Pneumatic systems are working hard all around us in a variety of different places, situations and applications. When they aren’t working properly or break down completely, the problems caused can range from the mildly annoying to the catastrophic.
Diagnosing a pneumatic system, to understand why they are not working as expected, can seem overwhelming. But actually, there are 5 common issues that affect pneumatic systems and they are relatively simple to troubleshoot and fix with the right tools and expertise.
What Is A Pneumatic System?
A pneumatic system uses air, or inert gases, to power machinery. The gas or air is compressed which creates pneumatic energy. The pressurised gas or air is then moved around a circuit and transformed into mechanical energy within the cylinder or actuator. This mechanical energy then does the task at hand.
Football and bicycle pumps use pneumatics. As do some home exercise machines such as elliptical cross trainers.
Most hospitals use pneumatic tube systems to deliver blood, samples and medications to other parts of the hospital.
Many modes of transport such as lorries, buses, trains and aeroplanes use pneumatic brakes, either wholly or in conjunction with other braking systems.
Plenty of power tools use pneumatic power including nail guns, jackhammers and pile drivers.
Common Problems & Solutions
1. Actuator Moving Too Slow
If the cylinder/actuator is moving too slowly it can show up as low pressure or excessive air choke. This could be due to a faulty, leaking or squashed air hose/tube. This can be checked visually or by listening out for escaping air.
It could also be due to a faulty valve or simply that the valve is not adjusted properly. This can also be checked visually.
Having a blocked silencer or air filter will also cause the cylinder to move too slowly. These should be replaced by a professional engineer if required.
Cylinder wear or damage may also be a cause and will require replacement. Faulty or dirty valves can also get stuck open which can cause a slow-moving cylinder. They can be relatively easy to clean or replace.
2. Cylinder Drift
Leaks within the pneumatic system can cause the actuator to shift position. Check for piston seal leaks by pressurising one side and checking for leaks on the opposite side, both visually and by listening.
Connecting lines and control valves should also be inspected for leaks in this way. Faulty or worn piping or seals should be replaced.
3. Damaged Or Dirty Filter
Low or drops in pressure may be caused by a worn or dirty filter. It is important to clean and replace them regularly.
4. Air Seal Leaks
Leaks within your pneumatic system can waste a lot of energy and cause your system to be ineffectual or overwork which can cause further damage. It can also cause cylinder drift (see above). An excellent way to find leaks is with an ultrasonic acoustic detector.
5. Directional Control Valve Not Changing Direction
Dirt or debris in the system can cause the valve to stick and not change direction as it should. Regular cleaning and replacement of the filter will help to prevent this problem before it surfaces. The valve itself may need cleaning or replacing.
Get In Touch For More Information
Regular maintenance including daily visual checks can help prevent many of the most common pneumatic system problems from occurring in the first place and keep your system working better for longer. However, problems do still occur so if you need more advice or an expert engineer to troubleshoot, service, or fix your pneumatic system then get in touch with us at MCH Hydraulics.