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Stockpiler with e-chain® cable carriers in open-air production

igus® energy chains in open-air storage facility for alumina production

Whether as a component of capacitors in electrical engineering, corrosion protection in mechanical engineering or insulators in spark plugs: Aluminum oxide and aluminum hydroxide are raw materials for the production of aluminum products and bar stocks for various applications. The raw material for the production is bauxite, a sedimentary rock that is stored in large heaps. As a major alumina producer in Germany and worldwide supplier, Aluminum Oxid Stade GmbH (AOS) commissioned the Cologne-based igus® GmbH with the design and installation of a roller energy chain for outdoor use on a bauxite stockpile - an environment with extremely harsh ambient conditions.

A sought-after lightweight material

The Aluminum Oxid Stade GmbH (AOS) is one of the major alumina producers in Germany. It processes the raw material bauxite into alumina of high purity which is then sent to the processor. More than one million tonnes of alumina are produced every year in Stade. For this, one needs about double the amount of bauxite, which the deep-sea vessels bring from Africa, Australia, and South America and deliver at the AOS' own harbor. A single ship delivers up to 70,000 tonnes of raw material that is transported further via an enclosed conveyor belt system for temporary storage. The different types of bauxite are either stored in warehouses or large open spaces and fed by an impressive, highly visible paddle-wheel stockpiling unit of the production (Figure 1).

Complete renovation of the energy supply system

As a complete overhaul of the stockpiling unit was being undertaken, those responsible decided not only to modernize the unit itself, but also to renew the rail track and the energy supply of the conveyor system. Originally, the conveyor was supplied with energy and signals over its at least 366 long track via a motor cable drum. Now a modern energy chain system from igus® undertakes this task (Figure 2). Since the push/pull forces that occur across the length of the travel shouldn't be underestimated, the project engineers recommended the use of a roller e-chain®  that doesn't glide in the guide trough, but rolls via highly stable rollers with stainless steel ball bearings. Since the environmental conditions are unfavorable (outdoor use, temperature changes, humidity, dust), there is a "heavy duty" roller chain of type 5050RHD for this application. Outer radius stops prevent the conveyed material from sticking (Figure 3). In addition, the guide trough is equipped with an enclosure as a protection against ascent and weather.

"Heavy duty" roller chain with self-monitoring

A floating moving end suspension provides the lateral tolerance compensation and an igus® PPDS system (Figure 4) ensures the high availability, which is essential for this application. This relatively new system - the acronym stands for Push/Pull Forces Detection System - continuously measures the tensile and shear forces. In case barriers or blockages occur during the movement of the energy chain, they are recognized by the PPDS and the system can then stop the conveyor immediately. In this way, major damage such as a cracking of cables can be avoided.
For Dipl.-Ing. Fabian Wilhelm, Project Manager at AOS Stade, the benefits of the e-chains® solution are obvious: "By switching from cable drum to energy chain, we can dispense with additional slip-ring drives and their brake motors. This reduces both energy consumption and maintenance costs. " In addition, fiber optic cables and media hoses can be inserted and guided safely in the e-chain®. The AOS uses these capabilities: A fiber optic cable with six fibers is also "on board" the chain, as also a heavy water hose for the sprinkling of bauxite.

Everything from one source with turnkey installation on site

igus® supplied the engineering and the e-chain system® with all its components including the individual console substructure. The complete installation on site in Stade was undertaken by the igus® assembly service. Its staff assembled the energy supply system that run several hundred meters long on the existing rail sleepers of the stockpiling unit. The complete assembly with steel structures was performed according to plan in two sections and a total of only twelve working days (Figure 5). The acceptance, delivery to AOS and joint test runs took place at the agreed date, and since then the energy chain runs without problems or irregularities.
"We attach great importance to giving reliable delivery dates and respecting them - even and especially when several trades are working in parallel on construction sites like this," says Markus Böhm, Technical Sales Consultant at igus®. "A self-developed software tailored to our products creates the conditions so that we are able to plan precisely and offer our system assemblies at fixed prices. The fact that we also agree on individual guarantees for these services, raises the reliability and availability of the entire system from a customer's perspective. “

Another reason for AOS to completely assign the energy chain system with assembly to igus®, was the effective presence and intensive consulting on site (Figure 6). There was also an in-house reference. The previous year the igus® assembly service had an e-chain system® installed on a 459 ft travel distance on the tripper car of the AOS warehouse hall.

Conveyor system planning team The energy supply of the conveyor system was planned together (left to right): Andreas Wolf, Head of Assembly Services igus® GmbH, Markus Böhm, Technical Sales Consultant igus® GmbH and Fabian Wilhelm, Head of Maintenance at Elektrik AOS GmbH.
Paddle-wheel stockpiling unit The paddle-wheel stockpiling unit at the AOS open-air storage facility reaches impressive dimensions. As part of a general overhaul its energy supply system was modernized.
igus® assembly service The complete installation on site in Stade was undertaken by the igus® assembly service. Its specialists assembled the energy supply system that run several hundred meters long on the existing rail sleepers of the stockpiling unit.
Version as roller chain The design as roller chain minimizes the occurring push/pull forces, and the outer radius stops prevent the conveyed goods sticking to the moving parts.
Monitoring system Safety first: A PPDS system continuously monitors the push/pull forces occurring in the energy chain. In case of irregularities, shutting down the movement is initiated.
Measuring and aligning the steel substructure igus® supervisor Thomas Grohmann during the test measuring and aligning of the steel substructure.

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