An alternative to flexible cabling in some motion applications are flat cables. These cables can incorporate any variety of power, signal, and video conductors in a single compact cable. In addition to every type of electrical conductor, flat cables can also include tubing for air or liquids, and even fiber optics. By incorporating all these elements into a single flat cable, motion equipment can be significantly smaller, quieter, and more energy efficient.
Most industrial automation equipment today operates continuously, with robots that execute rigorous motions repeatedly, sometimes thousands of times a day. These applications stress not only the moving parts of the machine, but also the electrical cabling. All too often, designers spend more time sizing components like motors, actuators, and controllers and give little thought to the cabling needed. The result is that if standard cabling is used in these applications, the cables, not being designed to flex continuously, can’t handle the rigors of the application and can result in costly premature failures. Flat cables are best for continuous flexing. Their wire conductors can individually flex in a single plane, which provides optimum flex life.
Some motion control systems may encase separate wires, cables, and tubes in a carrier track to contain and manage the separate elements and to constrain their motion. These tracks are usually made of plastic and they usually have a rather large bend radius due to their size and the rolling link element design. These tracks do not add performance to the motion device or machine, as they are simply cable management devices. Cable tracks can add bulk, mass and inertia to the motion system, and moving this extra mass requires more energy. While certain motion systems such as robotic applications may require this type of cabling design, other designs may not and can use standard flat cabling instead to save weight and cost.