As 2012 draws to a close, let’s look forward to see what some fluid power manufacturers predict we’ll be seeing in the pneumatic cylinder marketplace over the next five years. Just because the technology is a mature one doesn’t mean that there aren’t some interesting developments on the proverbial horizon.
The top three trends:
1. As the marketplace becomes more globalized, it will become more important for products and machines to meet international standards and regulations. This means cylinder manufacturers will begin to offer more products that meet ISO design standards instead of local industry standards. By using ISO standard cylinders, customers have the ability to easily interchange them with another manufacturer’s cylinder anywhere in the world if they experience quality or delivery issues. This will also drive a transition from inch dimensioned products with NPT/UNF threads to metric products.
2. Future cylinder construction will feature more polymer materials. This includes seals and rod scrapers that are capable of operating in harsh environments, elastomeric end position cushions that can absorb higher energy allowing for higher speeds, pistons that are lighter (to reduce the moving mass), and end caps that reduce the weight of the cylinder. The use of polymer materials can also reduce production costs.
3. Safety will become a more prominent factor in the machine design and component selection process. For air cylinders, this may require the ability to control its movement when an emergency stop button is pressed or a light curtain on the machine is broken which triggers the air pressure to the machine to be quickly exhausted. This can be achieved with a piston rod clamp. Cylinders will be offered with integrated rod clamps that restrict the movement of the piston rod if air pressure is lost.
And five more things to watch for:
4. More FDA and environmental friendly type materials and components.
5. More position sensing and feedback systems to compete with electric.
6. Use of new lubricant technology.
7. Cylinders that prevent or reduce outgassing.
8. More integrated valve/cylinder products.
Many thanks to Michael Guelker, Product Manager, Pneumatic Actuators for Festo Corp.; Bimba Mfg.’s engineering team; Todd Bordewyk, Director of Engineering and Quality for Humphrey Products; and Matt Harmeyer, Director of Engineering, PHD Inc., for their contributions to this article.