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Hydraulic pressure is most often used to create, fabricate and produce items, from refining oil to building homes and even maintaining cars, but not all uses of hydraulics are productive; some hydraulic machinery is designed to break items like locks and metal frames. The emergency services are one of the biggest users of destructive hydraulic equipment including the Jaws of Life, which are used to cut and stretch mangled vehicles, and lock breaking devices used to gain access to buildings.
Hydraulic lock breakers use hydraulic pressure to force the door from the frame. The equipment is usually operated via a hand pump, which means it can be used in dangerous and potentially explosive situations as there is no danger of a spark being generated. The hydraulic pressure operates two wedges, which are placed in the gap between the frame and the door, and as pressure is generated these are driven apart, forcing the door open. The spreading force can be up to 90 kN, which is enough to crack even the most substantial lock. These hydraulic lock breakers are a vital piece of equipment for police officers as they provide rapid access, even when a door is heavily reinforced, and it allows officers to enter the premises long before anyone inside has a chance to prepare or escape.
Hydraulic lock breakers are a rare piece of equipment, in that they do not use external power sources but rely instead on the human power capacity operating the hand pump. Most hydraulic equipment does not use human power as an input, so for something powered in this manner to still be the device of choice, it means that it has to be the most appropriate solution. In a world where automation is king it represents the simplicity and efficiency of using tried and tested power sources for certain jobs, where they have been proven to be the best method.
The Jaws of Life, also used by the emergency services (usually the fire service) are hydraulically powered destructive devices. The term “Jaws of Life” was coined by one of the inventors, Mike Brick, after he heard people saying that the equipment had “snatched people from the jaws of death.” It is a catch-all term which encompasses hydraulic shears, spreaders and extension rams, all of which are used to cut, bend and distort metal wreckage to free anyone trapped inside. The power input can be manual, via a hand or foot pump, or connected to the power generator of the fire engine. It is important that these pieces of apparatus can be powered in different ways as each situation in which they are deployed has different risks, including ignition, accessibility of the vehicle and the location of said vehicle.
Hydraulic shears use the high pressures generated to cut through metal, including vehicle frames, gates and other immovable objects. Because no spark is produced, as there would be if using a grinder, they can be used in situations where fuel leaks are common without the risk of explosion or fire. Spreaders and extension rams are used to prise open metal bars which may be trapping someone, including in cases where people get their heads stuck in gates, bus stops and other objects, which is more common than you may think. Hydraulic spreaders are typically used to create a gap in a small space, examples being, opening jammed car doors or creating a space between two vehicles that are impacted together. Extension rams are used in larger spaces, such as car foot-wells or in the space initially created by a hydraulic spreader.
Having looked at the types of destructive hydraulic devices, we can see that although these pieces of equipment may be used to break and cut objects, the overall effect is a preservation of life and the pursuit of criminal elements, both of which are ultimately productive in nature. You know what they say, “you've got to crack a few eggs to make an omelette”.
Hydraulic lock, sometimes referred to as hydrolock, is a condition that affects all engines and motors that use fluids, and can even affect steam engines in some cases, where steam condenses and water remains inside the compression chamber. It mostly occurs on starting up, but can occur during operation as well, for instance when a car drives through a puddle and water enters the piston chambers, flooding the engine. When fluid enters the compression chamber (over the clearance volume) it restricts the travel of the piston, leading to damage. Because fluids are incompressible, any attempt to turn the engine over when it is in a state of hydraulic lock causes severe damage to the moving parts, bending rods and shafts or even splitting chambers open if the pressure is very high inside.
Possible causes of hydraulic lock include over priming an engine, thereby drawing excess fluid into the induction system faster than it can escape, clogged drains and other mechanical failures due to low levels of maintenance, as well as failure to drain systems that have been inoperative for a time before restarting them. Causes of hydraulic lock in moving vehicles are generally down to driving through puddles that are deeper than the air intake for the engine – some makes position the intake in the wheel arch, which acts as an invitation for hydraulic lock in even the shallowest puddles. It is a good idea to know where your intake is on your vehicle, as an expensive issue can easily be avoided by knowing for sure whether or not your car will make it through a puddle. If the engine is revving and the vehicle is moving at any speed, water can enter more than one piston chamber and damage all the piston rods, potentially causing shocks through the engine that can cause much more serious damage. If water enters the engine while it is idling, or off, there is a chance it can be salvaged before any damage occurs. If water does enter your car engine ensure that all the fluid is drained from the engine before attempting to restart it. This means removing all of the pistons and checking for signs of damage in the components involved.
Reducing the possibility of hydraulic lock is the best course of action, so it is vital to ensure any maintenance plan includes checks for broken seals, that could allow fluid into compression chambers and that drainage valves are operational and not clogged. In certain contaminated environments it may be the case that pollutants frequently enter drainage valves, and these site-specific concerns need to be taken into account when planning maintenance. When using equipment that has been in storage, it is vital that the equipment is drained fully and the compression chambers are inspected, to ensure there is no residual fluid inside.
Checking the angles at which an engine sits is also important, as if the drainage systems are inoperable due to the angles involved then hydraulic lock can occur quickly, even when all other conditions are right. It is also very important that all persons operating machinery that is at risk of hydraulic lock, are aware of the warning signs and know not to over prime an engine while attempting to start it. If an engine has been primed too much, it should be left to drain and stabilise before any further attempts to start it are made, as this is one of the main man-made causes of hydraulic lock and is easy to avoid.
Hydraulic lock cannot be eliminated entirely, as it has many potential causes. It is possible, however, to effectively reduce the incidence of the causes with good maintenance and staff training.
Hydraulics has been around for a very long time. But are you aware of how far it has actually come? You wouldn’t be alone if you responded with no. It is a very technical subject that can be quite difficult to understand, but in this article we want to tell you the story of hydraulics! We want to share with you who discovered hydraulics, what it was originally used for and how hydraulic power got to where it is today.
So why don’t we start at the beginning! Where does the word hydraulic come from?
The word hydraulic originates from the Greek word ‘Hydros’ which means water. Why water? Well, this is because water was the first liquid to be used in the hydraulic system. Today, hydraulics includes the physical behaviour of all liquids, not just water.
In this article we want to explain the ins and outs of hydraulic powerpacks. A vital piece of equipment that is used with so many machines we see every day.
In a nutshell, hydraulic powerpacks are self contained units that are used instead of a built in power supply for hydraulic machinery. Hydraulic power uses fluid to transmit power from one location to another in order to run a machine. It really is as simple as that.
So what do they look like?
In order to recognise and better understand hydraulic powerpacks, it is a good idea to get to know the key components. Hydraulic powerpacks come in many different shapes and sizes, some are very large and stationary whereas others are much smaller and more compact. In fact, some hydraulic powerpacks are so compact that they can easily be transported in a small van or even an estate car.
The only real way to identify hydraulic powerpacks is through its main components. No matter the size of the unit, all power packs will have the following; a hydraulic reservoir, regulators, a pump, motor, pressure supply lines and relief lines.
What do these components do?
It may be obvious to some but in this post we wanted to explain every component as simply as possible. So here goes.
First up is the hydraulic reservoir which quite simply holds the fluid. Reservoirs will come in different sizes.
Then we have the regulators. Regulators are vital as they control and maintain the amount of pressure that the hydraulic powerpack delivers.
Thirdly we have the pressure supply lines and relief lines. The supply line simply supplies fluid under pressure to the pump and the relief lines relieve pressure between the pump and the valves. The relief lines also control the direction of flow through the system.
Finally we have the pump and a motor. We will begin with the simpler component of the two, the motor. The motor is simply there to power the pump. Easy as that. Now the pump generally performs two actions. Firstly, it operates as a vacuum at the pump inlet and through atmospheric pressure forces fluid from the reservoir into the inlet line and then to the pump. It then delivers the fluid to the pump outlet and pumps it into the hydraulic system. We did warn you that the second part would be slightly more confusing.
So what is the function of hydraulic powerpacks?
Hydraulic powerpacks deliver power through a control valve which in turn runs the machine it is connected to. Hydraulic powerpacks come with a variety of valve connections. This means that you can power a variety of machines by using the appropriate valves.
Hydraulic powerpacks are relied upon by a range of different machines that use hydraulic power to do its work. If a machine is required to carry out heavy or systematic lifting then its likely it would need help from a hydraulic powerpack.
To make it easier for you to understand, we have included a list of trades that regularly rely on our powerpacks. On a building site you will see machines like bulldozers and excavators, which both need hydraulic powerpacks. But, it is not just on building sites that you will find these types of machines. Fishermen and mechanics both need hydraulic powerpacks too. If we did not have them then how would fishermen lift their nets or how would mechanics lift our cars?
When picking a hydraulic powerpack there are a variety of pumps and options to pick from and it is important to pick the right pack to meet your machines needs. It is also important to consider a pack that will help maximise productivity and minimise cost.
Many people will overlook the necessity of hydraulic powerpacks, but they really are vital to ensuring our society runs efficiently.
Do you need to maintain hydraulic powerpacks?
Yes you do and this is hugely important! Hydraulic powerpacks require regular maintenance to ensure they are working properly and safely and to help extend their life. Maintaining hydraulic powerpacks is relatively simple and includes checking the tubing, this can be for any noticeable problems such as dents or cracks. It is also vital to regularly change the hydraulic fluid and look at the reservoir to check for any corrosion or rust.
What hydraulic powerpacks do we provide?
Generally we provide four different types of hydraulic powerpacks. You can pick from a standard powerpack, a mini powerpack, a micro powerpack or a bespoke powerpack.
The standard hydraulic powerpack uses a standard range of modular components and is ideal for the most demanding industrial applications. The mini powerpack is ideal for applications requiring up to 5.5kW. The micro hydraulic powerpacks were originally produced for mobility applications, so are great for when space is limited. Finally, if none of these seem to fit your needs then we offer bespoke hydraulic powerpacks ensuring your application gets the hydraulic powerpack it requires.
Finally, who is the genius behind hydraulic powerpacks?
The man behind hydraulics was Laissez Pascal. A French mathematician, physicist and religious philosopher who lived in the mid seventeenth century. Pascal made observations about fluid and pressure which led to Pascal’s law. Pascal's law states that when there is an increase in pressure at any point in a confined fluid, there is an equal increase at every other point in the container. Hydraulic powerpacks have been designed based on Pascal's law of physics, drawing their power from ratios of area and pressure.
So, interested in our Power Packs? Come on over to the main website and see what we can do for your Hydraulic Power Pack Needs .
Hydraulic pumps, one of the more common mechanical applications of hydraulic technology, use fluid to push an arm a set distance forwards and backwards (or up and down). One example is the mechanical arms of a digger or other ground-working machinery. A hydraulic pump is perfect for this use, as the machinery works using the set distances between the components of the arms.
A hydraulic gear motor uses fluid to power movement for a much longer distance (or to put it another way, for an unspecified length of time). The motor works by running fluid through a chamber containing two cogs. One is linked to the drive shaft and transfers the power to the component that needs to move, and the other is idle, existing only to complete the mechanism. The same fluid is pumped through the motor chamber for as long as the power is needed, and it works in a similar fashion to an electric motor, but is much smaller and can be used in places where electricity is not safe or viable to use. It is a natural development of the waterwheel that was commonplace in the UK during the Industrial Revolution, powering cotton mills, woodworking and even bellows for blacksmiths forges.
A hydraulic gear motor is more appropriate than a pump for any piece of machinery that needs continuous power in a simple mechanism; a series of hydraulic pumps, arms and cogs can be used to create continuous power, but the resulting apparatus is bulky and made up of several components, which increases the likelihood of mechanical failure. A hydraulic motor, by comparison, can be very small and portable, meaning it is ideal for any application that is a long distance from traditional power sources and remote areas of the planet where other forms of energy are not viable. They are also reasonably simple in construction, so parts and maintenance are not an issue.
Hydraulic motors are ideal for use underwater and in dangerous places like mines and gas works, where the spark from an electric or petrol motor poses a serious fire risk. They are also good for any task where the motor is operated remotely, as the fluid can be pumped a long distance to the motor using comparatively little power and the only connection needed is piping, compared to more expensive electrical cable for running a remote electric motor. What is the most ingenious application of a hydraulic motor you have ever seen? Let us know in the comments below.
The purpose of check valves within Hydraulic Power Packs and Systems is to allow fluid to pass in one direction but to prevent it from travelling the other direction, or doing what is known as a reverse flow. The device is usually added to a pipe to prevent oil from flowing backwards. When necessary the valve will close so that all backward movement of fluid is stopped.
The hydraulic check valve has two ports. One is the inlet for the hydraulic fluid to enter and the other is an outlet. They will both operate in combination with the motor, cylinders and hydraulic pump. The valve controls the flow of fluid for the correct operation of equipment.
Hydraulic valves are available in a number of different designs. They may look like a poppet, a disc or one of the ball or plunger types. This will depend on where and how they are being used as to what style and size is used.
Most often you’ll find hydraulic check valves used in application such as braking systems, construction tools, lifting systems and other hydraulic systems. They are installed in systems where the backup of fluid could cause serious issues.
For example, if oil flowed backwards through a pipe, it could empty a hydraulic system back into the equipment reservoir. Even when the machine is turned off the hydraulic valve can prevent fluid from flowing through the system, keeping it full ready for the next time it is operated.
Dual Pilot Operated Check valves (abbreviated P.O.C), are check valves that can be opened by an external pilot pressure. Flow is blocked in one direction as per a standard in line check valve, but it can be opened when sufficient pressure from a pilot line is applied to the third port. The pressure required at the pilot port is normally only 1/3 of the pressure locked within the cylinder. This is determined by the Pilot Ratio (3:1 and 4.5:1) are normally available. They are regularly used with double acting cylinders to lock the system when pressure is switched off, either intentionally or by accident or failure. They can be fitted directly between ports on a ram or incorporated into a power manifold block or module. It is preferable to mount them directly to a ram with “hard” pipework as this increases the integrity of the device. If the pilot check is only required or desired on one side of a cylinder then it can be on the A or B sides, referred to pilot check on A or B.
Regular applications for pilot check valves are rear loading ramps on commercial vehicles. Balers and compactors where the load needs to be held while baling occurs. Security access bollards and blockers to stop the creeping down when the system is at rest. It is important top note that POC are not best suited to applications that have a load that that will over run when they are reversed.
Flow control valves regulate the flow of a fluid and take many forms:
Fixed orifice: Basically a hole in a tube or an insert that fits into the hydraulic line, restricting the amount of fluid that can pass through it for a given pressure.
Adjustable orifice: The size of the effective orifice is adjustable. Common forms are inline and barrel type where the body of the valve is twisted, needle valves for fine adjustment on low flow systems. When set the adjustment can be locked. These are regularly used on lifts or tipper applications where the load is uniform.
Pressure compensating: When a load such as a cantilever passes through an arc the system pressure can vary. This causes the speed of the cylinder to change leading to potentially undesired results. To overcome this pressure compensating valve account for changes in pressure and delivers broadly uniform flow to the hydraulic actuator. In a scissor lift a high pressure is required at the initial raise and decreases as the mechanical advantage increases. The reverse is true when lowering under gravity so a compensating flow control is suited here.
Reverse flow check: On a single acting power pack the pump and motor combination are optimized to give the desired lift speed of the hydraulic cylinder. The flow control valve has an integral bypass line that allows full flow in the out direction, through a built-in check valve. When lowering the full flow oil path is checked and forced to go through the flow restriction allowing controlled descent of the cylinder.
This consists of two valves in one block. When operating a double acting ram the extend and retract speeds will differ, due to the different fluid volumes. From our control valve full flow is permitted through in one direction whereas the other side is flow controlled and/or vice versa, in this way the different valve settings will optimize the actuator speeds. A common example of this valve configuration would be a rear door on a horsebox where the door will need to close much more slowly to prevent shock and noise.
A relief valve is an important control device in virtually every hydraulic system. They protect the overall system from generating a pressure that could cause mechanical failure. It is a mechanical valve that requires no external input other the applied pressure. When this excess pressure is relieved it re-seats to allow normal operation to resume. The most common type comprises a spring and plunger pushing onto a seat. If the pressure exceeds that of the spring force the oil is spilled to a volume usually the oil reservoir. The springs have adjustment ranges for example 20-100 bar and the valves can be housed in cartridge, module or designed directly into an aluminum or steel hydraulic manifold.
A hydraulic circuit may have multiple relief valves, one at the power pack end to protect the pump, another may be fitted onto a control valve circuit to relieve an induced load caused by external mechanical forces. If a hydraulic cylinder requires different relief valve settings on it full bore or annulus side then a dual relief valve module can be set to handle these needs. On the annulus side the area the oil is acting upon is smaller requiring higher pressures to exert the same force as the full bore side hence two relief valve settings are needed. One example of this is a hydropower generation sluice gate operation where something jammed in the gate such as log stops it closing.
Some terms associated with relief valve operation:
Overshoot: The pressure reading when a relief valve operates to bypass fluid. (It can be two times the actual setting.)
Hysteresis: The difference in pressure when a relief valve starts spilling some flow (cracking pressure) and when full flow is passing.
Stability: pressure fluctuation as the relief valve is bypassing at its set pressure.
Reseat pressure: The pressure a relief valve closes at after it has been operating.
Counterbalance valves are fundamentally a relief valve that is fitted in an application to generate back pressure in a system. They are normally used for ‘counterbalancing’ a load to stop it from running away during lowering. The valve is usually set at 30 percent higher than the pressure induced by the load.
Figure 1 Counterbalance valve circuit.
A built in check valve allows flow in the reverse direction (i.e. to by-pass the counterbalance valve when lifting the load). It should be noted that both sides of the valve will be subjected to full pressure, this is not possible on all relief valve designs. In Figure 1 the counterbalance valve has an integral check valve. When counterbalancing the return path must have a low back pressure to tank, as this will be additive to the valve setting.
Injuries are a relatively common occurrence for people working with hydraulics, especially those working in the maintenance and/or repair of hydraulic equipment. The most serious injury is a pressurised fluid injection, but accidents can also happen with moving parts when the stored energy in the system is not released before inspections and repairs are made. Unfortunately, it is not routine for tags and gauges to be used to denote places where energy is stored. The engineer must study the schematic thoroughly before starting any investigative work, in order to be sure that there is no danger of anything moving while they are working on the machinery.
If pressure gauges were used to show the residual pressure left in moving parts the engineer could utilise the pressure relief valve to release the stored energy and make the hydraulic equipment safe to work on. Relieving pressure stops anything moving of its own accord, which could be dangerous, and also reduces the risk of high pressure hydraulic fluid injection injuries, which can be fatal.
When inspecting for leaks in seals and hoses, it is important that pressure is released before checking but even then, it is not advisable to check with your hands. Instead, perform a visual inspection and look for other signs of leaks, such as fluid on the floor or on parts of machinery that sit underneath the suspected location of the leak.
Hydraulic equipment can be just as dangerous as electrical circuits for those investigating and repairing faults; but electrical work is governed by strict regulations which include the use of lockout tags and labels denoting the location of potentially dangerous components. Hydraulic equipment is not covered by such stringent regulations and as such, it is at the discretion of the designer whether pressure gauges and safety accessories are included in the machinery at the time of building. These items can be retrofitted by the owner, but this is not often done and this means hydraulic engineers must spend a lot of time reading manuals and schematics to understand where the dangers lurk, before being able to safely get on with any repair work.
Just because it isn't legally required, there are no good arguments for overlooking these safety precautions, but several reasons why they should be addressed., such as: reduced downtime on repair and maintenance tasks, a reduction in the potential for workplace injuries and a speedier repair. All effected by removing the need to spend time studying diagrams to pinpoint potential dangers. Employee health and safety is of paramount importance to employers, and this could well be the biggest reason why hydraulic equipment should be fitted with pressure gauges, relief valves and lockout tags, to prevent tampering with settings and to alert engineers to the locations to address first.
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