In terms of special customer requirements in the fluid power area, the pace seems to have accelerated within the past year.
“Requests for low power consumption, higher speeds on the valve and quiet valves/noise levels are very important,” says Dave Maurer, director manufacturing and materials, Humphrey Products.
In general, this translates into tougher performance specifications. However, initial performance is just the beginning of a new level of customer requirements. “They are looking for longer warranty periods for device support, so that requires longer cycle life in general,” says Maurer. Compared to 10 years ago, there is a higher expectation for how long customers expect valves to last. But customers expect even more.
To achieve a more complete system solution, integration is playing an increasingly important role for fluid power. According to Maurer, “When you get into the engineered solution, integration, particularly with integrated circuits, control feedback mechanisms and low-level logic streams, we are definitely seeing more of that.”
A specific example is Humphrey Products' GEN2 zero-pressure accumulation conveyor control product line. “That's our case history for how things have gone from completely mechanical controls with a push-button type valve to probably our most sophisticated product from the standpoint of integration with logic and connectivity,” says Maurer.
The GEN2 valve module has a software element where the customer can program portions of the logic for pneumatic control. The valve module integrates motion detection and IR sensors and with the latest generation of product, has basic input and output without being device specific.
For the valve portion of fluid power, the short list of “customer wants” includes high cycle life, low power consumption, speed and quietness. “That is a gangbuster area, customers cannot get enough of that,” says Maurer.
In this section, some of the newest hydraulic and pneumatic components demonstrate tougher performance criteria including items from the short list.