Hydraulic systems have the potential to become quite complicated. But the good news is that when it comes to safety concerns, you really only have to worry about controlling two factors: flow and pressure. With both these factors under control, catastrophic parts failures and all the safety risks they present will be much less likely to strike.
Pressure is of course a key part of what allows hydraulic equipment to generate power. Unfortunately, the same pressure that is needed to create force can also cause injury to operators or equipment if it is not properly controlled. For example, if pressure rises past the tolerance of various system components, seals can give way, hoses could leak or snap free of their fittings, loads could be dropped, and a person could easily be injured.
The good news is there are a variety of measures that can be incorporated into the design to control pressure. All the possible causes of pressure spikes must be guarded against, from thermal expansion to intensification, water hammer, and of course plain old load spikes. A variety of different types of hydraulic valves, including check valves, pressure control valves, and relief valves can be used for this purpose.
Excess flow can be a problem not only for equipment operation, but also for operator safety because of the relationship between flow and pressure. Maintaining proper pump flow is essential for ensuring the cylinders run at the desired rate; if flow increases too much, it will “run away” with the cylinder. To prevent this, the flow must be well controlled through some sort of metering device. In the case of protecting a cylinder from excess flow, a counterbalance valve is typically used. Other types of hydraulic valves including directional valves and flow control valves may also be needed.
Whether you are having trouble controlling pressure and flow in a piece of mobile equipment or want to create a safe design for a totally custom hydraulic system, Bernell Hydraulics can help. Our team of experienced hydraulic professionals includes experts in both hydraulic equipment troubleshooting & repair and custom hydraulic system design & fabrication. Just give us a call and we’ll send someone to your local work site right away.