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This technical feature is filed under:
Industry

Servo Pumps Give Hydraulics End-Users An Edge


by Kristin Lewotsky, Contributing Editor
Motion Control Association (http://www.motioncontrolonline.org/company-profiledetail.cfm/Internal/Motion-Control-Association/company/1183)
POSTED 03/15/2015

Replacing fixed-speed pumps with servo precision reduces noise, increases responsiveness, and
can cut energy costs by as much as 90%.
In todays market, just getting the job done is no longer enough. If youre a manufacturer or OEM, you

Motion Control Technical Features - Servo Pumps Give Hydraulics End-Use...

Motion Control Technical Features - Servo Pumps Give Hydraulics End-Use...

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Now, you need your equipment to deliver top


performance at lowest possible cost. If you work
with hydraulic systems, for example in metal
forming or injection molding, youre in luck. By
simply switching from fixed-speed pumps to
servo-motor-driven pumps, you can decrease
operating costs and increase product quality
while reducing noise (see figure 1). Lets take a
closer look at how.
Energy savings
In a conventional hydraulic system, a fixed-speed
motor drives the pump that circulates the
hydraulic oil from the reservoir to the hydraulic
cylinder. To keep the oil circulating, the pump
needs to run constantly, consuming energy even
when the actuator is stationary.
Pumps in hydraulic systems are commonly driven by induction motors, which are inherently less
efficient than the permanent-magnet motors used in servo designs. Induction motors have to draw
current in order to generate the magnetic field required to get the rotor to turn. Their efficiency also
decreases when they are run below their rated speed.
An induction motor has a sweet spot and if youre not running at that sweet spot, then youre using
excessive magnetizing current and creating heat, says Ken Kerns, marketing manager for low voltage
drives, Siemens Industry Inc. (http://www.motioncontrolonline.org/company-profiledetail.cfm/Supplier/Siemens-Industry-Inc/company/1087) (Norcross, Georgia). Excess current draw costs
money, and excess heat at minimum introduces cost and complexity in the form of thermal
management and at worst can lead to early failure.
Of course, if youre reading this article, you probably know about these problems firsthand. What you
need is a solution. Hybrid electrohydraulic systems leverage the power density of hydraulics with the
responsiveness and energy savings of electromechanical technology. Unlike the induction motors used
in fixed-speed pumps, the permanent magnet motors used in servo pumps operate synchronously and
without any latency. Even better, they run efficiently across a range of speeds. With a servo pump, you
dont have to have continuously circulating hydraulic fluid, says Kerns. Basically, the motor comes on
and runs when you need pressure, and with a much faster response time.
This means that youre not paying to operate the pump full speed when the hydraulic actuator is
stationary. Indeed, analysis shows that a conventional hydraulic system will cost considerably more over
time than a hybrid version using a servo pump (see figure 2).

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The end-user gets energy savings very similar to that of an all-electric driven machine, says Monte
Swinford, regional factory automation sales manager for Bosch-Rexroth
(http://www.motioncontrolonline.org/company-profile-detail.cfm/Supplier/Bosch-RexrothCorporation/company/1080) (Hoffman Estates, Illinois). If they run the same part, same cycle, they will
see significant savings. I had one client who saw a 90% reduction in energy usage.
The instant response delivered by servo motors enables the actuator to operate much more quickly and
deterministically, making it a good fit for applications like punch presses. The solutions also involve less
complex systems with smaller footprints while incorporating value-added devices like smart drives with
real-time diagnostic capabilities (see figure 3). In the case of applications that would normally place the
reservoir at a distance from the hydraulic cylinder, the use of a servo pump at the actuator can eliminate
the need for long hydraulic hoses that are prone to leaks or breakage.

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Examples of hybrid systems in action


Applications like injection molding are perfectly positioned to benefit from the technology. Rubber
injection molding processes, for example, require the pressure to be applied and then maintained at a
set level for an extended period of time while the rubber fills all nooks and crannies of the mold. In the
case of a system run by a fixed-speed pump, the motor would be running the entire time, consuming
power and generating heat, even though it is only maintaining pressure. With a servo pump, the holding
torque of the motor is sufficient to generate the required pressure. Because youre using permanentmagnet servo motors, theres virtually no voltage on the motor, says Raymond Seifert, director of
application engineering, Baumueller Nuermont Corp. (http://www.motioncontrolonline.org/companyprofile-detail.cfm/Supplier/Baumuller-Nuermont-Corporation/company/1093) (Windsor, CT). As a result,
even though you might have to maintain a holding current, the actual power that youre using is
minimal.
Indeed, a calculation of energy consumption and cost for this application based on the duty cycle of the
motor showed a clear advantage for the servo-driven design. The customer was happy with the
prototype and could justify the cost, Seifert says. They are now looking at retrofitting more machines.
A new hybrid electrohydraulic press using a dual-pump design has been developed as an off-shoot of
the servo-motor-driven pump technology. The approach allows bi-directional pumping of the hydraulic
fluid, enabling the customer to reduce the size of the existing hydraulic press reservoir to nothing more
than an accumulator in the hydraulic circuit. Fewer components and less oil means a smaller footprint,

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purchase and disposal of the hydraulic oil.


Of course, shrinking the volume of oil does increase the importance of thermal management. The
smaller volume of oil means that it heats up more quickly. When the temperatures get too high, the
pump can fail. To guard against this, the addition of auxiliary cooling in the hydraulic circuit may be
necessary to ensure temperatures remain under control.
Making better products
Servo pumps deliver benefits beyond just cost savings. The level of control provided by closed-loop
feedback leads to more precise motion. In contrast, conventional hydraulic systems may not even use a
drive, let alone feedback. They may simply use a motor with a simple on/off switch that runs at constant
speed. The closed loop feedback of a servo pump equips the system to deliver the exact torque or
speed required for the application, and do it instantly.
Even if you use a drive with a standard induction motor, you still have an element of delay in getting
that system up to a certain pressure, says Kerns. More often than not, youll see a hydraulic system
that doesnt even have a digital feedback loop, just a regular analog loop. The big benefits of the servo
motor are the response time and the fact that youre able to run those motors up to really, really high
RPMs to get to where you need to be much quicker.
This level of fine control can benefit applications like metalforming. When metal is deformed into a
shape, it has to be slightly over bent so that it will assume the correct form after recoil. For best results,
full force should only be applied in the last millimeter or two of motion. Servo pumps enable much more
accurate control of the motion of the hydraulic actuator, creating better quality parts.
The servo sounds of (near) silence
Although system cost and performance are important, the modern industrial environment imposes
other challenges to machine design and operation. Particularly if you are involved in industries like
automotive manufacturing, you face growing regulation for working conditions. Here, too, servo motors
provide superior solution to conventional fixed-speed pump designs by virtue of their whisper-quiet
performance. When customers take the risk and make the change, their jaws just drop with how quiet
their new machine is, says Swinford. That performance is not just good for end-users but for OEMs, he
notes. I have one client who has kept their factory full for the last three years because their end users
are so excited by the noise reduction that they keep ordering new machines just to replace the ones in
the field. Most of them wind up having flashing lights on the machine to let customers know that the
powers on.
As intriguing as the technology may be, its important to remember that the performance of the system
is only as good as the design approach. Its not the kind of thing that you just kind of slap together,
Swinford says, citing limiting factors like minimum and maximum pump speed, pressure rises, etc. The
best thing to do is to start with a clean piece of paper. Sure, you can just add something onto what you
have and make it work, but its not going to be as competitive in the global marketplaces as starting

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Everyone interviewed for this article agreed that the adoption of the technology is still in the early
stages. Far from tempting manufacturers to wait until later to consider the technology, that should spur
OEMs and end-users alike to explore the use of servo pumps. Taking action at the beginning of a market
evolution is the way to derive maximum benefit from the conversion. Designing servo pumps into your
next hydraulic system will position your organization to gain a significant competitive advantage over
organizations working with the incumbent technology.

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