The principles that govern pneumatic technology are tantalizingly similar to those that govern hydraulic systems. Both energy transmitting mediums are pressurized and pushed through a network of tubes and channels. Both the air of the pneumatic system and the fluid of the hydraulic system store this energy, using it to open valves and power actuators. And, because of the energy generated by powerful displacement pumps, this actualized motion is typically greatly magnified. A small turn of a control lever in a control cabin, for instance, is amplified by stored fluid power to move large mechanical assemblies.
Fluid and Air Distribution Valves
A diverse array of valves are in use today, with each cleverly designed mechanical switch regulating air and hydraulic oil to create numerous actions. Directional valves take an input and channel the fluid into multiple tubes. Normally open or normally closed valves use spring-loaded mechanism to return the spindle to opposing rests states. But these directional output changes and simple binary ON/OFF functions represent a fraction of their capabilities. Many valves go beyond basic switch functionality to deliver precise positional characteristics and pressure control. Complex feedback subsystems even gift these valves with proportional control, allowing the valves to govern their own functions.
Applications for Hydraulic and Pneumatic Valves in Industry
Large hand-operated wheels are located at strategic points within chemical process plants and fuel depots. They lock with a threaded shank, allowing a strong operator to turn off the flow or reroute it to another section of the facility. The substitution of hydraulic and pneumatic valves in this situation introduces a centralized control management philosophy to the facility. The directional valves channel the fluid to multiple locales, perhaps acting as a mix valve. The binary valves are switches, physical mechanisms that can slam shut when the air or fluid rotates the butterfly disc inside the pipe to make an instant barrier. Cranes and heavy movers incorporate this same network, though the scale is much reduced. Operator control of a power steering wheel or the adjacent boom control panel feeds the pump-generated pressure of the fluid to a modular valve, changing the direction and regulating the pressure to deliver fingertip control of the articulating crane.
Finally, these valves act as miniature system regulators in just the same way as an automated electrical system does, except the fluid or gas version is free from the sparks and possible short-circuits that make electricity unfeasible in certain locations. Additionally, the electronic variant is susceptible to electrical interference, something that can’t happen with a mechanical energy transmission solution. These two features alone make physical energy propagation the de facto choice for explosive environments and critical frameworks where movement can’t suffer interference. Because of these factors, we still regard hydraulic and pneumatic valves as the only choice for everything from chemical plants to the control surfaces that fly our commercial aircraft.
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