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Hydraulic engineers and designers have long been facing uncertainty over the future of hydraulic power in an increasingly electrified world. The replacement of hydraulics with electrical actuators and components in vehicles especially has caused unease over whether hydraulics truly has a place in effecting motion as technology marches forward. With the introduction of the Internet of Things (IoT), a truly connected network of equipment, household appliances and even lighting or heating systems, hydraulic power seems outdated, and likely to be replaced by electric alternatives as the technology improves unless the new generation of designers embrace the benefits of hydraulic power.
Hydraulics still has many clear advantages over electric power; load bearing capabilities and predictive maintenance are just two of the benefits of using hydraulic power and easier troubleshooting and repair underline the plus points of hydraulic versus electrical power. It is obvious, however, that for hydraulic power to survive and compete it must integrate seamlessly into electrical circuits so that there is no reason not to choose a hydraulic component over an electrical one, solely on the basis of ease of integration into the rest of the system. Many hydraulic power packs now, including the ones produced by Hydraproducts, are designed to fit with electrical circuits and to be used with electrical power, translating a small amount of electrical power into a much larger hydraulic force, without any risks of high voltage electrocution or shorting out a circuit under increasing loads.
One of the most understandable facets of the IoT is the unmanned warehouse. Already in trial by Amazon (using drones) and some Chinese companies (using robots running on a grid matrix), these automated warehouses need minimal human staff, with even deliveries being accepted by robots using RFID tags. The central processing office can oversee the delivery, but no one needs to physically sign for a consignment as this can all be done through sensors. Moving new stock to the right location within the warehouse is done through robotics, and the incorporation of electrohydraulic components means even heavy items can be moved and lifted into place on shelves. Sensors ensure that the location of each item is logged, and this data can be used to create an automated picking list for the same electrohydraulic robots to compile an order. Electric actuators may be used for warehouses that only deal in lightweight stock, but for car parts warehouses and other stockists of heavy components the extra power that hydraulic components offer is essential for true automation.
If nothing else makes hydraulic components an attractive choice, then the ability to scale up power and force through the intelligent use of hydraulic power certainly does. Electric alternatives may be getting cheaper and are undoubtedly easier to wire into a circuit than traditional hydraulic units, but the marriage between electric and hydraulic power makes perfect sense for fully capable robots that can cope with lifting and transporting items of all sizes and weights. The replacement and maintenance involved with fully electric systems is comparable to that of an electrohydraulic system, but it can be much harder to pinpoint the exact cause of a problem without careful study of the wiring schematic and an understanding of the original design. Hydraulic components, by comparison, are easier to fix for those who were not involved in the design process and given that engineers and maintenance people generally are not involved in the specification of a system, it is intelligent to have a system that can be fixed more easily.
The IoT is not confined to commercial and industrial applications, however, and in part 2 we look at the uses in the smart home.
Welcome back to part 2 … we continue looking at IoT and uses in the home.
The IoT is not confined to commercial and industrial applications, however, and the concept of the smart home is becoming more mainstream as people try out smart home apps such as the ones that control your heating and lights. Although there is no requirement for using hydraulic components in these applications, combining the ability to control temperature and lighting with the ability to pre-emptively open your gate or garage door as you arrive home (perhaps with the use of GPS, so your connected home knows where you are and how long you will be) is something that will involve electrohydraulic components.
Some smart home systems know when a window is open and allow you to close it remotely, which is great if you have gone to bed and realise a door or window is unsecured. Electric actuators may be able to control the motion of most domestic windows and internal doors, but large windows, fire doors and external doors would require more power which can be offered by hydraulic actuators. These systems are also perfectly suited to being used as a security solution in large buildings that are guarded by a skeleton staff. Security cameras can be used to monitor all areas of the building, both inside and out and an intelligent network of hydraulic actuators can be used to close doors that have been left open without the security guards needing to leave their station. In a break in situation doors can be closed and locked remotely, trapping a burglar until the police arrive. Hydraulic components have a clear security advantage here as they cannot be tampered with by messing with electric circuits or by using magnets to interfere with electrical signals, and the hydraulic pressure locking a door shut can only be released by accessing a relief valve or by having access to the main control panel.
Micro and mini packs from Hydraproducts are perfect for automated door and window security applications, as they are small enough to be retrofitted in a building without causing a lot of disruption and offer a surprising amount of force for their size. Multiple units can be wired in to add extra security when needed, or they can be used to affect a further mechanical lock that is not prone to tampering or damage.
Hydraproducts also manufacture and design bespoke systems, so if you have the seeds of an idea regarding how electrohydraulic components can help you automate certain features of your home or business we are the people to call. With experience of working in hazardous industries such as subsea drilling and demanding locations like film sets where performance is key we are well versed in working within parameters set by our clients and always come up with the solution that suits the client and performs well. Give us a call today on 01452 523352 to see how we can help.
Working with hydraulic machinery involves a certain degree of trouble shooting and problem solving, even people who operate the equipment and are not involved in maintenance and repair, should have some basic knowledge of what can go wrong and what to look out for. When it comes to diagnosing and solving problems with hydraulic machinery there are several things that should be checked, and just as many tips and tools to help you do so.
Firstly, if a schematic diagram of the equipment is available this is a very handy tool for fixing problems. It may be obvious that a seal has gone somewhere along the line, but without a schematic diagram it can be a long trial and error process of finding, then changing every seal in a process of elimination. On very complicated and large hydraulic equipment with multiple hoses and cylinders it helps to be able to quickly locate each junction, especially if the presentation of the issue points to where the problem may be located. The schematic diagram also allows you to identify the potential causes of a problem, and prioritise them by likelihood, meaning less time is spent speculatively replacing parts at random and more time is spent actually investigating the most likely causes and addressing them first.
A flexible powerful light is also very useful for finding faults in hydraulic equipment, as some labels and parts may be out of the way and hard to see or read. Big torches are powerful but not so good for tight spaces, so a fibre optic light is a good investment. Magnetic dropper tools are also very handy when disassembling complex parts in situ, as if a small part falls into a reservoir or cylinder it means taking the whole thing apart to retrieve it, and in the worst cases replacing that part entirely, which can be very costly. A small magnet on a telescopic rod may be cheap and small, but can come in very handy indeed.
Once the potential problem has been diagnosed, the offending component needs to be removed and inspected for faults. Compressed air and air guns are great for cleaning off parts and for inspecting the integrity of valves. Similarly, automotive brake and clutch cleaner is an invaluable tool for cleaning greasy and contaminated components, without the need for pressure or rubbing that could otherwise damage the part. If the suspected part turns out not to be the culprit then it needs to be clean and free from contaminants when it is replaced, otherwise further issues could arise from dirty parts being replaced in the machinery.
When disassembling parts it is imperative that all components are inspected and kept visible; a lost screw or other vital part can cause bigger problems than the initially broken part if it is hard to replace. Using heavy white paper to lay out the components keeps them in sight, in order and makes it easy to see oil leaks, as well as keeping the oil off other things in the vicinity. It is also handy to be able to make notes on the paper, circling components that are okay and crossing next to ones that are broken.
Having a small tool set to hand is vital for repairing faults, and it is worth getting any specialist tools that the hydraulic machinery may require so they are to hand when needed. Spare seals are also vital to have on board, as these are often the cause of leaks but should be replaced when inspecting and repairing faults, even if they are not to blame. It is a good practice to replace these if they are removed for fault finding, as they could be compromised and stretched from being removed.
Join us in part 2 for more hydraulic trouble shooting tips that are firmly in the 21st century.
It’s not always necessary to replace an entire component in a broken hydraulic system, there are times when repairing it can deliver excellent performance and some welcome cost savings. This is true of many hydraulic system parts including motors, cylinders and even pumps.
When deciding whether it’s more beneficial to repair or to replace, your decision will most likely be based on how expensive the part is to replace. The more expensive it is, the more opportunity to make savings from repairing it. When it comes to the cost of the repair, you’ll need to consider these factors:
· How worn or damaged is the component?
· Do you have the knowledge and the facilities to make the repair?
· How is the repair going to be performed?
In some situations, there are some parts of worn or damaged hydraulic components that can be re-used after they have passed through processes such as honing, grinding, machining or hard-chrome plating. Through skilled workmanship it’s possible to make a reduction in the new parts required in addition to making savings from opting to repair as opposed to sourcing a new part.
It is also sometimes possible to lower repair costs even further by using aftermarket or non-genuine parts. Some of these parts are actually made in the same factories that make the genuine OEM parts and will be of the same quality. In other cases, these parts will be made by other manufacturers and their quality may be considered to be anywhere between poor, questionable and first rate.
Keeping this in mind, it’s worth asking your repair shop whether the parts are proven in terms of quality, performance and service life in addition to whether they are covered by a warranty.
If the repair shop is aware of the quality of the parts and are willing to stand behind them, then you have limited risk in the implementation of your decision. If they haven’t used them before, then you will need to consider what cost it will be to you if the parts are not reliable in quality.
Weigh up the savings made by the unknown parts living up to expectation versus the cost to you if they don’t. You may find that the repair shop will share some of that risk as once they have discovered whether those parts are reliable, they can then offer them as a solution to other customers.
In summary, don’t go ahead with hydraulic component repairs without understanding what risk you are taking. How do the savings you could make measure up against the cost of this experiment failing? It could turn out to be a rather unpleasant and costly mistake.
Smartphones have revolutionised the way we work and live in a very short space of time; “there's an app for that” may have been the slogan that launched a thousand apps but it's definitely true, whatever you need help with there is an app designed specifically for that purpose. Some apps are designed to fulfil a particular function that can be applied over several uses, such as torch apps, compasses and even scales (which use the ability to sense pressure to weigh items on the phone screen).
Big Magnify is a free app that magnifies objects captured through the camera up to five times the size. Some phone cameras may let you do this with the phone already, but many do not go to this scale, so this app would be useful for anyone who works with small components, some of which may be hard to see if they are out of the way. Using this app in a tight space will allow you to see a detailed zoomed in picture of the potential problem, without having to access the part or disassemble is speculatively.
Hydraulic equipment does generate noise, and excess noise may be the first indicator of a problem. Using Decibel Meter Pro when you start using equipment for the first time allows you to record and store the normal operating levels of a particular piece so there is a baseline record. If the equipment makes more or less noise than it should the same app can be used to record the change, which may help diagnose the problem. Whilst this app is not free to download, at around 99p it’s a bargain for anyone who regularly works with loud equipment.
For those who use and repair hydraulic machinery outside, the free Metal Detector app is a lifesaver if you drop a small part in the grass. It may seem like a strange app to develop, but it works well enough to locate missing parts and is a lot quicker than finding a magnet and then dragging it around the area, hoping it will pick up that tiny part. It's also incredibly useful for locating any lost metal object at home and whilst out and about; and if you still put a coin in your Christmas pudding you can use this app to ensure you're the one that gets the lucky piece!
Convert Free is a great app for anyone working with formulae and numbers, as it can convert a huge range of measurements accurately. It takes away the need to remember conversion formulae and does the work at the touch of a button much more easily than using the calculator on a smart phone. Although this app is not specifically aimed at hydraulic engineers, the Hydraulic Engineer app is. It contains some of the same features as the conversion app, but has 300 conversion formulae for hydraulic power engineering as well as 60 area formulae. There are also actuator, hydraulic tubing, pump and induction motor selection tools, making it a worthwhile investment.
Another app designed specifically for hydraulic engineers is the Hydraulic Troubleshooting app, which is a free download. This app contains a technical bulletin library explaining some of the common problems, as well as a video library giving detailed visual explanations of these issues. The troubleshooting section of the app is a ten step program that guides you through the quickest process for diagnosing and solving most hydraulic problems. The idea is that by the end of the process the problem should be resolved, and if not it gives the user an action plan to follow in order to get the issue fixed.
Are there any apps, hydraulics specific or not, that you have used to help fix a problem or that make your job easier in any way? Please share them in the comments below.
In the first part of this blog we covered a range of common hydraulic symbols, explaining how they formed part of a circuit diagram along with their various functions. We continue where we left off, focusing on common hydraulic valves.
The pressure control valve comes in two basic forms; direct acting and pilot operated and the main function of these is to control the flow rate or its pressure. As there are a number of different types of pressure control valve which deal with variations in pressure their symbols can appear very similar. A good way to check which variant is used in a system is by the location of the valve in a hydraulic circuit.
The directional control valve is responsible for controlling hydraulic fluid flow. The spool of the valve works with the valve body which opens and closes the internals to control fluid flow.
- Actuators are always responsible for the push and never the pull of spool
The hydraulic check valve works to prevent flow in a certain direction. A spring in the check valve enables the valve to open but only when the pressure is exceeded. Reverse flow can be attained by the valve opening under the influence of pilot pressure. This is usually the case if one was looking to hold the pressure in the hydraulic cylinder.
In order for a hydraulic system to store its fluid a reservoir must be employed and these come in various forms including closed and vented tank forms.
Vented tanks are more commonly used in general applications with the closed variety mainly used on offshore and aviation industry applications.
A hydraulic cylinder operates by generating mechanical force through hydraulic power. The cylinder illustrated above is a typical double acting welded end variety and, having two ports, can be powered in and out.
Ever tried to decipher a hydraulic circuit diagram and make sense of its symbols? Our blog will help you to understand the meanings and functions of the common ISO1219 hydraulic symbols.
As there are so many possible combinations of system parts and functions possible, we look at the base component circuits that make up a typical hydraulic power unit.
A hydraulic pump typically comes in either a fixed or variable form with the variable version allowing adjustments in flow rate and outlet pressure. They both have the same aim though and that is to pump oil from the hydraulic reservoir back into the system.
• Hand pump – These pumps are handheld mechanical devices which pump high pressure fluid in one direction
Filters are an essential part of any system as they help filter our particulate from fluids and, in turn, they keep components in good shape and the system running effectively. They come in different sizes, with some in cases and functions and can be placed almost anywhere on a hydraulic unit if they are of the pressure filter type. Another popular type of filter is the return filter when filter oil is deposited back into the reservoir.
All in all, filters help to maximize the service life of a system provided they are changed at the specified manufacturer recommended intervals.
The role of a pressure relief valve is to transfer fluids from areas of high pressures to those of low pressures. This most likely involves the tank.
Hydraulic Power Pack
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