Technical Article

Utilizing Smart Sensors and Other Products in Fluid Power Systems

February 20, 2020 by Jeff Kerns

This article takes a look at several products that can help you make your fluid power systems smarter.

There are no universal answers in design. There is almost always some tweak or feature that offers a better result. With this in mind, the following will not solve all problems in fluid power, but they could provide the data necessary to find a root cause that could lead to a tweak or feature you didn’t think about.

With fluid power making up a large part of manufacturing lines, a little bit of data can go a long way.

Before looking into products, it is important to understand your own system specifications. Where are hubs or locations that if data was provided would streamline maintenance and troubleshooting?

What data would add the most value, or knowledge of the system at that location? What is the best way to connect to this location, and where should that data go? What level of security does this data need? Keep these thoughts in mind while reviewing products in smart fluid power.


Bosch Rexroth Has Eyes on the Factory of the Future

A company with a great deal of experience and eyes on the factory of the future, Bosch Rexroth has been working on making hydraulics smarter for years. One product, Sytronix is a series of variable-speed pump drives. These drives, combined with electric motors, hydraulic pumps, and frequency converters can reduce energy consumption by continuously adjusting motor speeds to match the machine’s requirements.



The Sytronix drive models SvP, DFEn, DRn, and FcP capabilities. Image used courtesy of Bosch Rexroth.


This table shows the Sytronix drives capabilities in a quick way to determine if a model would fit your application. Some hydraulics are being matched to the same type of servo motors that can be found in electromechanical solutions. This pairing is giving hydraulics new features, precision, and control not traditionally associate with fluid power.

The flow capacity of the system results from the speed of the electric motor and the setting of the pump. During ongoing operation, the machine control transfers the pressure/flow command values to the controller. The system pressure is measured by a pressure sensor and sent to the controller. On the basis of the control deviation, the integrated PID controller calculates the required motor speed and adjusts it according to the existing system requirements for flow and pressure.  


Parker Hannifin Offering Apps for Data Management

Apps are also a good way to keep equipment data at the employee’s fingertips. Products such as SensoNODE can be an easy way to access data to monitor a system. Five, low power sensors monitor pressure, humidity, and temperature. This information can be sent directly to the user’s smartphone.


Paker Hannifin sensor node technology

SensoNODE wireless sensors with mobile software for condition monitoring. Image used courtesy of Parker Hannifin.


The app that works with the hardware is designed to trend, assess, and monitor machine health. Continuous monitoring can improve preventative maintenance to help extend machine life. Predicting failure before it occurs eliminates costly downtime and reduces unnecessary maintenance routines.


Companies Providing Evaluation Services

Some large systems might be too much for smart pumps and valves. It is important to know where the value is but also, when the task is too great or complex. Additionally, asking workers to help track data or fill out more forms, device history, etc. may be too much for their workload. Additional tasks may yield hastily filled out forms, or inaccurate data.

Companies such as Swagelok offer onsite evaluations. Seeking outside help can alleviate pressure from workers and yield different data, forms, and reports for workers, managers, and C-level executives that may communicate more authentically.

These third-party evaluation services could be valuable to establish a baseline of a system’s health, gain access to years of experience that might be difficult to create in-house, and offer a new perspective on how to achieve production goals.

This is a brief list, but it serves as an example of what types of solutions are available. If you aren’t sure where to even start, evaluation services offer outside expertise that could save time and money compared to testing blindly or researching it alone.

Monitoring can help obtain data to help find problems, present evidence of ROI for more smart and connected technologies, reduce maintenance, document equipment history, or even save time while increasing fidelity as workers may not have to walk around the shop looking at gages.

If you already know the value proposition and can invest in it, smart drives that can combine the energy density of fluid power and the precision and control of electromechanical motors provides the next generation of fluid power.


Do you use smart sensors in fluid power systems? 



Featured image (modified) used courtesy of SIKO GmbH.