Fluid power overview
Welcome to the seventh edition of the Fluid Power Handbook. Every year, our editorial staff works hard to add to the detailed information we’ve already accumulated on hydraulic and pneumatic components and systems. Once again this year, we’ve incorporated some new frequently asked questions into many of the Handbook sections. We had very positive feedback to this concept last year, and I hope you’ll find the new topics useful in your daily work. As always, we have updated the graphical look of the issue, too. You will find updated sections on many components and other areas of fluid power interest, some all-new concepts, and a fascinating trends piece on how biomimicry has become a popular design trend among component and system manufacturers.
Fluid power systems are comprised of components that include pumps, cylinders, valves, hose, fittings, gauges, sensors, filters, seals, and reservoirs. Some components are considered absolute necessities, while others are optional and used to refine the system for more precise operation or to increase the lifespan of the system or its individual parts. Throughout this handbook, we detail many of the more common and widely used components, explaining their operation, their place in the system, and how an engineer should correctly specify them.
While fluid power can be used in most any industry or application, it is commonly seen in markets that include packaging, off-highway, mining, offshore/marine, medical, material handling, construction, aerospace, automation, robotics, and entertainment.
And fluid power is an important technology. A study by the Department of Energy several years ago showed that between 2.1% and 3.0% of the United States’ energy is transmitted through fluid power equipment. While that is an impressive statistic, the study also found that the efficiency of fluid power systems ranges from 8% to 40%, averaging a mere 22%.
These numbers illustrate how much improvement there is to make. The study concludes that a 5% improvement in efficiency over 5 years is possible by instituting best practices in industry. Or, even better, a 15% improvement over 15 years is possible with a strategic R&D program. Doing this would save the U.S. an amazing $37 billion.
While some say that fluid power is a static, mature technology, there’s still much in store for the technology. We continue to see hydraulic and pneumatic components become more Internet-friendly, wireless and capable of being monitored and controlled from distant locations, taking preventative maintenance to new levels.
One last important note: I’m happy to announce that Mary Gannon, who has been with the publication since its inception, has been promoted to Editor of Fluid Power World. Mary has a keen knowledge of the industry, the technology and the people; I’m sure many of you have interacted with her over the years. Starting with next month’s issue of the magazine, watch for her face in the front of the magazine with the lead editorial opinion. Congratulations, Mary, this is very well deserved!
PAUL J. HENEY