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Pneumatic Actuator Design and Operation

Hydraulic and Pneumatic Knowledge
Fluid Power Equipment

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Pneumatic Actuator Design and Operation

A rubber diaphragm separates the actuator housing into two air chambers. The upper chamber receives supply air through an opening in the top of the housing.

The bottom chamber contains a spring that forces the diaphragm against mechanical stops in the upper chamber. Finally, a local indicator is connected to the stem to indicate the position of the valve.

The position of the valve is controlled by varying supply air pressure in the upper chamber. This results in a varying force on the top of the diaphragm. Initially, with no supply air, the spring forces the diaphragm upward against the mechanical stops and holds the valve fully open. As supply air pressure is increased from zero, its force on top of the diaphragm begins to overcome the opposing force of the spring. This causes the diaphragm to move downward and the control valve to close. With increasing supply air pressure, the diaphragm will continue to move downward and compress the spring until the control valve is fully closed. Conversely, if supply air pressure is decreased, the spring will begin to force the diaphragm upward and open the control valve. Additionally, if supply pressure is held constant at some value between zero and maximum, the valve will position at an intermediate position. Therefore, the valve can be positioned anywhere between fully open and fully closed in response to changes in supply air pressure.

A positioner is a device that regulates the supply air pressure to a pneumatic actuator. It does this by comparing the actuators demanded position with the control valves actual position. The demanded position is transmitted by a pneumatic or electrical control signal from a controller to the positioner. The pneumatic actuator in Figure F1 is shown in Figure F2 with a controller and positioner added.

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