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Most manufacturers are now faced with the task of doing the seemingly impossible – to reduce carbon footprint whilst increasing efficiency. Energy regulations from the government are bearing down on companies at the same time as they are needing to reduce expenses. Improving efficiency is something they are looking into.
Many businesses think that the best way to approach this is to bring in more efficient models, or to replace motors with more efficient models. Both of these options are costly. However, there are some other approaches that take less investment to see returns.
Despite which machine it is powering, the performance of an electric motor depends on access to high quality electricity. Those starters that are sometimes referred to as ‘contactors’ will usually turn the motor on or off, and transmit 3 phased power to the machine. Built to expect the same incoming voltage on each of these 3 leads, without looking at improving the incoming power, it’s unlikely to help.
Power that has not been conditioned will affect the motor in the several ways. However, the motor is at your mercy and must accept what you’re giving to it. This of course, can result in a lower overall efficiency. In addition, there are times when motors are left running, even when not in use as turning them on and off can cause spikes and surges tend therefore premature failure.
By doing a retrofit on just one component, it’s possible to make a difference with efficiency. It’s even possible to swap the across-the-line starter out for a VFD (Variable frequency drive) starter which will turn the motor on and off. Fortunately, the VFD comes complete with a built-in power conditioner which will help to make the motor more efficient, even if it’s only being used as an on/off switch.
It can also offer big benefits when it comes to efficiency later on down the road by making a smarter machine that will only use the energy it needs for any particular job.
Hydraulic system manufacturers are now expected to move with the times and produce machines that are in line with government directives. Watch this space to see what solutions they produce to make this possible.
Electrostatic charge builds when there are two bodies moving and creating friction. The fact is that this also occurs in hydraulic systems from the friction caused by system components with moving fluid.
Although we haven’t had a lot of situations that have involved electrostatic discharge, it is still something that every engineer should be aware of.
When an electrostatic discharge occurs, there is a clicking noise as charge increases and is then released. This is something that will often occur in a filter – leaving burn marks and potentially other damage.
With the increasing preference of using non-metallic additives in hydraulic oils the electrostatic charge could be on the increase. Those hydraulic oils that contain anti-wear additives that are zinc-based have considerably high conductivity.
Conductivity in hydraulic oils helps when it comes to moving electrostatic charge around the system. Although zinc-based additives will rarely collect enough charge to cause a big problem, synthetic oils can. This is because they have less conductivity and therefore will potentially accumulate more charge before discharging it.
Another change that could lead to an increase in electrostatic discharge is that there has been a change made to the materials that filter elements are made of. In order to make them easier to dispose of them in an eco-friendly way, they have more non-metallic material in the design, which lowers conductivity and therefore increases the capacitance.
The manufacturers of hydraulic filters are aware of these issues, and are looking into how they can minimise or even eliminate these issues.
However, if you come across a situation where there is electrostatic discharge in the meantime, then consider this:
By adding larger filter elements you can reduce flow density and therefore the amount of charge that is being generated. You might also want to consider increasing the tank size so that the time between charge generations increases.
This is one of the reasons why you shouldn’t skimp on tank size or on filter capacity.
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.
Humans are creatures of habit, we like routine and familiarity as it makes us feel safe. Change is a hard pill to swallow; although some people deal with it better than others it can take a lot for someone to proactively look at a different way of doing things. Change is usually something that is imposed upon a person out of necessity, so if there is no perceived reason to change a situation then we generally carry on as normal.
This thought pattern may be one reason why hydraulic systems designers tend to opt for high pressure systems and the familiar components that can cope with being under extreme pressure. It is far easier to take an existing basic idea and tailor it for a new application without even considering alternative approaches, which is why low pressure hydraulic systems are something of a rarity in the world of fluid power.
The basic equation of force = pressure x area, lends itself to working with a smaller area and a higher pressure to exact the same amount of force that a large area under lower pressure would exert. This is attractive to designers as it means systems can have sleek, narrow cylinders and in many cases, this is needed to ensure the assembly fits in the space available. That is not always the case, however, so hydraulic designers should consider low pressure systems as a possibility for some applications.
Low pressure hydraulic systems can be a lot more cost effective than high pressure ones, as there is a reduce possibility of leaks, and if they do occur they will take less time to clean up and fix. The materials used to build the components can also be a lot cheaper, as they will not have to withstand the high pressures normally associated with hydraulic systems. Plastic components, flexible nylon tubing and even thin extruded aluminium cylinders all work perfectly well at pressures under 50 or 60 bar, and are a lot more economical than the high pressure alternatives.
Sometimes a low-pressure system is really the only possible solution to a problem, especially when designing complex systems with many lengths of tubing, serving several small cylinders off a central motor. This is when the materials that need to be used dictate the operating pressure of the system, rather than the operating pressure dictating the materials. If the pipes need to fit through pre-defined holes in the machinery casing, or need to wind around parts of the machinery then flexible nylon is the best option. This low-pressure approach allows designers to consider every angle from which to solve the design problem, and can result in some great innovations that otherwise might have gone undiscovered.
The only drawback to low pressure hydraulic systems is the need for a larger reservoir to hold the extra fluid that is needed to fill the system when it is in operation. Size and space can be a stumbling block for low pressure systems, as the larger cylinder diameter means more space is needed. Sometimes this can be cleverly engineered in, by placing the reservoir further away from the operational components of the hydraulic system and making good use of the cheap nylon tubing to run the fluid up to the moving parts.
There will always be cases where high pressure systems are a must, due to the application, the forces needed and the space available to house the hydraulic system, but at the same time there will always be systems where low pressure is more effective in terms of performance and cost, so considering both angles before diving in to a design is a worthwhile task that could lead to the next big thing in hydraulics.
Hydraulic filtration is a vital component of keeping a system running smoothly.
For example, did you know that up to 75% of failures with fluid power can be attributed to contamination? With the use of hydraulic filters, contamination damage can be significantly lowered which can not only cut down on expense but lower that 75% drastically.
If you’re looking to save costs from less downtime then it’s also time you looked into what a difference hydraulics filtration can make for extending the life of your equipment. Running your system optimally is essential when it comes to cost saving, but protecting its longevity is also a critical element in running any business efficiently.
Muck and dust can destroy a hydraulic system, that’s why it’s essential to make the best use of hydraulic filters. You wouldn’t even be able to remove that dirt yourself, as it’s likely to be dust that is so fine that you won’t be able to see it without the use of a microscope. Dirt has the same detrimental effect as sandpaper or gravel and not only will generally deteriorate the system, but it could even destroy it.
However, through the use of a hydraulic filter system you will be able to maintain control over the level of contamination and by doing so reduce the failure of systems by as much as 75% just be removing that dirt.
Hydraulic parts are expensive. Combine that with down time and having to keep engineers on hand to fix worn components and that’s a lot of expense to deal with. Putting filters into place can even save costs by increasing how long the hydraulic fluid will last.
Degradation of fluid – hydraulic fluid that contains fine metallic particles can degrade rapidly through chemical breakdown. Without protecting against this, there could be issues such as slippage, internal leakage, corrosion or sticking parts.
Scoring of surfaces – this can occur when particles get trapped between surfaces of seals
There’s no doubt about it, but …
· System performance is affected by dirt levels
· Hydraulic filters can control levels of dirt. Without using this management method, the system will get dirtier and dirtier until it fails.
In fact, hydraulic filters are the only way to control how much dirt is in fluid. Without them you will be forced to change out the hydraulic fluid regularly, which can be a time consuming and costly event.
Hydraulic system dirt particles are incredibly small. In fact, they are so small that they cannot be seen by the human eye – and 98% of hydraulic fluid has some dirt in it.
Engineers have found that when it comes to size of particles in samples taken from operating systems, the smaller the particles, the more dirt there is in the system.
So where do these particles come from that we have to work so hard to deal with?
In order to have an idea of what goes on inside the closed system, let’s examine where these particles come from.
Instead of enjoying the typical 20 gpm that is the measurement of a pumped flow from a 2000 psi system, you can expect to see something in the region of just 10 gpm. Although your pump will still produce for you, you’ll discover that the degradation results in just 50% efficiency and you should als be prepared to experience extra heat and other unwanted issues.
As with any hydraulic system, there is an optimum level of cleanliness, but there is a point where you cannot get any better performance out of the system by improving the quality of the fluid. However, with the use of hydraulic filters you should be well set to extend the life of your machinery.
Electrohydraulic steering systems have been commonly used in passenger vehicles since the 1980s, as solely hydraulic steering systems started to fall out of favour when electrical components in cars became the norm. Electric windows and sunroofs replaced manual versions, and in high end cars even the seat adjustment mechanism moved from a manual operation to an electrically operated system. The presence of electrical circuits in passenger vehicles led designers and engineers to explore how electrohydraulic components could be used to improve vehicle efficiency and the driver experience for passenger cars and steering systems were an obvious place to start.
The same technology has been slower to penetrate the heavier commercial vehicle market but it is starting to gain ground now, thanks to the improved fuel efficiency offered by the electrohydraulic power steering offering compared to fully hydraulic systems – around 70% for hydraulic systems and far less for those that cleverly employ electrical integration. The rise in electrification of mechanical components in commercial and industrial vehicles and the same trend in the adoption of steer-by-wire technology, has also contributed to the increased adoption of electrohydraulic power steering. As more parts of the vehicle use electrical power and it becomes easier to adapt the steering systems to include electrohydraulic actuators they will be more and more widely used, improving the driver experience and fuel efficiency.
Electrohydraulic systems are becoming more popular in many areas of industry thanks to the prevalence of electrical power, and the recognition that hydraulic technology is beneficial in many applications. Although traditional hydraulics may be replaced in small pieces of equipment that are not required to exert a large force, there are many other places where hydraulic power cannot be matched, and designers and engineers are noticing this and encouraging the integration of the two power sources to maximise efficiency while saving energy. The cumulative effect of this will be an exciting time for hydraulic power industry.
Throughout the history of automotive development hydraulics have played a critical role in the engineering of brakes, steering and gears, as well as suspension. Specialist functions on road going vehicles as well as vehicles designed for non-road use, such as tractors, other agricultural machinery and military vehicles, also use hydraulic power to effect movement of harvesting machinery, aerial ladders and artillery. Hydraulic engineering offers a tested and trusted way of effecting actions with a quick response time and most importantly, it is reliable, efficient, and easier to fix than electrical systems designed to do the same.
Electrical systems are becoming more commonplace in road going vehicles, as the move to all electric or hybrid powered cars starts to take off in the mainstream. Electric actuators are starting to replace their hydraulic equivalent in some systems, especially those from manufacturers who are pro-actively making advances in alternative car design; self-driving cars and fully electric vehicles are pushing electric actuators to the fore of the minds of automotive designers. The appeal to designers is the easy integration of electrical components into an existing electrical system; if most of the controls are electric rather than mechanical it makes sense to extend the same technology as far as possible. Electric actuators are cheaper, easier to control and generally last as well as hydraulic actuators, and it is far easier to work these into the wiring and software system of a vehicle than to install a separate hydraulic system just to run the brakes, or the gearbox.
Advanced braking systems are one of the more important uses of hydraulics in motor vehicles. Hydraulically operated brakes are much more responsive and deploy very quickly compared to electric brakes. Although there is an argument for electric motors being used to achieve regenerative braking in electric and hybrid vehicles, these systems still use hydraulics for the quick action that is required when the brake pedal is pressed. ABS systems also rely heavily on the speed with which hydraulic brakes act; a miniature hydraulic power pack controls the system to deploy the brakes up to sixteen times per second in a skid situation, a speed which cannot be achieved by electric actuators. Mechanical brakes have a strong future in motor vehicles for safety reasons, and this will remain the case until electric actuators can replicate the speed at which a hydraulic system can function.
Gearboxes have been hydraulically operated since the early 1940s, when General Motors introduced the technology to its range. Although they were first developed in the 1920s, it took a while for the new design to be accepted and fitted in the new cars they were producing, but very little has changed since, apart from the introduction of solenoid valves in the early 2000s. Electric systems are now integrated into the control of the gearbox, especially for the twin clutch, but the mechanics at the centre of gearbox function are still hydraulic. This is one of the areas in which electrics will really have to try hard to oust hydraulics, and the only way hydraulics will be replaced here, may be if an engine can be developed where a gearbox is no longer needed.
Motor vehicles have used hydraulic dampers in suspension systems since the humble leaf spring fell out of favour. Even though some modern suspension systems (which allow the driver to adjust the settings for a particular driving style or road type) use electrics to adjust the shock settings, it is still hydraulics that effects the suspension action. Even electric vehicles use hydraulic suspension, as it is the best solution, and despite some manufacturers looking to recover energy from bumps in the road through an electrical suspension system, the complexity of such a system is not worth the small amount of energy that may be recovered, and certainly not at the cost of replacing a very capable suspension solution with something more expensive and difficult to fix.
Power steering used to be a hydraulic aid to assist drivers in steering and parking; right up to the 1990s there were still cars on the road that did not have power steering and anyone who has ever driven one, will attest to the huge difference that power steering makes to the driver. The first power steering systems used hydraulic pumps to provide the driver with extra power, but these have long since been replaced with electric motors. Self-parking cars are already widely available and these would not be possible without electrically operated steering. Power assisted steering is one area where hydraulics has already fallen out of favour and electrics have taken over.
Hydraproducts' miniature and micro hydraulic power packs are ideal for the automotive industry, and are perfectly suited to use in suspension, braking and power steering systems. Although there are some areas of automotive engineering where electrics have taken over, the key areas mentioned above are safe for now. Other areas have seen a better integration of electric and hydraulic systems, with the benefits of each being user harmoniously to affect the best system possible. As new designers emerge into the automotive market and look to shake things up, we may see electrics replacing hydraulics at least in the design and testing stage, but the reliability and relative simplicity of hydraulics means it will always have a place in the automotive industry.
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