, 2017-04-24

What young engineers should know about hydraulics

Dr. Steffen Haack, Bosch Rexroth AG, Senior Vice President of the Business Unit Industrial Applications

In mechanical engineering, not every task can be solved with the same technology. Hydraulics have a clear advantage when it comes to power density and robustness. They withstand impacts and vibrations and also fit into tight installation spaces due to their compact design. Electro-mechanics are traditionally closely connected to control development and have sophisticated functionalities for high flexibility. The electronification of hydraulics preserves the physical advantages of fluid technology and increases their attractiveness with the possibilities of software-based automation.

That's reason enough for young engineers, who often come from the software side of things, to get to know the special capabilities of hydraulics. This doesn't mean configuring valve systems or plunging yourself into the basics of fluid mechanics but rather recognizing where hydraulics offer economic and technical benefits. The automated implementation of movements is then done using software, as with electric drives.

New system solutions for electronified hydraulics use the same electronic control assemblies and logic as electric drives. Using open standards such as multi-Ethernet interfaces, they can be added to horizontally and vertically networked machine architectures just the same – in terms of automation there is no difference. Electro-hydraulic axes are put into operation with the same engineering tools as electric drives – with two distinctions: First, a wizard logically guides the technician through the commissioning of hydraulic axes and suggests parameterization values that lead to a suitable result. Second, best-in-class controllers intelligently compensate for the special features of fluid technology in the background. Commissioners don't need any specific knowledge of hydraulics for this.

In conclusion, there's no need to be scared of the characteristics of hydraulics, but rather their suitability should be evaluated and automation implemented in the usual way. With digital intelligence, networkable hydraulics can now be seamlessly integrated into multi-technology and Industry 4.0 concepts, meaning they are and will remain an important component of modern mechanical engineering. In recent years, almost all motion patterns and special features of fluid technology have been modeled in modular software. Even specific characteristics such as transmission kinematics or controlled synchronism are taken into account here. Engineers don't have to be "baptized by oil" to know that electronified hydraulics offer unique power density and robustness – and otherwise the design, parameterization, commissioning, operation and diagnostics using software are just as convenient as for other drive technologies.

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