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If you're reading this then the operation of hydraulic motors is probably no secret to you, but perhaps the people you work with or machine operators struggle to grasp exactly what is happening inside the equipment, and more importantly, why? We have put together a short, user-friendly guide to hydraulic motors that can serve as an educational tool, for those not in the know and will hopefully reduce the number of repeat questions you have to answer.
In a nutshell, all hydraulic power systems comprise the same four basic elements. They are:
The size of these components can affect the speed, pressure, flow, strength and efficiency of the hydraulic motor but the basic concept is the same across the board. Essentially a hydraulic motor uses varying pressures conducted via hydraulic fluid to increase and magnify force in an energy-efficient and reliable manner.
The jargon terms used to describe hydraulic motor operation can seem confusing and complex to the lay person, but learning what these words mean and how they relate to the hydraulic equipment is important to fully understand what is happening during normal running, and also what is happening where there is a system failure.
Torque is probably the most important term which refers to hydraulic motors. It is used to describe the ability of the engine to translate pressure into motion and is measured in Newton Metres (Nm) or inch pounds (lbf). A hydraulic motor will have a starting torque and a running torque. The starting torque is the force required to start the motor turning and the running torque refers to the pressure generated to maintain operation, at a certain pace. Torque ripple refers to the difference between the minimum and maximum torque delivered during a single rotation of the motor.
Motor displacement is an important term to know. It refers to how much hydraulic fluid is needed to turn the motor through one revolution and is measured in centimetres or inches cubed per revolution. A motor may be a fixed or variable displacement type, meaning that either torque or speed is the priority. A fixed displacement motor has torque as the priority, running at a constant pressure. Speed can be controlled by varying the amount of fluid going into the motor. In a variable displacement motor both torque and speed can be controlled.
Hydraulic fluid replacement is also something that machine operators should be trained in, if they are expected to top up the reservoir or replace the fluid. Hydraulic oil comes in a variety of weights, which refers to the viscosity of the fluid. Different types of hydraulic fluid can withstand different temperature ranges and different chemical make-ups of hydraulic fluid are recommended for different applications. It is vital that the correct fluid is used, as any mistakes can cause costly damage to the equipment. When replacing or topping up hydraulic fluid, it is important that it is filtered before entering the system, (we have written more about this topic previously on this blog). Contaminated hydraulic fluid causes the same problems as using the incorrect product and it is crucial for operators to know how their actions can affect the operation of the machinery and cause problems.
Of course, there is a lot more to hydraulics than we have covered here, but the very basics that we have covered, should help hydraulic machinery operators understand a little more about their equipment, how it works, and most importantly, what can cause it not to work.
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.
Eco-friendly hydraulic fluids are in demand for use on environmentally sensitive projects, such as work on nature reserves, as well as sub-sea applications. The requirement for a biodegradable fluid is often specified by the landowner or project owner, as they cannot risk a fluid leak contaminating the land and getting into the water systems in the area. There are biodegradable hydraulic fluids available on the market, and these typically use canola, sunflower or soybean oil as the base rather than the more traditional mineral oil. Under certain conditions these bio-based fluids achieve a similar performance to mineral oil based fluids, but these have not been tested extensively and for this reason it is recommended that the equipment be run at a 20% deficit compared to the usual pressure (so, at 80% of the maximum permissible operating load).
As the use of biodegradable hydraulic fluids is usually determined by the project owners as a condition of the work being undertaken, there is no room for compromise here. Instead, the compromises must be made with the machinery and how it is set up. If time constraints are an issue as well as the eco-friendly credentials of the materials used, it is wise to select bigger and faster versions of the machinery that was intended to be used, as even running at 80% the job will get done in the same amount of time, as the intended equipment would at full capacity.
There are also costs associated with the draining and flushing of unsuitable hydraulic fluid; some clients may insist on testing the fluid in the machinery to ensure it passes their tests for biodegradability. The oil itself is more expensive than the cheaper mineral oil based fluids, so the whole job becomes more expensive immediately biodegradable oils are used. Often, when a job has been priced without these considerations it becomes unprofitable unless the client is accommodating of over-runs due to the changes required in the machinery or the rental of bigger equipment.
With time and the growing popularity of renewable energy and the general shift towards the use of more sustainable materials there will be developments in the production and testing of biodegradable hydraulic fluids. The costs associated with the purchase and use of bio-based fluids will come down, and the concerns around the maximum performance pressure will be assuaged, meaning that biodegradable hydraulic fluids will be able to compete at the same level as traditional mineral oil based ones.
How to read hydraulic circuits
Hydraulics symbols are an essential component of hydraulic circuit diagrams. Knowing some of the basic principles will help understand a wider range of symbols. Explaining the common ISO1219 symbols enables a complete hydraulic system to be followed:
1. Hydraulic Pump
Hydraulic pump produces flow. Oil is pumped from the hydraulic reservoir into the system. The basic symbol for a pump:
A fixed displacement pump is the simplest type and has a fixed output for each revolution of the input shaft. Modifications to this symbol describe the variable displacement pump. The types of control circuits show how the output is varied.
Filters clean oil entering the system, and are used in various places within a system. They protect hydraulic valves and pumps. Suction filters are placed at pump inlets to ensure only clean oil enters the system. Pressure filters can be placed throughout system. Return filters are common and filter oil returning to the reservoir.
3. Pressure Relief Valve
Pressure in a hydraulic system should be limited to control the force any motive devices produce and to ensure the safe/design limits are not exceeded. A pressure relief valve symbol is normally shown as:
A pressure relief valve or PRV passes fluid from an area of higher pressure to a lower pressure (typically the tank). Hydraulic pressure shown by the dotted line acts as a pilot to actuate the PRV by moving the arrow across the box. This happens when the pilot pressure produces an internal force equal to the spring load the valve begins to open and pass flow.
4. Check Valve
This valve is a one way valve that prevents flow in one direction. The addition of a spring ensures the valve will only open when this pressure is exceeded. Dotted pilot lines can be added so that pilot operating pressures can be used to open the valve and allow flow in the reverse direction. Commonly used to hold pressure in a hydraulic cylinder.
5. Hydraulic Reservoir (tank)
Hydraulic systems all have a means of storing hydraulic fluid. This is referred to as the hydraulic reservoir. Hydraulic reservoirs are shown as:
Vented hydraulic reservoirs are common place, but sealed systems can be found ion aerospace and marine applications. The return lines shown indicate the position above or below the oil level.
6. Directional Control Valve
Hydraulic fluid flow is controlled by a directional control valve. Commonly consists of four parts, valve body, spool, actuator, and springs. The spool is moved with respect to the valve body, this opens and closes internal flow galleries to control fluid flow. Various types of actuators provide power to shift the spool and springs are normally used to return the spool when the actuator is de-energised.
Look at the typical three position four way valve:
How to read directional control valve symbols:
a. Each box in the valve symbol represents a possible valve condition. In the three position valve above there are 3 possible conditions controlled by the actuators.
b. Number of ways tells you how many hydraulic connections could be connected to the valve.
c. Actuators always push and never pull the spool.
d. The box furthest away from the actuator is the normal or de-energized position, and is the position where the circuit connections are drawn. In the above valve this is the middle position.
7. Hydraulic Cylinder
Hydraulic cylinder or actuator uses hydraulic power to generate mechanical force. A hydraulic cylinder is shown as:
A double acting cylinder (above) has two ports and is therefore powered in and out. Single acting cylinders have one port and would typically be used for lifting applications.
We hope this gives you a useful introduction to hydraulic circuits. For a full list of hydraulic symbols can be found in ISO1219, or contact www.hydraproducts.co.uk for more help.
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