Fluid Power Roundtable ’10
By Mike McLeodFluid Power pneumatics
Canadian fluid power leaders discuss the challenges and potential remedies for the industry.
DE: Has fluid power seen a decline in manufacturing over the last five years or is it simply experiencing the same fall off as any other technology due to the recession?
Casey Samaroo, Customer Solutions Manager, Festo Canada: I think it is both of those factors. Certainly with the price coming down on electrical technology, you would expect to see a decline in fluid power technology. But the economic downturn is also responsible for a reduction in the business.
Campbell Tourgis, Central Region Manager for Wainbee Limited: I would agree, but within Canada, it’s our experience that there has been a fundamental shift in where fluid power and even motion control applications are pertinent. So in addition to the economic downturn, it’s also due to the Asian and South American experience of companies looking to reduce labor costs. On the pneumatics side of our business, which has been replaced by other technologies like lower cost hydraulics and electro-mechanical, it’s the smaller and more labor intensive applications that have moved off shore.
Samaroo/Festo: People have also become more aware of the total cost of ownership of pneumatic systems. It’s not just the cost of the actuators, for example, but also the cost of producing air and the inefficiencies that come with that. More and more companies are paying attention to how much air they are consuming.
Tourgis/Wainbee: And, as more companies are adopting the ISO 14001 standard, we see a lot more thought go into which hydraulic fluids are being selected. A lot of new and purportedly environmentally friendly hydraulic fluids are being developed, but they also add to the cost structure.
DE: What are the major technical hurdles the fluid power industry needs to overcome?
Dr. Richard Burton, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, University of Saskatchewan: The change in technology that has to occur is an increase in hydraulic system efficiency. Properly designed hydraulic systems are pretty good, even given the inefficiencies associated with the pumps and the motors, etc. The trouble is we all end up throwing in a control valve or counter-balance valve or something, which reduces the efficiency of the system significantly.