Simplest valve actuators open the gate to automation and production efficiency

Feb 8, 2018 in March 2018, News 2018
Simplest valve actuators open the gate to automation and production efficiency
Airstroke® actuators, foreground, and a gate valve in which they are used

Airstroke® actuators, foreground, and a gate valve in which they are used. Air Springs Supply provides the actuators that engineers build into production machinery

By James Maslin*

Rapid and reliable actuation of gate valves is becoming more and more critical to liquid and gas handling applications as industries face the twin demands of production automation and pressure to produce without production interruptions for maintenance.

Gate valves, also known as sluice valves, are one of the most widely used types of valves in industrial applications, where they typically operate either fully open or fully closed, being used in pipelines as isolating valves rather than control or regulating valves.

Their compact simplicity, low pressure loss, bidirectional versatility and ability to handle full flows where particles cannot cluster has led to widespread use in process engineering applications throughout industries such as food and beverage, agribusiness, manufacturing, mining and mineral processing, liquid-solid separation, filtration, materials handling, water and waste water and waste-to-energy projects.

Typically gate valves are manually or (occasionally) hydraulically actuated, but where faster or remote actuation is required, they usually rely on conventional pneumatic actuation using a cylinder with rods and seals.

However, an alternative means of actuation is available to process engineers charged with designing pipeline and reticulation systems that respond to the needs of automation and uninterrupted production demands. These flexible-wall, bellows-type Airstroke® actuators – manufactured by Firestone and distributed throughout Australia by Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd – are, in essence, tough, fabric reinforced rubber balloons of different shapes engineered to perform different tasks. The simple single, double and triple-convoluted airbags operate without seals, shafts or internal moving parts to provide ultra-reliable actuation alternatives for materials handling technology exposed to grime, debris and waste, which can disrupt the seals and shafts of convention pneumatic and hydraulic cylinders.

Reliability engineered into their DNA

Structurally they are identical to the enormously durable and reliable Firestone air springs used as OEM equipment in the suspensions of huge trucks and semi-trailers. This proven reliability under some of the worst conditions imaginable – like being continuously battered on Outback roads at extreme ambient temperatures – is what makes Airstrokes so tough. It’s engineered into their DNA.

The globally proven Airstroke range comprises single, double and triple convoluted models with strokes up to 300mm. They suit applications requiring clean actuators that don’t need lubrication, but which can also cope effortlessly with dirt and grime. A big plus in some applications is that Airstrokes can stroke through a radius without a clevis, thus eliminating both complexity and cost when engineers need to actuate through an angle. Their ability to soak up shock without damage while delivering high-repetition strokes means they are also highly applicable to engineering applications ranging from stamping and clamping to pumps and conveyors. Advantages include:

Availability and cost – Airstrokes are readily available through Air Springs Supply’s national distribution network, and, in comparison to equivalent technology, are relatively inexpensive.

Heavy loads – These actuators can easily tolerate heavy loads, without lubrication or maintenance.

High force and speed – When used in linear motion control applications, where high precision is not a critical parameter, these actuators offer high force and speed, which is difficult to find in any other actuator, except more complex and expensive types.

Compatibility with existing compressed air equipment – Airstrokes function on air pressures delivered by compressed air systems found in nearly every factory, workshop and production plant.

Easy channelling – Apart from being readily available, compressed air can also be channelled and routed from one place to another.

Safe to be used – Pneumatic actuators are safe. Because of the use of air, they are not flammable and are not susceptible to short circuit, in contrast with electric actuators.

Clean technology – These types of actuators offer a clean technology to the users because they are less prone to contamination. Because they use air, which is free from harmful chemicals, pneumatic systems are well known in the food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries.

No overheating issue – Airstroke actuators do not overheat upon excessive use, and are thus suitable for many uses in applications that require longer cycles of use.

Cost-effective substitute – With easy installation and maintenance, Airstroke pneumatic actuation has become a great option when researching inexpensive actuators.

High durability -These actuators can easily sustain constant pressures, which is an outstanding advantage compared with other types of actuators.

If safety, reliability, flexibility and repetition are engineering issues, then Airstrokes can become extremely viable and economic alternatives.

Information about the full range of Airstroke and Airmount actuators and isolators can be obtained through the website of Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd, www.airsprings.com.au which is one of Australia’s most comprehensive guides to pneumatic actuation, isolation and suspension

* James Maslin is National Sales and Marketing Manager for Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd, distributor of Firestone Industrial actuation and isolation products. Air Springs Supply has more than 40 years’ experience in industrial actuation and isolation, with a national distribution network headquartered at Rydalmere, Sydney, (above). Certified to ISO 9001: 2008 Quality Management Systems, Air Springs Supply represents world class products including:

  • Firestone air bags, from the world’s top selling supplier of air springs for heavy vehicles
  • Airstroke® Airmount® actuators and isolators from Firestone for industrial applications
  • Marsh Mellow® rubber mounts for industrial applications
  • Pickers and grippers for manufacturing, packaging and food and beverage applications
  • Pronal Elastomer and environmental protection products, including pipeline systems