The industrial demand on hydraulic products with outstanding mechanical properties increases continuously. High pressure hydraulic products require high strength structural components. While for stationary applications, the higher pressures can be covered by heavy, thick walled metal products without reduction in the customer values, mobile applications have to seek for alternative designs and technologies.
Based on the requirement changes, Parker started 20 years ago to investigate a totally different approach. The outcome were ultra-lightweight hydraulic actuators with cylinder barrels supported by carbon fibre reinforced plastics. The resulting Parker Lightraulics® tool cylinders are made from carbon fibre composites and high performance lightweight alloys that are typically more than 60 percent lighter than the comparable steel actuators.
On construction sites in several operations hydraulic actuators are pushing bolts, tensioning wires and lifting heavy elements. Usually such operations take place at different locations all over the construction site, quite often in areas with limited access. Therefore the required equipment has to be portable, compact and easy to handle. On the other hand, force requirements are increasing continuously at the same time. The standard equipment for such large forces is bulky and heavy high pressure hydraulics. New technologies and materials are the only solution to overcome the conflict of interests.
High strength steels are traditionally used for common industrial applications. If lightweight is required, the development of new lightweight alloys and their joining technologies is the common approach. Depending on the level of weight efficiency of the original design, utilization of high performance metal alloys, the current state-of-the-art lightweight solution is typically based on aluminium or titanium. Because for metals an increase in strength typically results in low ductility and, correspondingly, reduced fatigue performance, their benefits for actuators are rather limited. During the last decades, developments and products of composite materials moved into the focus as a reasonable alternative. Incorporation of fibre reinforced plastics can overcome the conflict of reduced fatigue at higher strength. They offer dramatic weight savings potential and exceptional burst and fatigue strengths.
Tool cylinder product series
Parker recognized the conflict of increasing demand of high pressure equipment and the request for lightweight products. As a solution, different series of Lightraulics composite tool actuators were developed. These lightweight actuators are used for pressing, lifting, extracting and tensioning operations and are the result of combining lightweight materials with innovative manufacturing techniques and designs to provide exceptional portable power for a wide range of applications. The extremely low weight allows the operator to quickly and accurately position the cylinder or to move it from one place to another. The result is a reduction in transportation time and equipment, higher productivity and healthy working conditions for the end user.
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Article by Dr.-Ing. Olaf Stelling, the Value Stream Manager for the Composites Technologies Europe Business Unit of Parker Hannifin in Stuhr, Germany. He holds a diploma in Production Technologies and a PhD on New Developed Lightweight Aluminum Alloys, both from the University of Bremen in Germany. He began his career with Parker in 2010 but previously held research engineering positions at the Material Testing Institute University of Stuttgart and the Foundation Institute of Materials Technology, Department Lightweight Materials in Bremen.