23 April, 2024

Apex manufactures bespoke hydraulic cylinder for restricted space

10 September, 2018

Apex Hydraulics was given the task of designing a bespoke hydraulic cylinder to be produced for a large multinational organisation. The client company offers strategies in various aspects of geo-mapping, including of the sea bed, and has the capability to provide technical details for onshore and offshore construction and infrastructure projects.


The client designed a pipe grab; to be used to pick up a horizontal pipe from ground level, rotating it until vertical. Hydraulics are used to operate the pincers grabbing hold of the pipe. Used within the offshore industry, the tool was required to conform to stringent safety legislation.


The fabrication design allowed only a very restricted space for the hydraulic cylinder. The cylinder was to be double acting, forcing the pincers both open and closed. One Pilot Operated Check Valve was required to ensure that the pincers remained tightly closed when the hydraulic cylinder was at full advance and remove any risk of the pincers opening while holding a heavy pipe.


A standard cylinder design would usually include any valves in their own manifold block outside the cylinder. However, in this situation there was a restriction on space. In addition, an external valve would need additional external pipework which could get knocked and leak. An integrated valve was required to ensure safety as well as saving space.

Therefore, in this design, the Pilot Operated Check Valve was incorporated within the hydraulic cylinder body – saving space and offering increased safety. A Pilot Operated Check Valve keeps the hydraulic oil within the cylinder until the cylinder is hydraulically operated in the opposite direction.

Apex’s design team came up with an innovative design to suit the requirements, which was to produce the body of the cylinder out of a solid rectangular material which could incorporate the cylinder and valve functions in one component. This allowed it to fit the allocated space perfectly, in a neater, safer design.

This design was a much more complicated item to manufacture, but it was the only way to integrate all the safety parameters within one component. Because the fabrication had a lifting application, there was a lot of legislation around the production of all parts. The cylinders had to be DNV-GL design approved and be tested to the required pressures; a protocol that Apex is familiar with.


Apex comments that it believes a client should be able to design a fabrication and then commission a hydraulic cylinder to fit perfectly within its design. While the rectangular cylinder body required extensive design and engineering, it allowed the client to have a perfect fit for their equipment. If the client had attempted to use a standard cylinder, then everything about their fabrication would have had to be changed to be a different shape and size. With the specially designed model produced by Apex, the client has built exactly what it requires; a safe and secure fabrication.


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