Save Energy with Pneumatic Actuators

Many leaders in the manufacturing industry know that pneumatic systems consume plentiful energy. Often, those in this particular industry (and many other industries at that) are trying to determine how less energy can be consumed by the various applications that are running throughout a production facility. Naturally, managers turn their attention to applications using pneumatic systems and how they can be finetuned or engineered to consume less energy. After all, reducing energy consumed will lower your energy bill and production costs.

In this article, we are turning our attention to pneumatic technology, and in particular, pneumatic actuators. It’s important to note how much energy your pneumatic actuator consumes and how many cycles of life the actuator has. However, there are many factors beyond simply identifying energy consumption that can impact your energy bill. Let’s find out how an optimal pneumatic actuator can save you energy and lower your bill at the end of the month.

The Importance of Correctly Sizing Pneumatic Actuators

Engineers work hard to correctly size components so that your pneumatic system works seamlessly. They are able to gauge whether a pneumatic actuator (or cylinder) is oversized, undersized, or just right for a pneumatic system and application. It’s important to make sure that your engineer has done their homework and identified the right pneumatic actuator for your system. After all, an undersized actuator can impact the performance of your system forcing the actuator to move too slowly or not have enough power to do the job. However, an oversized actuator will cost you more upfront than an ideally sized one. Furthermore, improperly sized actuators can create strain on other parts making the other equipment within your system more prone to breaking. Finding the optimal size of pneumatic actuator and technology for your particular application is important for saving on energy costs.

“For instance, a 3-in. cylinder requires more than double the volume of air of a 2-in. cylinder. However, this much extra capacity may not be needed. To avoid grossly oversizing, it’s important to remember most loads and speeds require only 25% additional capacity to ensure correct operation. By selecting the right amount of oversizing, cylinder efficiency can be improved by as much as 15%. When factoring in the number of cylinders that will operate thousands of times over their life span, the savings from right sizing becomes significant,” (Pat Philips, “Six steps to energy efficiency in pneumatic systems”, 2021).

The TA Series is Bimba‘s standard pneumatic NFPA cylinder line, offering self-aligning motion that can be customized to fit any application.

Out with the Old, In with the New     

Worn-out pneumatic components can lead to dreaded leaks in your pneumatic system. Be sure to check parts like actuators and valves for any leaks. These leaks will cause your system to work much harder than ordinary causing more energy consumption. It is also helpful to remember how many cycles your pneumatic actuator is good for so you know when it is time to replace an actuator for optimal system efficiency.

Types of Pneumatic Actuators

Some pneumatic actuators  are more efficient than others. Modern pneumatic actuators have been adapted to function more efficiently lowering the electricity consumption of the pneumatic system as a whole. If you aren’t able to perform a complete energy efficiency audit of your pneumatic system to determine the energy efficiency changes that can be made, you can opt to replace each individual part as cost permits. Be sure to analyze the current cost of your pneumatic actuators to determine whether an energy-efficient option is within your budget.

Tubing, Cylinders, and Valves

Tubing will run between control valves and pneumatic actuators. The distance of this tubing can actually impact the energy spent by your system. By utilizing tubing that is less than ten feet, your pneumatic system will expend less energy. Longer lengths of tubing require a larger volume of air. More air volume means your air compressor will have to work more, using more energy in the long run.

Even better, some manufacturers are producing pneumatic valves that can mount directly onto cylinders thus reducing the space between the two pieces of equipment. According to Design World, “this direct connection eliminates pressure losses through long lines from the control cabinet to the pneumatic drive. Valve/actuator units can reduce tubing connections by 50% and cut energy use by 35%. Decentralized systems can also yield faster response times and higher cycle frequencies” (Larry Boulden, “Four Ways to Boost Pneumatic Efficiency”, 2021).

Regulate Pressure

Regulating the pressure supplied to an actuator is another factor contributing to the energy efficiency of your system. Many pneumatic actuators don’t require the full air pressure available and by reducing the pressure provided, you could significantly reduce energy consumed. In addition, most actuators don’t require much pressure on the return stroke and by reducing pressure, energy used could be largely reduced.

Contact Us for Your Pneumatic Actuator Needs

Identifying the right pneumatic actuator for your system and application can result in energy savings and a reduction in your energy bill. Using the wrong pneumatic actuator will generally result in not only increased energy costs but also part wear out or malfunction. Determining the right pneumatic actuator, sizing, and best practices can assist you in decreasing overhead costs.

If you require help finding the right pneumatic actuator and fit for your application, contact our automation specialists by phone or email. They can help you select the right technology for your needs.