Rotary Actuator Steering Combines Power and Precision

Rotary Actuator Steering Combines Power and Precision - Construction Application - Parker Cylinder DivisionBy replacing the previously used steering cylinders with Parker’s sliding spline rotary actuator technology, Huron Manufacturing was able to solve the issues that were inherent with the hydraulic cylinders. By incorporating helical, hydraulic rotary actuators to steer the four tracks on its Easi-Pour Compact 880 slipform paver, Huron Manufacturing was able to provide its customers with a machine that accomplishes what used to require multiple machines. 

The compact Easi-Pour machine can be used for large or small jobs ranging from tight radius curbs, gutters, and sidewalks to surface grade preparation and trimming. 

“Our customers are impressed with what this Easi-Pour can do – which is essentially everything. They can buy the less expensive Easi-Pour, yet get the same versatility found in larger slipform pavers ... While it’s rare that a contractor attempts a radius as tight as two feet, this machine can actually turn and hold grade even tighter than that.”

— Murray Serfling, engineering manager at Huron Manufacturing 


Finding the right steering solution

Huron Manufacturing replaced the previously used steering cylinders with Paker's Helac sliding spine rotary actuator technology. Hydraulic cylinders offered a turning radius of only 60° - 30° left and 30° right – compared to the 180° of rotation offered by the rotary actuator. The former steering configuration also required multiple mechanical linkage components that needed to be machined and welded together, which is characteristic of this type of design. Parker’s rotary actuator technology offers a cylindrical housing that contains all moving parts safely inside. The rotary actuators not only become the steering unit for all four tracks but provide the support of the load and the hydraulic turning power as well.

Rotary Actuator Steering Combines Power and Precision - Helac L30 - Parker Cylinder DivisionHuron Manufacturing also had maintenance and machine performance issues with the steering cylinders from all the pivot pins as well as the pins to keep bearings mounted between caster plates. The machine operators needed to make sure the pins were kept tight, and the bearings had to be greased regularly. The machine wouldn’t operate properly if the pins holding the bearing loosened. With the Parker solution bearings, seals, and torque-generating elements are all completely sealed and lubricated by the hydraulic fluid inside the actuator housing, resulting in low maintenance and zero leakage. The use of mechanical drives – chains and linkages – with the cylinders also limited the vertical and horizontal positioning of the tracks. However, the rotary actuators provide steering feedback through a transducer mounted at the end of each actuator.


The Easi-Pour in action

The Easi-Pour Compact 880 pours barriers to 42 inches high, paves up to eight feet widths, and handles any tasks that fall in between these specifications. After an accompanying transit mixer pours the concrete mixture into its conveyor hopper, the Easi-Pour’s auger moves materials across the machine to a slipform mold that’s located at road level. As the paver travels forward, a hydraulic vibrator helps shape the concrete in a mold, guided by a string line sensing system also manufactured by Huron. The string line system automatically ensures perfect steering and grade by incorporating five sensors – two steerings, two grade, and one cross-level control. The 880 machine also comes with a grade trimmer with a standard width of 51 inches to trim high spots from the road surface.

Huron’s Easi-Pour matches up well against industry alternatives. In addition to the tighter turning radius, this low-profile machine allows the operator excellent visibility of all the machine’s operations. It features the industry’s largest concrete hopper, yet requires no breakdown for transport. All Easi-Pours feature four-leg stability, and all legs are capable of hydraulically sliding to accommodate essentially any paving configuration. Most importantly, safety, durability, and long life are engineered into every Easi-Pour.


Fully hydraulic operation

The Easi-Pour Compact 880 is entirely hydraulically operated and does not come with any mechanical drives. Hydraulics in the form of helical, hydraulic rotary actuators are used to operate its four-track steering system. The actuators are rated to 3,000 psi. The four tracks are driven hydraulically through two-speed piston motors – low speed during forming operations, and high speed for travel around the job site.

The track drives are rated to 4,500 psi with a total flow of 49 gallons per minute (GPM). The hydraulic driver trimmer drive uses a closed-circuit piston pump operating at pressure of 4,500 psi, with the flow to 36 GPM. The machine’s conveyor and hopper auger are driven by a gear pump with a manual hand valve to regulate speed. The conveyor and hopper’s operating pressure is 2,500 psi, requiring up to 25 GPM flow from the gear pump. Elevation and steering pressures of the machine top out at 2,200 psi, supplied by a pressure compensated, open-circuit pump. 12-V solenoid valves are used to control all the functions performed by the pressure-compensated pump.


Additional benefits

The advantages of the actuator technology go far beyond eliminating the cylinder steering. 


“We’ve used Helac actuators for two other machines in the past, including our milling and mining machines for 4-wheel steering and conveyor positioning. The products continue to be durable and reliable and are incredibly easy to design into any of our machines,”

— Murray Serfling, engineering manager at Huron Manufacturing 


Helac actuators improved the overall appearance of the Easi-Pour 880 machine with their clean package that’s compact and doesn’t interfere with other functions. Improved performance of the slipform paver was an additional benefit of the rotary actuator.

The torque output generated by the Parker's Helac L30 Series actuator gave the Easi-Pour machine the power to make much tighter turns than many comparable machines in the industry. The quality of the pour also improved because the height of the drive tracks could be independently controlled without impacting the steer capability. 


Actuator operation technology

Rotary Actuator steering Combines Power and Precision - Rotary Actuator - Parker Cylinder Division

The cutaway above shows the initial position of the piston and output shaft. Pressurized fluid entering inlet port A displaces the piston; a stationary ring gear causes the piston to rotate clockwise. At right, teeth on the output shaft mesh with those on the ID of the piston, causing the shaft to rotate clockwise relative to the piston. Pressurizing port B returns the piston and shaft to their initial positions.


Operating technology is the key to the benefits of Parker’s hydraulic rotary actuator. Its design affords a unique combination of features not found in other rotary positioning components – high torque and moment loads, high angles of rotation, and compact configurations. Its sliding-spline operating technology is designed to replace multiple components and function as a rotating device, mounting bracket, and bearing, all in one. The design of Parker’s rotary actuators systematically converts linear piston motion into powerful shaft rotation. Each actuator is composed of two moving parts – a central shaft and a piston. Helical spline teeth on the shaft engage matching teeth on the piston’s inside diameter. When hydraulic pressure is applied to the piston, it moves axially, while the spline causes the piston and output shaft to rotate simultaneously.


To learn more about Parker’s hydraulic rotary actuators, please visit our website.


Rotary Actuator Steering Combines Power and Precision - Jessica Howisey - Parker Cylinder DivisionRotary Actuator Steering Combines Power and Precision - Dan Morgado - Parker Cylinder DivisionThis article was contributed by Jessica Howisey, marketing communications manager, and Daniel Morgado, applications engineer, Helac Business Unit, Cylinder Division






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