Video: Industry Insights from the CEO of igus Inc.

IIoT, 3D printing, Robotics hold the keys to the future.

Here on, most of our readers are experienced with the production machines that make finished products. But what about the components that go in those machines?

Frank Blase is the CEO of the German firm igus Inc., best known for their e- chains, also known as cable carriers. He’s got over 35 years of experience in the industry making the component parts that go in industrial equipment, from gantry automation to robots to heavy machinery.

The core tech at igus is what they call “motion plastics”. A far cry from the old days when Delrin, a few nylons, and sintered bronze covered the gamut of low-friction materials options. Today, there are full product lines of various plastics that self-lubricate for their entire lifetime, never needing a drop of grease.

igus uses these new materials to make moving components such as bushings, gears and linear bearings. Naturally, if you make plastics, it’s a good idea to get familiar with the additive manufacturing space—a space igus is exploring with interesting projects such as printed gears and mold inserts.

Interestingly, when Blase spoke about the component products which benefit from materials engineered to perform in motion, he included cables. We don’t typically think of cables in this way: they just seem to sit there in the conduit or carrier. However, Blase recommends considering cables as more than a “set it and forget it” product. Cables for automation, robotics and machinery undergo thousands of cycles of motion, seeing friction at the exterior of the jacket and between the jacket and conductor. The cable must also handle twisting and bending stresses. Looking a little closer at your specific needs next time you order a cable could save big in the areas of maintenance, unplanned downtime and replacements.

Beyond the materials, Blase names one other limiting factor to motion materials. How long will things last? The classic example is metal ball bearings: they’ve been around so long, studied in every mechanical engineering program. There are tables of life and load and other specifications. However, with newer materials, this knowledge is not established. That’s why igus does extensive testing of their materials. The igus test lab, operational since 1989, now runs 15,000 more tests per year. Without this kind of hard data, it can difficult to bring engineers on board with new solutions.

Check out the video to hear more about the following key topics:

IIoT at igus

“It’s as if the industrial internet of things (IIoT) was invented for igus,” said Blase. “We have so many different products and configurations, and as I said earlier, lifetime calculations, that that part of IoT lens itself perfectly. Plus, we do smart products, which collect the data as it performs, facilitating preventive maintenance.”

igus Additive

“In 3D printing, we specialize in tribomaterials. We only want to do very good printed parts and materials that work in motion. Gears, linear motion, bushings, et cetera,” said Blase.

igus Robotics

“Robotics is really the most speculative part of our business. We do cables for robots, and we also do plastic gears,” said Blase.

igus also has the Robo-Link product, a modular, simplified robotics solution for light-duty tasks.

For more videos on igus and their innovations, check out the links below to the other videos in this series:

Video: Having Trouble Seeing the ROI on Factory Robotics? Try a Simpler Solution

Video: How “Cheaping Out” on Cables Could Cost You

Video: Manufacturing Custom Plastic Gears with Printed Molds

Video: Opt for Motion Polymers over Ball Bearings for Your Linear Motion

Video: How to Choose the Right Motion Cable

Written by

James Anderton

Jim Anderton is the Director of Content for Mr. Anderton was formerly editor of Canadian Metalworking Magazine and has contributed to a wide range of print and on-line publications, including Design Engineering, Canadian Plastics, Service Station and Garage Management, Autovision, and the National Post. He also brings prior industry experience in quality and part design for a Tier One automotive supplier.