New Technologies Focused on Energy Efficiency Highlighted in NFPA’s March Quarterly Technology Conference …Next Event June 1

  • March 1 event highlighted efficiency gains through advanced fluid; additive manufacturing processes; smarter pump technology; and artificial intelligence
  • Next Quarterly Technology Conference June 1 – Autonomous Functions and Operations for Fluid Power:
  • Online delivery, no cost for students, teachers, or NFPA members to attend

At the NFPA/FPIC Quarterly Technology Conference in March, we heard from three industry experts about new technologies to improve energy efficiency in fluid power applications. NFPA’s Road Mapping Committee recently identified energy efficiency as one of the main strategies fluid power customers can employ to increase system availability and up-time, comply with regulations, increase productivity and performance, and lower the total cost of ownership. 

One of the most essential parts of a fluid power system is the fluid. Ricardo Gomez from Evonik Oil Additives talked about the ways high viscosity lubricants can improve the efficiency of a system. New technology in high viscosity lubricants allows for extended oil drain intervals and reduced start up time which increases productivity and makes the systems more efficient.  High viscosity lubricants also widen the temperature range in which fluid power systems can operate. This is especially important in mobile equipment, like construction or mining equipment, that operate in temperatures below freezing.

Dan Bagley B&B Management Labs and their partner NIRI Engineering spoke about a new way to think about energy efficiency through additive manufacturing techniques. Three years ago, companies were talking about the change that five-axis machining was having on their ability to route flow paths in hydraulic manifolds resulting in greater compactness while preserving wall thickness. It was a time that the fluid power industry moved ahead because of a jump in technology. Now we’re looking at how much farther additive manufacturing, particularly 3D printing, can move the industry forward.

Additive manufacturing has the biggest impact when it turns design ideas on their head. We already have combined motor, pump, valve packages, but it is possible to condense hydraulic circuits even more when we can cause curved flows, which is only possible with 3D printing. 

They have used 3D printing to build a hydraulic manifold. The 3D printed manifold weighs 86 percent less than a similar one made with traditional machining. It also has an improved flow path, better temperature control, and a lower chance of leakage. Thanks to weight reduction, there is no need for lifting gear, rather it can be moved by people. They can also integrate sensors into the 3D printing design using existing components and they are beginning to create sensors with 3D printing.

We also heard from Thomas Afshari, a design engineer and founder of a company called Project Phoenix (DriveDrive Power). They wanted to investigate gear pumps to see if they could make them work smarter. Through this investigation, they developed an independent electrohydraulic system equipped with an all-electric drive-drive hydraulic gear pump system. It offers embedded firmware with AI-powered algorithms to precisely control the fluid power. This new technology removes a lot of components you would find in a traditional electrohydraulic system and is very light. It has been tested in underground mining, some defense systems, and undersea operations.

The AI algorithms allow the hydraulic system to adjust to maintain a seal improving the efficiency of the system. It is also able to run self-diagnoses which creates greater efficiency by capturing data to enable a predictive maintenance schedule.

These three examples of innovation in energy efficiency show how the fluid power industry is moving forward. The next quarterly conference is scheduled for June 1st and will focus on autonomous functions and operations, another way that fluid power systems are meeting customer needs.

Mary Pluta

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