Hydraulic accumulators are a little like electrical capacitors, you know, the components in a powered circuit that store electrical energy. In the case of that accumulator, it is fluid energy that’s being stored, not electricity, but the analogy still applies. Held under pressure, the stored accumulator energy is suspended in the hydraulic oil. With that basic principle out of the way, here’s a look at the benefits of adding accumulators to hydraulic systems.
Takes the Strain off the Primary Pump
The main hydraulic pump and its reservoir are located in a central position, but that’s not always enough when dozens of angling metal tubes and rubber hoses are stretching their way to a distant segment of a large mobile hydraulic machine. When accumulators store fluid power at those remote equipment segments, then energy is immediately available. That sole feature allows for smaller, more efficient pumps.
Leak Compensation Mechanism
Pump flow supplementation is a major benefit, but then so is a capacity for leak compensation. A fluid leak forces a primary hydraulic pump into overdrive. Temperatures rise and the gear feels like it might shake itself apart. The ultra-short starts and stops cycle the pump until it’s creating a ratcheting series of shocks. Accumulators smooth this jagged cycling condition until the leak can be found and repaired. In essence, the stored energy softens the sharp peaks and troughs generated by the fatigued pump.
Transient Loading Events
This next benefit is closely related to the supplementary flow feature. In this case, though, the device is providing an extra amount of drive “oomph” when the load is on the cusp of compromising the mobile lifter’s raw fluid muscles. Generally speaking, when high-volume, high flow conditions are suddenly applied, the accumulator is immediately on hand to supply torque and drive power.
Bladder and Piston Accumulators
The hydraulic engineering principles that exist today have created several evolved device families that store fluid energy in the manner we described in the above passages. Of those groups, the bladder and piston family dominate accumulator architecture. First, the bladder type is built from a tough elastomer, which is then filled with nitrogen. Attached to a spring-loaded valve that’s manufactured from a robust alloy, this device type is the most commonly used energy storage solution. Next, the piston type follows closely behind as a device that can withstand much higher gas compression ratios.
These two mechanical builds exist to complement the main system pump, especially when that system extends to cover many discrete segments. Immediate stored energy is delivered by the devices when they’re installed in system extremities. The piston or diaphragm stored power also handles transient loads with aplomb and helps blunt leakage damage until a repair can be rendered.
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