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igus® S.L.U.

Ctra. Llobatona, 6

Poligono Noi del Sucre

08840 Viladecans Barcelona

+34 93 647 39 50
+34 93 647 39 51

New heavy-duty robot system with maintenance-free energy supply from igus

Revolutionary system for the automation of offshore oil exploration defies extreme conditions

Metre-high waves, storms with high wind speeds, oil, sludge and heavy precipitation: living and working on an oil platform is not only unpleasant but also dangerous. Drill rods are driven up out of the borehole, unscrewed and reassembled under high pressure by men covered in oil. A lot of manual labour under time pressure combined with dirt and a high risk of injury. However, all that could soon be over. Based on its research and development work over a period of many years, the Norwegian company Robotic Drilling Systems has developed a robot system for the automation of drilling on the platform. In this application, energy chains from igus ensure the reliable supply of energy under extreme conditions.


  • What was needed: energy chain with reverse bend radius (RBR), chainflex cables
  • Requirements: particularly mobile energy and signal supply to robot rotary axis, high mechanical stress due to salt water and sometimes extreme temperatures
  • Industry sector: ship cranes, Offshore
  • Success for the customer: all services from chains and guide troughs to cables from a single source, innovative solution for a special application, installation of the solution in the robot's rotary module, durable and low-maintenance energy supply solution


In industry, more and more processes are being automated so as to achieve higher cycle rates, relieve people of heavy labour and save costs. This trend can also be observed on oil drilling platforms: the start-up company RDS Robotic Drilling Systems AS in Stavanger, Norway - a hub for the European oil industry - is developing robots with the aim of completely automating drilling work on oil drilling platforms.
To achieve this goal, however, energy, media and signals must first be reliably channelled to the robots' grippers. Alongside other systems, the focus here is on the so-called "Drillfloor" heavy-duty robot with six axes and a load capacity of 1,500 kilogrammes on an outstretched, 3m long robot arm and a newly developed gripper. It controls the drilling process. The seventh axis of the "Drillfloor" robot is a heavy-duty linear system, on which the entire robot, including the load, travels. This presented the designers with the challenge of making the energy and signal supply system flexible - and that in extremely confined spaces. In contrast to the linear movement of the seventh axis, the necessary movable energy and signal supply on the rotary axis of the robot base proves to be much trickier.
In addition, the robotic systems work under difficult conditions and must be resistant to salt water, corrosion, mechanical stress and sometimes extreme temperatures. In addition, high explosion protection requirements also apply in this area.


Today, the energy supply is solved with a rotary module from igus. This is an energy chain that is side-mounted and works with a "[Link pagenr="2899" title="reverse bend radius" (RBR)"]. The chain links move in both directions, which makes them different from conventional linear travel. The chain is inserted into a round guide trough. The maintenance-free plastic energy chains can be used without restrictions despite the high requirements for corrosion resistance in offshore applications. The installation of the rotary module in the robot housing required professional engineering and was solved by the igus Project Engineering Team. The result is a complete solution in a special robot installation, in which the chainflex cables from igus are used, which are certified for potentially explosive areas and also in accordance with NEK 606, in addition to the rotary module. The cables were developed from the ground up for mobile applications and impress with their long service life even under extreme conditions. igus guarantees a service life of 36 months for all cables in the product range and has already certified 403 cables in accordance with DNV GL offshore regulations.
However, igus components are also used in other automation units of the unmanned oil drilling process. Energy chains run on both the so-called "Electric Roughneck" and the "Pipe Handler" - 25 in total. They are arranged on the masts, i.e. on the vertical axes of the handling systems, with which the "stands" are removed from the stock and fed to the central robot.

"It is important for us to obtain components for the robots from a single source and, if possible, ready to install. The systems should also be as maintenance-free as possible. igus can guarantee this."

Jimmy Bostron, Chief Operating Officer of Robotic Drilling Systems
Drilling platform
Drilling platform

Golden vector award 2016

The robotic system developed by RDS is suitable for installation on new oil drilling platforms, but also for retrofitting. It creates new rules for assessing the economic viability of exploration projects - an important factor in view of the low oil prices. For this reason, the new development met with great interest right from the start and led, among other things, to well-known drilling companies participating in RDS. The jury of the vector award initiated by igus was also impressed by the application and honoured the system with the golden vector 2016. Following extensive tests, the first practical installation was put into operation on an oil drilling platform in Norway in September 2015 (Picture 5). The entire industry is closely following the project, which will make work on oil drilling platforms faster, cheaper and, above all, safer.