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What are Pneumatic Controls and How are they Used?

Posted by SMC Pneumatics USA- Orange Coast Pneumatics on 10/4/2019 to Pneumatics
What are Pneumatic Controls and How are they Used?

Have you ever been so frustrated with a piece of machinery that you’re convinced it has a mind of its own? You might have been trying to repair a computer or smartphone that continued to behave in an unexpected way. Perhaps you’ve tried to install a relighting kit, only to find that your favored antique lamp only seems to turn on when you want it to and not when others try it. You have to resist the temptation to smash the computer, smartphone or lamp into the wall.

Imagine a world where everything was like that. It’s probably not a very comfortable thought to have. We have enough trouble trying to figure out the settings on the microwave when they set to defrost and you just want to reheat. Trying to understand a more complicated machine does not compute well with our desire for time-efficient control and repairs.

That world may even come very soon. Programmers and engineers are working to integrate artificial intelligence into our everyday devices, which means that robots may soon take over the world. Besides the concern of malevolent machines, we also are worried about how all this intelligence will pervade our work and home lives and cause disruptions.

Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about unexpected behavior nearly as much when working with reliable pneumatic equipment. After all, pneumatic controls have your back and don’t need a computer brain to operate. They just need your mind and hands to operate the machine. Mind that you don’t have to measure the controls that we mention, but your monitoring them becomes important.

The learning curve is relatively small once you know how to get started. Pneumatics is designed for easy learning and operation. All in all, the control remains with you. Even when the robots take over and conquer humanity, the pneumatic systems will remain in our control. We can keep operating with air pressure, and with other machines doing the thinking for us.

How Do Pneumatic Systems Work With Controls?

Pneumatic systems use the air around their designated space, compress it to create pressure, and funnel through tubes to generate force. This force makes an actuator operate via rotation, and forces valves to open and close. Cylinders also assist with the rotation, while valves opening and closing regulate pressure.

Controls, in this case, refer to sensors that help you measure how the machine is doing, as well as switches to adjust various factors. These factors are not just limited to air pressure; they also measure humidity and air temperature. Knowing if you have an excess of the latter two elements can help you stop a problem ahead of time.

If you have excess water vapor, then your machine cannot function. Water molecules will condensate and will clog your valves, cylinders, and tubing. Such clogging will force the machine to work harder and potentially damage it. Knowing that you have excess humidity means that you need to get rid of the vapor ahead of time and possibly replace your filtration system.

Thermostats are especially important for monitoring your pneumatic temperature levels. All machines can overheat, even ones that do not use electricity as a source. The heat comes from overworking and strain. What’s more, heat causes air molecules to expand, which in turn can affect the pressure in a bad way. That’s why you need to check on the temperature.

Excessive cooling is also a problem. When you have freezing temperatures, they can freeze the tubes and pipes that you need and stop the necessary air flow. Thus, if you work in an area with intense winters or cool environments, such as freezer warehouses, keep an eye on the thermostat.

Consider, for example, that air conditioners run on pneumatic systems. They have filters for sediment and water particles while making air travel through various spaces of the house. Your air compressor could overheat and break, which means that your air conditioner cannot work. This, in turn, generates more heat around the house and makes you very uncomfortable.

Pneumatic Basics

Unlike electronic controls, pneumatic ones use air as a control medium when they want to stop or change the flow. You can find an alternative compressed air-driven control to use in any circumstance where you might have otherwise used an electronic one. Consider all of the following options:

  • Pressure controls either raise or lower the level of pressure in an airline, so operators can respond to changing conditions. If you need to generate more force, you increase the pressure and reduce the space between air molecules. If you need to reduce the force, you decrease the pressure and increase such space.
  • Pneumatic thermostats perform much the same function as traditional ones do, albeit with compressed air instead of electrical wiring. They measure if you are reaching a heat threshold or an overly cool one.
  • Sensing probes can determine air pressure in a system. They can detect leaks and where you need to make necessary seals or replacements.
  • Pneumatic damper actuators offer proportional control of any dampers they’re connected to in either sequenced operation or independently of one another.
  • Pneumatic switches and valves can turn parts of an air circuit on or off as conditions dictate, much in the same way that electronic switches are used to power devices on or off.

If you already know which of these devices you’re looking for, then SMC Pneumatics more than likely already has what you need in stock. Our experts have compiled a rundown of options currently on the market. We also know what replacements are suitable for the parts that become obsolete due to their brands discontinuing them.

What Types Of Pneumatic Controls Are Available?

In an overwhelming majority of installations, you’ll see the above types of devices. They’re the most common types of pneumatic controls on the market at the moment. Some devices continue to enjoy a small share, however, in spite of the fact that they’ve technically gone obsolete in the light of new engineering developments.

For instance, some types of PDT series valve controllers are now no longer manufactured. Those workshops that currently use it can get in touch with SMC for the latest version. Perhaps the best example of a newer device pushing out the old is the ITV2090 series electro-pneumatic regulator.

These devices serve as electronic vacuum regulators that control either air pressure or a lack thereof that operate in proportion to an electric signal that they’re given. They’re relatively lightweight and come complete with a bright and easy-to-read LED screen.

Monitor outputs for these devices are available either as switched systems or traditional analog output. This makes them attractive for any number of different types of installs regardless of use case. Craft technologists have found countless ways to employ them.

Nevertheless, there are some best practices to observe as well as a number of safety standards that you won’t want to exceed. We have some listed below, as well as recommendations on how best to abide by the standards.

What’s The Best Way To Use Pneumatic Controls?

Assume you were going to use one of these regulators. They aren’t supposed to operate outside of a pressure range of -1.3 to -80 kPa and are only meant to be used with ¼-sized ports. While these numbers are generous enough to meet the needs of most businesses, you will want to carefully observe them so you don’t risk causing any damage to your equipment.

Don’t be afraid to constantly monitor. Your eyes and brain are valuable, as of those of your coworkers or employees. Keep an eye on the pressure ranges, thermostats and humidities. You can then make adjustments or pause operations long enough to make necessary repairs and replacements.

Fortunately, it shouldn’t be difficult to abide by these requirements. Consider the fact that a mounting bracket is an available option, too. This makes it easy to keep the unit more than stable enough to use it in areas where movement is an issue or where things might get jarred loose periodically.

Mounting brackets should normally be more than enough to keep pneumatic controls stable. Best of all, the ITV series of regulators is IP65 equivalent. That means you can safely employ it in situations where NEMA figures are an important consideration. Most people won’t have to worry about this, but it’s important to think about when deploying equipment in any kind of workshop that has to contend with less than ideal conditions.

It’s also important to keep in mind when your business has to comply with specific federal, state or local regulations. Safety is always an important consideration, so pay extra attention to NEMA numbers when selecting pneumatic controls.

Especially follow regulations when you operate in the food or medicine industry; none of your products must make their consumers ill. The liability and potential damage to your business’s reputation is not worth it.

If you’re unsure of what kind of equipment you might need for a specific situation, then make sure to get in touch with one of our professionals. As we have said, your mind is the only computer you need to operate those machines, but it never hurts to expand your breadth of knowledge. We can make the recommendations on which parts you need, and which replacements are good for obsolete products.

There’s no reason that you should have to feel like you need to make these kinds of decisions while staying completely in the dark. This type of consideration is far too important to decide on without getting together all the information you can find.

Order the Pneumatic Controls Your Company Needs

While parts come in standard sizes, businesses don’t. The needs of larger enterprise-level firms aren’t the same as those of smaller local companies, yet many hardware vendors treat them as such. SMC Pneumatics makes sure to stock a wide variety of parts so we can always be sure that we have a number of sizes and configurations to suit the needs of your individual business.
Contact us online today and speak with one of our experienced experts. They’ll help you find controls that meet your workshop’s budget and requirements. SMC Pneumatics will get you started on gaining more control in your life, starting with your air compressors and filters. We are very happy to do so.

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