Design and systems engineers are often challenged with integrating many functions into a fluid control system application, while also having to minimize the size, cost, and complexity of the overall system design. This is often difficult to achieve, as today’s sophisticated fluidic systems must combine many individual components, often resulting in an overly complex design.
Manufacturers of fluid control devices are now offering their customers a system approach -- an integrated system design that combines a number of components into a subsystem, typically utilizing a custom-designed manifold.
All in a day’s work
A typical fluid control system can contain a multitude of individual functional components, ranging from pumps and filtration components to various types of valves, regulators, and sensors. These components are typically interconnected via fluid conductors such as threaded pipe, rigid or flexible tubing, and fittings in what often becomes an oversized and over-designed system that is difficult to install and service. These connections create potential leak paths, which are especially undesirable in systems using oil, chemicals, or corrosive materials.
They can also introduce internal contaminants to the system, including thread slivers and bits of thread sealant, such as Teflon tape and pipe dope. In addition to the design task, the design engineer must also specify and often purchase all the individual components for system prototyping and production, which can be expensive and labor-intensive to assemble, particularly in high-volume applications.
This diesel engine emission control module manages fuel, air atomization, and air purge functions. Integrated into this assembly are two solenoid valves, two pressure regulators, three pressure transducers, a fuel injector, and precision orifice. The compact design and simplified mounting provide a distinct advantage over having to connect and mount individual components on a truck chassis.
Manifold alternative: keep it simple
Manifolds are routinely used in many industries, including both fluid control and fluid power applications. Many manufacturers of fluid control components offer products that are specifically designed for manifold mounting.
One of the most common reasons for design engineers to consider a manifold design is to minimize system size. The size of most fluid control components (for example, a valve) is often dictated by the body containing the internal working components, as well as the process connections, often threaded female ports for piping into the fluid control system. Since the body must contain both internal fluid pressure and provision for connecting to external piping, it is generally over-designed and over-sized for most applications.
A fluid control system employing many individual control components is a multiplication of this idea. A properly designed manifold becomes the “body” for as many system components as it makes sense to design into it.
In general, engineers should consider an integrated system design for their fluid control applications in the following cases:
- High complexity/multiple functionality of a system, requiring numerous control components
- Space or size constraints within an overall application
- Significant production volume (typically thousands per year)
- High reliability
- High serviceability.