30,000 innovative, low-cost products. From the smallest ‘micro’ chain to the largest chain in the world, the E4.350, Igus energy chains are capable of long and short travel distances at high speeds in all axes.

Igus also has its own cable series, Chainflex, specially designed with energy chains in mind. They are highly flexible cables, offering a long service life and very small bending radii. A wide range is available, from small signal cables to large power cables, high-speed data cables and glass fibre-optic cables.

The company’s energy chains and Chainlflex cables can be delivered as a fully harnessed and pre-assembled Readychain system, cutting purchasing, warehousing and installation costs.

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