Paving the way for automation
Component supplier Treotham Automation is helping bulk handlers keep up with the increasing energy and data requirements of automation through its Energy Chain technology.
As technology becomes faster and smarter, machinery often requires more from its surrounding infrastructure. For example, for a conveyor tripper to have access to the Internet of Things, it requires a reliable internet connection.
John Sharp, Bulk Materials Handing Specialist at Treotham Automation, says cables need to provide more than just power to support more advanced technology.
“Most things involved in moving materials will require power. But, as more companies begin to automate their processes, there is also a higher need to include ethernet, fibreoptic and data cables alongside energy sources such as electricity, gas or liquid,” he says.
“A lot of the time, these cables will also need to be tough if being used for bulk handling, as the environments are often harsh, especially if the machinery itself is moving.”
To facilitate this, Treotham provides a cable solution called an Energy Chain. Also known as a power chain, drag chain or cable chain, Energy Chains supply, guide and protect moving cables and hoses for automated equipment.
Recently, Treotham installed Energy Chains at the Port of Esperance for a ship loader handling iron ore. Mr Sharp says the company’s cable festoon option was only providing power, but with the installation of an Energy Chain system it could also provide water for the dust suppression system and fibreoptic cable for cameras, data and control.
“Bluescope Steel has also used the technology to upgrade its ship unloading operations. Previously the machine’s power came from a trolley crane with a busbar, which was limited in speed and required a lot of maintenance,” Mr Sharp says.
“After the upgrade, the crane had the connectivity for autonomous use and vision systems, allowing the grab to unload the ship. This also mean the company no longer required an operator, letting them use the employee in a higher value task.”
The cable chains use high durability plastic, and as a result, the plastic suffers from significantly less wear when compared with metal components and can be run in environments with sand or near corrosive salt water.
Mr Sharp explains it is possible to run a maintenance free system for 10 to 15 years with extremely high duty cycles as a result of its construction, which he adds is also significantly cheaper than stainless steel.
Energy Chain can also be used in areas where a long travel length is required. Treotham offers specific solutions for longer travel lengths, as potential challenges can arise when the length of chain goes over 400 metres at cable loads of 50 kilograms per metre.
Treotham’s system engineers are able to tailor the chain to a company’s specific operation, providing travel lengths of up to 800 metres long and high additional loads of up to 30 kilograms per metre. A new design of Energy Chain is used in these scenarios, suitable for the mining, warehousing and crane industries.
The company’s founder, Mikael Paltoft, moved to Australia from Sweden around three decades ago. He began selling the technology locally, inspired by his father who had sold similar technology in Europe.
When Treotham started, Mr Sharp says the technology had not significantly penetrated the Australian market.
“Globally, the technology has been used in more than 1000 facilities across a range of industries, from the mining and ports sector, to manufacturing and warehousing,” he says.
“However, Australia can often be a bit more conservative when it comes to upgrading certain parts of its infrastructure. This is because there is often a tendency to stick with what you know, even if it is potentially outdated.”
Energy Chains are able to be integrated across a variety of bulk handling equipment, including conveyor belts, excavators, portal scrapers, lifts, silos and funnels. Treotham is able to support the sizing, design, construction and installation and maintenance of the system.
“The chain is a mission critical part of operation. If it stops, the machine stops,” Mr Sharp says. “That’s why we ensure our customers are well equipped and are well looked after.”
Find out more from Treotham at BULK2020, from 1-3 April next year.