How to Decrease Maintenance Time on Your Pneumatic EquipmentJanuary 30, 2023
There are many opportunities for engineers and fluid power specialists to specify pneumatic directional valves for different applications to control cylinders, motors and actuators. Many different industries including primary metals, pulp and paper, food and packaging, automotive, semiconductor, and many more already are adopting pneumatic directional valve solutions.
An important thing to consider in pneumatic directional valve selection is the environmental conditions. Every industry offers a unique set of environmental circumstances to consider and there are many options available to provide the proper solution to many of these different conditions.
Primary Metals, Paper, & Aggregate Solutions
In primary metals, paper, and aggregate industries one will find extreme challenges for directional valves. These environments can include contaminants that collect on the valves themselves and work their way into air lines, which will ultimately find their way through the valve. A good maintenance program that includes proper main line and point-of-use filtration will certainly help, but these are often environments that need additional solutions to prevent performance-threatening contaminants.
Spool type and poppet type 3-way and 4-way directional valves are most commonly sold in pneumatic applications controlling cylinders, motors, and actuators. But a unique valve (Image 1) that is worth considering for dirty and harsh environments instead of a spool or poppet, is one that uses two sliding ceramic plates that form an almost perfect seal. The ceramic plates are near diamond hardness and wipe themselves clean from dirt and contaminants that could eventually cause a spool valve to stick. Motion excels in getting the right valve and fit for unique situations to extend usage life and keep the machinery going. Steel mills and foundries have realized great success by surrendering to changing valves on a regular cadence because of the compressed air contaminated with fine foundry sand blasting through these valves.
Emerson/Aventics’ Ceram valve uses two sliding ceramic plates that form a near perfect seal, appropriate for keeping out contaminants in harsh environments.
Food & Beverage Solutions
The Food & Beverage industry also provides unique challenges. In many cases, applications require hygienic properties or must meet IP69K protection for washdown purposes. In some cases, this can be achieved by mounting standard directional valves in an IP69K enclosure to achieve washdown rating. However, this method often requires the enclosure to be mounted a distance away from the equipment causing longer plumbing runs.
The Emerson/Aventics CL03 series spool valve offers an IP69K rating without being mounted in an enclosure
An alternative option is to specify a valve or valve manifold that is rated at IP69K without being mounted in an enclosure. There is a series of spool valves (Image 2) that offer this along with many more additional features. In this case, the valve and manifold’s IP69K rating allows for mounting of the valve directly on the equipment and makes for shorter plumbing runs and more efficient pneumatic flow. By eliminating joints and cracks, the valve has hygienic properties, and the NSFH1 lubricants in the valve also make this an ideal package for food industry applications.
Packaging, Robotics, Medical, & Semiconductor Solutions
So far, examples have been focused on valve series used in harsh environments or washdown applications. However, a relatively new product in the market (Image 3) for many general industries including packaging, robotics, medical and semiconductor applications is a wireless field bus system utilizing a base/remote concept.
The base valve manifold is connected to the PLC fieldbus and contains a wireless unit that can communicate with many other Ethernet IP and PROFINET remote valve manifolds. This eliminates the communication cable between manifolds and reduces installation costs associated with cables. This manifold system is built around the company’s standard spool valve series which includes SY, SV and VQC spool valves. Pneumatic manifold technology has developed from individually wired valves, to fieldbus systems using a single communication cable connecting manifolds together, to now elimination of the communication cable between manifolds. This is an exciting solution in many opportunities.
The base/remote concept of SMC’s EX600-W wireless field bus system eliminates the communication cable between manifolds and reduces installation costs associated with cables.
Investigate Pneumatic Valve Solutions
Knowing about the potential in pneumatic valves could inspire the perfect solution for your facility’s applications. A good first step would be to ask your in-house engineer, or contact Motion Industries for a qualified fluid power specialist near you, for assistance in determining if this newest technology in pneumatic valves could be the best way to go.
About the Author: Alan McCay, CFPS, has worked for Motion Industries (Birmingham, AL) for 24 years supporting the Fluid Power sales efforts, and is currently Product Sales Manager for Fluid Power. Watch more Videos on fluid power solutions here.