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How to Choose the Right Power Cord for Your Robot

How to choose the right power cord for your robot
Most robots spend all day working either manned or unmanned, and at night they are recharged, so they are powered up and ready to “go to work” again the next day. Choosing the right power cord for the recharge is key if you want to achieve a long-lasting robot that your customers will value for many years to come and that offers them a high ROI. 

In this article, we will focus on what to consider when choosing a retractable power cord reel for use in robots, as this is the obvious choice over power cords that are not retractable when developing new robots whether they are cleaning robots, medical robots, welding robots or similar.

Avoid Cord Failures
One commonly overlooked issue with power cords is bending the cord beyond its natural radius. When a non-retractable power cord is used on a robot, it is typically wrapped around a cleat. If the customer wraps the power cord too tight this could cause damage to the cord. A retractable reel wraps the power cord around a uniform spool preventing this issue. At the same time, the reel keeps the power cord off the floor when not in use preventing the power cord from getting stepped on or run over preventing damage. 

We recommend consulting a professional power cord reel supplier with specialized Engineers who can assist with recommending the reel mounting for the best performance of the reel. This is especially important when aesthetics are a must and the reel is mounted inside of the robot. Mounting the reel and guiding the power cord properly through the exit of the robot to avoid wear on the cord not only helps to maintain the cord but also makes it easier for the customer to use.   

Medical Grade Power Cord Reels for Medical Robots 
When developing robots for use within the medical field, a medical grade power cord reel, also commonly referred to as a hospital grade power cord reel, is necessary to ensure that the robot lives up to any national or international standards. A medical grade power cord reel is defined by the cord, plug, and exterior being compliant to various standards, such as UL60601-1 and medical grade NEMA 5-15P for USA, and similar standards for use in other countries. Even reel housings injection molded with antimicrobial additives are available specifically designed for use on or inside medical applications.

Does the Power Cord Reel Really Live Up to International Standards?
Today’s power cord manufacturers are increasingly selling their products worldwide, and to save money, some manufacturers have been known to attempt to “reconfigure” a cord or power cord reel for international use by assembling a different plug at the end of the cord. These cords and power cord reels may not live up to international standards, even though the manufacturer states they do. For a cord or power cord reel to actually live up to the standards, the wire used for the cord must conform to the local wire and cord standards, and power supply cord sets (cords and plug assemblies) must be certified for use within the specific regions they are used. In other words, replacing the plug on an American cord with, for example, a German or Danish plug, does not make the cord compliant with the standards in Germany or Denmark. You can learn more about this in the article Does Your Cord Reel (Really) Live Up to International Standards?

Help Your Customers Avoid the Hassle
As mentioned at the beginning, this article is based on the usage of retractable power cord reels in robots, as this is the obvious choice when adding a power cord to an expensive robot. Power cords come in different lengths and often a robot of a certain size would need a long cord to reach from its position in or on the robot, to the socket that the plug needs to go into.

However, as a robot manufacturer you have two options when choosing the cord for your robot; a “loose” cord that the end user can manually wind up after use and attach a proper place on the robot, or a retractable power cord on a reel that can be altered inside or on the robot so the cord is not visible and is not at risk of falling off the robot or getting wound up in something while the robot is in motion. 

As loose cords are a trip hazard, can take up a lot of space, and, at worst case, could accidentally end up breaking during use, a retractable power cord reel would usually be the better choice. With this solution, the user can easily retract the cord by pulling the cord until it makes a “click” sound and retracts, the cord will not get tangled, it won’t take up space or be a potential trip hazard, and, just as important, the cord will safely be protected in the case and will thereby last longer.

About Hunter Spring
At Hunter Spring our passion is designing and manufacturing reliable, high quality flat springs and spring reel products such as retractable power cord reels. We have been around for more than 100 years, and have, among other things, developed and supplied springs and spring reel products for Apollo missions, robots, aerospace, food and pharma industries, the music industry, race cars and much more throughout the years. Our experienced Engineers work closely together with our customers to develop the spring and spring reel solutions that match their specific applications. At Hunter Spring we take pride in configuring the cords to meet the electrical demands of any country – the right way.