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Cable Carrier System Is Breath of Fresh Air for One Company

Smeal Fire Apparatus uses Energy Chain Systems from igus

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. - July 17, 2008- Smeal Fire Apparatus Company has been providing the nation's firehouses with a complete line of fire apparatuses, which includes aerial platforms, aerial ladders, pumper trucks and tanker trucks, since the early 1960s. For more than 10 years, Smeal has been using igus® cable carriers and continuous-flex cables on its aerial devices for fire trucks. The device uses telescopic sections to raise firefighters and their tools in the air to attack a fire from above.

With vehicles shipping across North America, from the deserts of Arizona to the Northern Canadian artic, Smeal must ensure that every component on each machine can sustain performance in the most extreme conditions. The vehicles often encounter temperatures as low as -30 degrees Fahrenheit with wind chills of -50 degrees Fahrenheit. Another consideration is the searing heat given off by the fires these vehicles face.

The aerial device is a key apparatus for fire trucks, with as many as five sections supplying electricity, water and oxygen up to 125 feet in the air. If the conduits carrying this media break or malfunction, it can mean the difference between life and death.

In the mid-1990s, Smeal discovered that some of the cables used on its aerials could not handle the harsh weather. In cold, wet weather, ice would form causing the cables to become brittle and snap. Others melted in the extreme heat of a fire. To further exacerbate the problem, these cables were attached in a pendulum style design similar to an elevator; left open to sway in the air, they would often tangle and corkscrew. The cables were also subject to lacerations caused by the firefighters' axes.

To combat these problems, Smeal looked for a way to protect these critical cables and discovered plastic Energy Chain cable carriers from igus, which are designed to house, protect and extend the service life of cables and hoses. Smeal found the lightweight plastic design of the carriers, along with their link construction, enables them to move and bend with the cables as the aerial device's sections are extended. A cable carrier is installed on aerials ranging in all sizes from 55 feet to 105 feet and some of the larger aerials incorporate two Energy Chains.

Smeal uses System E2 mini Energy Chains to house up to eight cables, including Chainflex CF9 cables from igus, which boast one of the smallest bending radii on the market. The cables provide electricity for lights, remote control of the ladder and monitor application devices to direct water stream and pressure of the nozzles. Protecting these cables is important, as they also provide hydraulics and hoses to supply oxygen to the firefighters.

"The igus Energy Chain was like a breath of fresh air," said Tom Smeal, design engineer for Smeal. "We no longer have cables exposed and vulnerable to the elements, swaying back and forth. We have a neat, secure, reliable energy supply with the Energy Chain Systems® . We tried other cable carriers, but the quality just wasn't there. The Chainflex cables have stood up phenomenally in the field and display unmatched flexibility despite harsh, frigid conditions."

With complete Energy Chain Systems from igus, Smeal also saves considerably on maintenance and warranty costs. To get a free sample of Energy Chain or Chainflex, please call an igus design technician at 1-800-521-2747 or submit an information request at

About igus

igus Inc., founded in 1985 and based in East Providence, R.I., develops and manufactures industry-leading plastic cable carriers, continuous-flex cables, plastic bearings and linear guide systems. With more than 28,000 products available from stock, the company meets the motion control and machinery component needs of customers worldwide. Product lines include Energy Chain Systems to protect and house moving cables, Chainflex continuous-flex cables, iglide® self-lubricating, oil-free, plastic bearings, DryLin® linear guide systems and igubal® spherical bearings. For more information, contact igus at (800) 521-2747 or visit

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