By Dez Duran-Lamanilao
Hydraulic actuators are mainly used to convert pressure energy of the fluid into mechanical energy. They may be classified as linear (for hydraulic cylinders), rotary (for hydraulic motors), or semi-rotary (for limited angle of actuation). A ship operates in three key systems, namely hydraulic, pneumatic, and electronic. An actuator helps a specific system perform its functions mainly from a remote position. Thus, actuators are a critical element in ship building and repair and rotary actuators have been utilized in ship machinery for years now.
An actuator converts the hydraulic energy that is supplied by the hydraulic pump and processed by the elements of control into useful work. There is a key difference between hydraulic motors and hydraulic pumps. Pumps convert mechanical energy into hydraulic energy while hydraulic motors/actuators reconvert the hydraulic energy provided by the pump into mechanical energy.
Having established their importance, actuators (and the whole hydraulic system) must be regularly maintained to increase reliability, determine problems before they even arise, reduce overall maintenance costs, and prevent major shutdowns, which may result to unnecessary costs and delays. Here are a few preventive maintenance tips for your hydraulic system:
- Maintain the right amount of grease for motor actuators that use grease for lubrication. Inadequate lubrication is one of the most common culprits to motor actuator malfunction.
- A visual inspection of the external surfaces can reveal minor problems that can be resolved immediately to prevent further damage.
- Establish a benchmark versus optimal torque profiles. Use historical data as your basis.
- Inspect the motor and watch out for connection issues and possible moisture ingress.
- Finally, schedule a regular maintenance of your hydraulic cylinders. Check for corrosion, pitting, or uneven wear.
The ideal location of actuators is for installations where human interaction is either impossible or dangerous. Actuators play a vital role in helping valves be automated to ensure zero human interaction with the valve package. Since actuators can be remotely operated, they can also be used as a shutdown mechanism in emergency situations.