18 October, 2018

Special 21st Anniversary Report - Eventful journey

12 December, 2017

“By the mid-1990s the economy was recovering, but many engineers were convinced that fluid power was in its death throes with electrical alternatives ready to replace it. Our view was different – fluid power was evolving; there was too much going on for it to be in danger. Rodless pneumatic cylinders had found their niche, electronics was coming in, and so was software. Non-lube air was becoming the norm, valves were getting smaller, faster and more efficient, valve islands were redefining systems architecture; no electric system could match the sheer muscle of hydraulics. It seemed to us a brilliant time to launch Hydraulics & Pneumatics.

“With the momentous decision made, the launch went relatively smoothly. We had the publishing expertise and the journalistic knowledge; we knew most of the potential advertisers and had a database of potential readers. Of course, there were long nights and mad panics, setbacks, despair and despondency, but these were minor problems all quickly overcome, and the first issue came out on time and to budget.”

Over two decades later, Hydraulics & Pneumatics continues to thrive under the editorial helm of Ed Holden, who has been in the hot seat since September 2005. The journal, along with Drives & Controls magazine and exhibition of the same name, came under the stewardship of DFA Media Ltd. following a management buyout in 2004. This was followed by the launch of the Air-Tech exhibition in 2006 and, more recently, Fluid Power & Systems in 2014. Other complementary co-located shows have also flourished under the DFA Media umbrella.

Changing landscape

So, what have been some of the most notable areas of development within the fluid power and related equipment and systems industry over the past 20 years or so? Chris Buxton, CEO of the BFPA, makes the point that fluid power is a very mature technology and, to this extent, has exemplified a fairly steady state for a number of years. However, he observes that with the advent of digitalisation and the ‘fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0)’, the convergence with electrical controls and drives manifest as integrated systems have become very apparent over the past five years or so, and customers are now talking about generic motion control using whatever technology is most appropriate. “The solution is usually a combination of both fluid power and electromechanical systems,” he said. “At the very least, we are seeing electrical control of hydraulic and pneumatic systems.”

Andreas Kling, product marketing manager at Eaton, draws our attention to key areas of development such as traditional components being made smarter, and smart machines with better control connecting to the Internet of Things and telematics. “There is a need for a high integration of sensors to the traditional components, so at Eaton we are increasingly engineering electro proportional valves, and digital valves all with connectivity to enable them to communicate with the machine,” explained Kling. He is also seeing more compact machines being launched, and believes there is therefore an ever-increasing need for high pressure solutions (close loop applications up to 500 bar).

Martin Cuthbert, managing director of Webtec, commented that Webtec is involved in hydraulic measurement and in hydraulic control, so from a measurement point of view the movement of technology – in terms of the accessibility, awareness, reliability and cost – has all stepped forward quite a long way over the past two decades or so. “When we brought out our first data loggers in the late 1990s they were large devices with memory measured in kilobytes of data rather than the gigabytes of data available on our modern devices,” explained Cuthbert. “The ease of use of the devices has greatly improved, and the ability to communicate with the devices would previously have been through an RS 232 serial port whereas now it is USB or wireless. There is also now a greater awareness of the value and importance of datalogging. Customers now are collecting and analysing more data and so are preventing many more faults before they occur than they would have done back in the late 1990s. Of course, there are still some companies that run machinery to failure and haven't yet changed their

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