excerpts below were taken from NFPA's publication, Your
Guide to Cost Reduction through Pneumatics Automation.
Through the use of case studies and illustrations, this guide explains how pneumatics automation could reduce manufacturing costs with a minimum of investment and complexity.
We encourage you to learn more
about how pneumatics can help you by reviewing the following
You Already are a Master of Pneumatics Automation
How to Identify Cost Reduction Opportunities
Pneumatics Automation as a Cost Reduction Tool
How to Carry Out Your Own Pneumatics Automation Project
Pneumatics Automation Trouble-Shooting Guide
Fluid Power Applications - Pneumatics Automation at Work*
Fluid Power Applications -
Electropneumatics* (From Your Guide to the Electronic
Control of Fluid Power, copyright © 1992, by the
National Fluid Power Association.
the applications you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader software.
The software is free, go to Adobe's
web site to download the reader.
1990 by the National Fluid Power Association. All rights
reserved. The applications and components described or
pictured here are illustrative only. Depiction or description
of any product or component does not constitute, indicate or
imply a recommendation or endorsement of any sort with respect
to any system, products or components. Information and
illustrations in this booklet, and excerpted at this web site,
do not constitute or indicate a warranty, express or implied,
including but not limited to a warranty or representation as
to quality, merchantability or fitness for a particular use or
purpose of any system, product or component.
ever. . .
above tasks contain most of the skills needed to successfully
complete a simple pneumatics automation project. Simple
pneumatics automation differs from large-scale, integrated
automation even though it utilizes many of the same components
automation projects often involve centrally-controlled,
multi-station manufacturing processes.
complex assembly projects can cost hundreds of thousands of
dollars and take months or years to complete. Simple
pneumatics automation projects can be completed with far fewer
resources expended since they are usually focused upon
mechanizing a single task. If necessary, they can later be
incorporated into an assembly of machines.
pneumatics automation harnesses the power of today's low-cost,
understandable electronic, electrical and mechanical
technologies. It utilizes standard components such as
actuators, valves, sensors, programmable controllers,
grippers, air motors and other similar devices which are
designed to be readily assembled into a working automated
course as you automate with pneumatics, be sure to read and
observe all use and safety related instructions and
recommendations of the manufacturer and supplier involved.
Equipment should be installed and used in accordance with the
manufacturers' and suppliers' instructions. Take the time to
properly train your employees in the correct and safe method
of operation of automated equipment. A safe work environment
is essential for employee well-being and satisfaction, and
makes good business sense.
costs can be easy when you take the process in steps, working
on one project at a time. Where do you start? Here are some
clues. Take a walk through your plant and look for these
opportunities to save yourself some time and money:
An examination of your cost-accounting data will reveal
opportunities that might be less obvious, but just as
significant. Check the time for each operation on each part,
looking for bottlenecks in any process. Let your experience
tell you which times seem unreasonable and which methods seem
inefficient. Then consider the approaches offered in this
company is only as strong as its ability to compete. By
learning how to reduce the cost of producing your products,
you will become an even more valuable member of your
manufacturing team and your company will become an efficient
and competitive producer.
understand how to use pneumatics automation, your dependence
on the large capital expenditures needed to increase
efficiency should decline. Because of the low cost of
pneumatics automation, even job runs in the hundreds of pieces
can be automated with excellent results, not only financially,
but in efficiencies gained.
some specifics. Pneumatics refers to an interrelated group of
automation building blocks that use compressed air as a power
source. You can use these components to assemble your own
economical, cost-saving devices. Choose from devices
with pneumatics can save you money. We have identified six
applications in this guide, but there are many more. Just to
get you started, we'll show you how pneumatics will enable
your manufactured parts to be . . .
to construct the best pneumatics automation project; here are
the steps you should follow:
includes the availability of a constant supply of compressed
air operating at an acceptable pressure level (usually around
90 pounds per square inch). Suitable electrical power sources
will usually also be required.
the operating temperature and moisture level limits to
determine if special types of materials, shielding or sealing
will be required and that the components you choose will
operate properly under your specific conditions. If the
application will receive parts from, or transfer parts to,
another assembly station, conveyor line, pallet, parts bin or
similar conveyance, establish minimum and maximum rates for
parts acceptance or transfer. If your application must
interact with another machine (such as switching it on or
off), check to see what the control requirements are for that
machine in terms of electrical load, cycle rate and
availability of connections.
define the type of motions necessary to perform the task to be
automated by studying the manual processes currently being
used. Look for inefficiencies in the manual system, and try
not to reproduce them through automated movement. From the
point of delivery to the automated station, trace the path of
the part, noting where it must be staged, clamped, turned or
otherwise manipulated. Try to determine the most direct path
for material movement which can be executed by moving the part
from one point to another, usually within a single plane.
the part to its ultimate destination usually requires a series
of these "point-to-point" moves, since tracing an
exact angular path across two planes may require special
guides or fixtures. Think of straight-line moves: up, down,
over, in or out, and you will most effectively utilize simple
the size, weight, composition, shape and surface type of the
part to be worked is essential. These factors dictate the type
of devices, the mounting approach, the tooling used to grip
the part during movement, and the load capacities of the
relatively heavy (over one pound) part must be moved
horizontally with any degree of accuracy, selection of heavier
duty slides versus simple cylinders may be in order. Part
surface type and material composition will determine use of
gripping device type, including angular versus parallel jaw
grippers, suction cups or other holding means. Part shape will
determine the type of tooling which will be required to make
direct contact. This tooling is almost always customized due
to the diversity of part sizes and shapes. On heavier parts,
some type of deceleration device may be needed when cycle
speeds are fast.
the part quantities, production speed and accuracy.
application is to be used only for a limited run of parts and
will then be dismantled, it will endure lighter duty
components and less permanent mounting approaches. Production
speed will determine compressed air pressure ratings, air
flow, parts routing and the need for alternative actuation
power sources (such as use of electric devices like stepper
and servo motors). If a part must be moved very quickly, the
accuracy with which it can be moved in a single segment may be
requirements will also determine the need for guide fixtures
and jigs, use of non-rotating versus rotating cylinders and
sensor selection. Sensors, for instance, are used to determine
whether a part has been successfully picked up or moved to a
certain point. (If less sensing accuracy is required, a
proximity switch may be employed which may sense to within
plus or minus .125 of an inch. For increased accuracy, an
electronic set point module may be used with a variable output
sensor which can achieve sensing accuracies to within .007 of
the application and select the components.
previous requirements have been established, accurate
measurements must be made to determine the starting and
stopping points for each motion to be effected. This usually
means first drawing a dimensional model on paper. If you are
adapting the automation around existing machinery, accurate
measurements must be obtained or made for entry and exit
points to and from these machines. The distances which are to
be traveled by the part must also be accurately established
and recorded on your dimensional model or layout. Using these
dimensions, previously established tolerances, life cycle
requirements and cycle time, the proper components must be
important to size the components correctly. Buying a
heavier-than-needed component may result in less accuracy,
slower movement and longer payback periods. Buying a lighter
duty component can result in premature wear or improper
functioning of the system. Selection of controlling devices,
typically programmable controllers, should be made after
evaluating the number of switching and sensing operations to
be performed and their sequence. Ease of set-up, use and
future expansion capacity should also be considered when
selecting a programmable controller.
the fixtures, mount and assemble.
simple automation component systems provide a variety of
standard transition plates, mounting brackets, stands,
stanchions and other rigging devices. As mentioned, special
tooling is usually required to pick up and hold the part to be
worked. However, most tooling in these situations can be
constructed from flat stock, roll stock or other standard
material shapes. Electrical connections and control mounting
locations will have to be determined and executed, along with
safety cut-off switches, guards and other safety barriers.
automation applications will require some degree of debugging
and calibration. These operations typically take the form of
fine tuning the programmable controller sequencing and timing,
or adjusting air flow rates and physical stops for the
actuators used in the system. Some repositioning of various
items may be required to increase efficiencies.
equipment and components, pneumatic or otherwise, should be
installed and operated at all times in accordance with the
instructions and recommendations of the manufacturer and
supplier. Employees should be properly trained in the
appropriate and safe use of equipment. A safe working
environment is essential for employee well-being and
satisfaction, and makes good business sense.
Irregular rod motion could be caused by . . .
Install a cushioning device. Springs, rubber bumpers,
cylinder cushions, deceleration valves, dashpots, feed
controls, hydraulic checks, control circuits,
industrial shock absorbers and linear decelerators are
all devices that offer various forms of
cushioning or stroke control.
Vacuum ejector-style pumps of the single chamber type
often emit high sound levels. Special mufflers are
available which can reduce this noise level. The
vacuum pump, if a mechanical type, should be
The cylinder may be carrying too much weight. Consider
replacing it with a linear slide whose guide shafts
and bearings are designed to bear heavier loads which
are being moved horizontally.
Electrical noise may be interfering with sensor
operation. Use a different power supply for the
programmable controller and sensors than is being used
to drive heavier duty components (motors, pumps,
electrodes, etc.). If this is not possible,
investigate resistor-capacitor networks or clamping
diodes to condition the current against spikes or
The piston rod diameter was probably too small for the
amount of thrust and stroke length to which it was
subjected. The cylinder sizing calculations should be
rechecked and the cylinder should be replaced with one
containing the proper size piston rod.
Solution: Check the following:
Solenoid electromagnet coil burnout could be
caused by a voltage mismatch, with either too high or
too low a voltage being supplied, or a frequency
mismatch. Voltage ranges should typically fall within
the +/- 10 percent range. On double solenoid valves
which are yoked to the same valve spool, energizing
both solenoids at the same time can also cause coil
burnout. Cycling a solenoid valve too quickly can
result in coil failure. Temperature extremes can also
promote coil failure, with high temperatures causing a
breakdown in coil wire insulation and cold
temperatures causing valve parts to distort and drag.
Dirt, oil, moisture or other foreign matter invading
the valve may cause it to stick or score, again
causing coil burnout. In all situations, correction of
the abnormal state should be made and the valve should
be repaired or replaced.
Leakage can occur from worn or incorrectly installed
actuator and valve seals; worn or incorrectly
installed fittings, connectors or hose; or corroded or
damaged air storage tanks and supply lines. External
leaks can be isolated by listening for the sounds of
air escaping, by applying soapy water or similar high
surface tension substances to suspected leak areas, by
unhooking suspected leaky valves or actuators and
operating them independently or by measuring the
amount of time portions of the systems take to