Thursday, April 23, 2015

Elegantly Engineered Pneumatic Valve Actuators. A Simple, Single Moving Part

Vane Actuator
One moving part. Simple. Elegant.
According to Wikipedia, elegance is "a synonym for beauty that has come to acquire the additional connotations of unusual effectiveness and simplicity." In engineering terms, "a solution may be considered elegant if it uses a non-obvious method to produce a solution which is highly effective and simple. "

When you compare the mechanics of various other pneumatic valve actuators, such as rack and pinion or scotch yoke with their internal gears, bushings and bearings, you immediately understand that simplicity is sacrificed and the design is certainly not elegant.

gears
Actuators with gears wear.
When gears mesh, there is friction. Friction causes heat and wear, which effects the mechanical life of the actuator. Friction converts kinetic energy into thermal energy and can have dramatic consequences if left unchecked. Another important consequence of friction is wear, which may lead to performance degradation and/or damage to the internal components of a rack and pinion or scotch yoke actuator.

"Fretting wear" is caused by the repeated cyclical rubbing between two surfaces (gears in the case of scotch yoke or rack and pinion actuators) and over a period of time, will remove material from one or both surfaces.

Backlash happens when gears change direction. It is caused by the gap between the trailing face of the driving tooth and the leading face of the tooth behind it. The gap must be closed before force can be transferred in the new direction, hence the phenomena of backlash. This is also sometimes referred to as "slop".

A well designed vane actuator uses a single piece of machined steel for both the vane body and drive shafts. With this design, the shaft and vane are not affected by backlash, friction or wear.

For more information, contact:

Kinetrol USA
1085 Ohio Drive
Plano, Texas 75093
(972) 447-9443 phone
(972) 447-9720 fax
sales@kinetrolusa.com

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Why the Rotary Vane Actuator Design is Superior to Rack and Pinion & Scotch Yoke Designs

When it comes to pneumatically actuating an industrial quarter-turn valve, you basically have only three types of mechanical technologies to choose from: rack and pinion, scotch yoke and the rotary vane design. This post describes why a rotary vane design is the clear winner when it comes to efficiency and reliability.

First, let's describe how rack and pinion and scotch yoke actuators work.

A rack and pinion actuator is comprised of two opposing pistons, each with its own gear (referred to as the "rack"). The two piston racks are set against a round pinion gear. As pressure increases against one side of each piston, each rack moves linearly against the opposite sides of the pinion gear causing rotational movement. This rotational movement is used to open and close a valve. Pretty basic stuff. See the animation (provided by Wikipedia) below for a visual understanding.

rack and pinion
Note rack and pinion gears
and how they are prone to
wear and slop.
A scotch yoke actuator relies on the scotch yoke mechanism to convert linear movement into rotary motion. In this case, a piston is coupled to the sliding yoke, which in turn moves a fixed pin on the shaft of the actuator to provide rotation. As one side of the piston is pressurized, the piston forces the yoke to move linearly, which allows a slot in the yoke to drive the pin on the actuator shaft. See the animation (from Wikipedia) below for clarification:
scotch yoke design
Scotch yoke operation. Easy to see its highly
susceptible to wear and resulting slop.

Both of these valve actuator mechanisms use several interconnected, mechanical moving parts. As a result, they are very susceptible to wear.

It All Comes Down to "A Single Moving Part"

The vane actuator has only one moving part and there is no linear-to-rotary conversion. An internal vane moves uniformly in response to inlet air pressure, without gears, slots, or levers. This is a clear advantage when you consider wear and tear, and also machine efficiency. See the video below for a visual explanation.




Vane = Simple, reliable design --------- Piston = Complicated, less reliable

One moving part --------------------------- Many moving parts
No O-rings ---------------------------------- Several sets of O-rings
Dynamic Memory Seals ------------------ Static seals
No linear to rotary motion ---------------- Linear to rotary = friction/wear
Spring isolated ------------------------------ Spring exposed to atmosphere
Very accurate control ---------------------- Hysteresis = poor control
Non-pressurized shafts -------------------- Pressurized shafts
4 million operations ------------------------ 500,000 to 1 million operations