IFK and IFAS: World-class fluid power research

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Hundreds of key fluid-power researchers and engineers will convene March 19-21 at the biennial IFK conference in Aachen, Germany, as we recently detailed in our story, “Fluid power’s eyes will be on Germany this Spring.”

Fittingly, hosting the conference will be the Institute for Fluid Power Drives and Systems (IFAS) of RWTH Aachen University, one of the largest and most-respected institutions of its kind in the world. The Institute is involved in teaching and research covering virtually all aspects of fluid power. And its activities also cover related topics, such as information technology, servocontrol engineering, electrical engineering, tribology and chemistry.

According to university officials, the goals of IFAS are to initiate continuous advances in the specialized field of fluid power by means of innovative research, development and education. The basis for this is created by the integration of motivated students and trainees in practical and theoretical project work.

University courses cover the gamut from fluid-power basics to servosystems, simulation of fluid power systems, and the design of fluid power components and machines. It provides a pathway for students to acquire their professional qualifications and gain the opportunity to obtain their doctorates. Continuous education and training opportunities contribute towards expansion and further development of fluid power technology, as well as serve as the foundation of a professionally satisfying career.

As a nationally and internationally recognized research institution, IFAS is and has been pioneering many developments in fluid power technology, from the beginnings of servohydraulics and fluidics more than 50 years ago, to areas like cavitation research, servopneumatics, digital controls, biofluids, system simulation, and mechatronics.

More recently, much of the work relates to areas like energy savings and efficiency improvements, hybrid drives, fluid analysis, and the multidisciplinary merging of drives and controls. Today, the Institute focuses on five key research areas:

Tribology and fluid analysis: The properties of fluids, the influence of fluids on components and system efficiency, and sealing technology.

Pump and motor technology: Including optimization of hydrostatic machines, fundamental investigations using simulation tools, and acoustic analysis.

Valve technology and mechantronics: Research into flow forces in hydraulic valves, highly dynamic systems, ceramic components, sensors and actuators, and cavitation modelling.

System and control technology: Topics include analysis, simulation and optimization of complete systems; efficient and compact systems; bus systems and decentralized control; energy saving strategies and regenerative energy; condition monitoring; and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

Automation and pneumatics: Work here centers on important in areas like automation and handling, medical devices, robotics, and vacuum technology, with projects involving everything from soft servopneumatic robotic “hands” to efficiency improvements and exergy considerations.

Testing facilities covering more than 14,000 sq. ft. include more than 50 test rigs for hydraulic and pneumatic components, including six machine beds on isolated foundations, an anechoic chamber, a climatic test chamber for temperatures ranging from -94° to 158°F, and test rigs for aging hydraulic fluids and components.

Annual revenue is in the neighborhood of $4 million, with sizeable contributions from the government, R&D projects for industry, and publicly funded R&D with industrial participation.

The IFAS has been led by Director Prof. Hubertus Murrenhoff since 1994. He will officially announce his retirement at IFK 2018. Taking the management reins of the Institute will be Dr. Katharina Schmitz, previously the technical director at Hunger Maschinen GmbH.

According to IFAS officials, changes in the general social-political landscape are shaping new requirements and future developments of fluid power. This includes greater environmental awareness, as well as new technologies like mechatronic systems, condition monitoring, surface coating techniques and modern information technologies that lead to solutions that reveal new perspectives and fields of application for fluid power systems.

A motivated team of aspiring young scientists and engineers are taking on the challenges thanks to a diversified field of study, as well as intensive national and international contacts established between the institute and manufacturers, and cooperation with users of fluid power components and systems, as well as other research facilities.

Institute for Fluid Power Drives and Systems
www.ifas.rwth-aachen.de

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