Pneumatic systems & components

Latest trends in pneumatics systems

Fourth Quarter 2023 Pneumatic systems & components

There is a misconception that there is not much innovation in the pneumatics field, but a closer look reveals otherwise. As a technology, pneumatics has long been crucial to the accomplishment of mechanical work. Additionally, it is often a key component of automation systems, and numerous industries make substantial use of pneumatic systems. The majority require a steady flow of compressed air through a network of pipes and valves in order to transmit and regulate energy.

Revolution alters the landscape

Some shark species must swim continuously to keep water flowing over their gills in order to survive. Similarly, if a technology stops developing and going forward it is in danger of extinction. Thankfully, new sensing and data communications solutions are making pneumatics smarter and easier to integrate into IIoT, which is good news for those in charge of designing and maintaining the pneumatic systems found throughout industrial environments. With new technology, this sector has recently demonstrated tremendous development potential.


A general trend is toward miniaturisation. Smaller is preferable because it is lighter and typically requires fewer input costs such as raw materials, handling, labour, and conversion energy. The amount of practicable miniaturisation possible varies depending on the application. There is a limit to how far manufacturers can go along the miniaturisation road in fluid power motor applications before cooling and flow rate difficulties come into play.

Nanotechnology systems, which are one billionth of a metre in size, are being used in other applications, such as liquid and gas monitoring.

Emission standards have been introduced worldwide with the goal of significantly reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides. This has been the main driver of miniaturisation for off-highway vehicles.

In the US the near-zero emissions Tier 4 Final was launched in 2014. In the EU, a similar policy went into effect in 2015. The necessity to increase fuel efficiency is a direct result of these rules, and therefore hydraulic reservoir sizes and circuit capacities have decreased, resulting in smaller and lighter vehicles. In response, manufacturers have strengthened component integration, created smaller devices that can handle larger flow rates, and raised system pressure.

Pneumatics 4.0

Due to its inherent safety in hazardous applications, its simplicity, and its dependability, pneumatics is an established technology and will continue to be preferred for a wide variety of applications. Despite all of its advantages, there is always potential for development in terms of energy efficiency, particularly when compared to rival hydraulic or electrical technologies.

In addition to global government crackdowns on industrial energy usage, decreasing energy expenses, which make up a sizable amount of operating costs in pneumatic systems, is an important end user issue. The main parts of a pneumatic system include valves, actuators, air filter regulators, lubricator units and fittings, in addition to the compressor. Although all of these components can be viewed as commodity goods, IIoT largely affects the valves and actuators, since these items have a tendency to effect consumer purchasing habits for other components. These products are the key growth engines for this market.

Utilising cutting-edge technologies has advantages in two key areas: productivity and maintenance. Reduced air usage in the pneumatic system will be a major priority for OEMs and end users alike in their drive to minimise energy consumption; and pneumatic valves regulate the air flow in the system.

A crucial end user requirement is to increase the amount of control in pneumatic actuators. The end user can get operational and performance data such as speed, force, air consumption, and cycle time by adding sensors to the system.

This data can be utilised to discover inefficiencies, which can then be fixed to increase productivity.

In addition, using data analysis to find performance profiles suggestive of declining performance might assist the end user in anticipating component failure. By doing this, a valve or actuator can be changed at the following predetermined interval, reducing machine downtime and increasing operational effectiveness.

Smart pneumatics

Old pneumatic processes are being changed into smart pneumatic systems with sensory information flowing in both directions, and with data being sent to local networks and relayed to higher level controllers. Particularly in situations where dependable high quality, speed and reproducibility are crucial, continuous position sensors are an excellent solution for process management and optimisation. They can be modified with customised additions, including resistance to vibration, shock, chemical exposure and water intrusion, making them perfect for long-term deployment in difficult settings.

Since pneumatics can tolerate a wide range of temperature, pressure and environmental extremes, it is already the system of choice for many of these applications. Today’s production methods and material qualities have advanced to such a degree that high-volume manufacturing is spreading throughout the sector. This lowers the price of essential parts like pneumatic valves and cylinders, while also enhancing overall quality and reliability. Pneumatics is the only technology that can function in such a wide range of circumstances, making it the natural choice for repeated, high-volume ‘fit and forget’ applications.

The efficacy of the equipment as a whole, which is increased by our deeper comprehension of machine systems and processes, is one of the fundamental ideas guiding the direction of pneumatics in the future. Pneumatics still has a future, even though the emphasis is largely on electronic and digital control of automated systems. This is because many material components of the pneumatic system may modify their designs and processes to operate in line with IIoT.

Electropneumatic pressure regulation

With the incorporation of electropneumatic control capabilities in the valve manifold, advancements in valve performance and versatility have taken a significant stride ahead. A straightforward directional control valve is a basic valve. The valve spool is changed by an electrical signal, and the air is forced out of a port pressure by electropneumatics. Based on the input signals, regulating valves can deliver a range of pressures up and down a linear scale. Previously, the analogue signal scale was used to modify pressure in the initial analogue versions. According to the signal, it gave the cylinder a linear output pressure. The capabilities of digital valves and fieldbus communication have since raised the level of sophistication of the system’s electropneumatic pressure control.

The usefulness and adaptability of pneumatics are enhanced for a variety of automated systems by this high level of control. It enables more exact control of movement during the production process. Diffusion welding operations can be optimised by electropneumatic pressure regulators and an innovative valve manifold with an integrated communications bus. The pressure is dynamically controlled and may be exactly customised for the application. The grippers are controlled by intelligence embedded into the manifold, which simultaneously monitors and records all valve operations for better quality control and process tracking.

Lower downtime, lower costs

Five years ago, a long time in terms of technology, it was predicted that predictive maintenance could save expenses by as much as 30%, while reducing equipment downtime by up to 70%. This is now becoming a reality with Industry 4.0. For instance, valve terminals that have embedded intelligence are already in use to track numerous operating parameters continuously, and produce data for diagnostics.

These variables include things like the quantity of switching operations and run-time hours, and the state of the power supply. With IO-Link features built-in, pressure, position and flow sensors can give sophisticated data diagnostics and hot-swap capability, enabling manufacturers to anticipate specific component failures and replacement schedules.

Pneumatic systems have historically been criticised for being uneconomical due to the high cost of compressed air and the whole lifecycle of pneumatic equipment. To boost the effectiveness of the usage of compressed air, pneumatics producers have responded by creating best engineering practices and more efficient product designs.

The development of smart sensing technologies will have an impact on pneumatics in the future. All sorts of fluid power equipment, from connectors, tubing and hoses to pneumatic cylinders, actuators and filters, are increasingly include cost-effective sensing and information processing devices.

Vishwakarma Institute of Technology,,

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