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The benefits of maintaining your pneumatic cylinders

The benefits of maintaining your pneumatic cylinders

Pneumatic cylinders are a great solution for moving loads in a linear direction; they are efficient, reliable, clean and can provide good levels of force and speed. This makes them popular in industrial settings such as processing plants. However, preventative maintenance is key to ensuring that your pneumatic cylinder stays functioning at its optimum levels, so we take a look here at how pneumatic cylinders work, the different pneumatic cylinder types and their advantages, as well as how to carry out preventative maintenance to keep your pneumatic cylinder working well for you.

How pneumatic cylinders work

Pneumatic cylinders use compressed air to move a load in a single orientation (back and forth or up and down). Most pneumatic cylinders contain a piston inside a cylinder, and the compressed air is pushed in at one end of the cylinder and acts upon the piston within the contained environment to translate the energy into movement, using a rod to move the load.

There are various pneumatic cylinder types, and they can be broken down into categories, the most basic of which are single-acting and double-acting. A single-acting pneumatic cylinder type uses the compressed gas to move the load in one direction, but then relies upon another force (usually a spring, but sometimes weight and gravity) to return the piston to its starting position. Therefore, a single-acting actuator can only work in one direction. A double-acting pneumatic actuator has an air port at both ends of the cylinder, therefore enabling the piston to move a full load in both directions.

Rodless pneumatic actuators work similarly to regular actuators except that rather than using a rod to move the load from one end of the piston, the load is moved alongside the piston.

How to select the right pneumatic cylinder

So, now that we know exactly what a pneumatic cylinder is and how it works, it’s important to understand which type of pneumatic cylinder you need, and why. With a variety of pneumatic cylinder types on the market, it is important that you select the right one for your application to ensure that the final configuration provides you with the right forces, speeds and accuracy to facilitate the levels of efficiency and control that you require. Some of the factors that you need to consider when selecting your pneumatic cylinder include:

  • How much work you need the actuator to do as this will impact the piston size and air pressure you need.
  • How fast you need the cylinder to operate. This will ensure that the rod length, port sizes, inlet and exhaust flow are suitable.
  • The material that the pneumatic cylinder is constructed from to ensure that you select one suitable for your working environment.
  • Your likely required lifespan. Cycle frequency, loads and number of cycles will impact this and may influence the type of pneumatic cylinder that you opt for.

Why preventative maintenance is important for pneumatic cylinders

Pneumatic cylinders are the workhorses of many industrial plants, and their operating efficiency directly impacts output and therefore your bottom line. To ensure that a pneumatic cylinder continues to operate effectively, it is extremely important that preventative maintenance is carried out to a regular schedule. An absence of preventative maintenance can result in contamination, a reduction in moisture control and higher operating temperatures, all of which can lead to a much increased risk of faults and an inevitable loss of efficiencies. Some of the preventative maintenance tasks that you should be carrying out on your pneumatic cylinder include:

  • Regular cleaning of external parts of the system so that visual inspection of seals and other parts is straightforward.
  • Inspection for wear and tear.
  • Draining of air line filters and checking that the water traps are operating as they should.
  • Lubrication of the cylinder, rod seal, piston seals and surfaces.
  • Checking of the full system for air leaks (and resealing where required).
  • Replacing of air filters.

Pneumatic cylinders will work tirelessly and effectively in a vast array of applications, provided you select the right pneumatic cylinder type for your working environment and demands, and that you then maintain good working practice when it comes to preventative maintenance. For support in selecting your pneumatic cylinder, talk to Matara on 01684 850000.

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