Cable Reel Systems vs. energy chain® Cable Carriers

Cable reels have been used in cranes and other moving machines to manage and distribute cables. These cable reels are often large, slow, and require a lot of maintenance-- something that an energy chain system does without. Below we broke down the differences between cable reel systems and e-chain systems® to help you decide which one will work best for your needs.

Popular Applications in Industries:Theater and stage, Cranes, Bridges and movable structures.

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The main differences between cable reel systems & e-chain® cable carriers:


Cable Reel Systems
igus® e-chain® systems


Adding or Replacing Cables

  • Replacing or adding cables in a cable reel system is a difficult process that causes a lengthy period of downtime.

  • Typical cable reel systems can only manage power and control cables and require special systems for additional cable types, i.e. fiber optics.


  • Replacing and adding cables to an e-chain system® is quick and easy as they are always in a safe and accessible position.

  • With e-chain® all types of cables and hoses can be guided in the same system.


Size Requirements

  • Motorized reels can require more than 20 feet of space to operate.

  • Cable reels have parts that need to be serviced regularly, which can require a crane and specialized training, as well as significant component lead times and costs.

Cable Protection
  • The composite cable used on a cable reel is not protected throughout the length of travel and can be cut or otherwise damaged in the trench or guide system.

igus cable reel

  • energy chain systems® require only a small vertical window for the cable loop (less than 3 feet is needed).

  • e-chain systems® are virtually maintenance free and can easily be serviced without special equipment, tools or training.

  • Cables and hoses are protected within the energy chain in their own compartment for the entire length of travel, which eliminates the risk of cable failure.


Drive Systems

  • Many large cable reels require a motorized drive system to accomplish retraction, which adds to the complexity and maintenance of the system.

Cable Tension
  • In traditional cable reels there is constant tension on the cables which can result in cable failure.


  • With e-chain® no additional drives and controls are required, as the e-chain® is pushed and pulled by the machine tow arm.

  • When using an e-chain system® there is no added stress on the cables, push pull forces are handled by the e-chain®.