There are several major considerations for maintaining pneumatic cylinders and several typical situations that can cause them to fail. Ultimately, the key to problem-free, long-term performance from any pneumatic cylinder configuration is to ensure that the specified pneumatic cylinder is appropriate for the system it has been designed for, and that it is properly maintained once it becomes operational. Even with a comprehensive and consistently applied preventative maintenance program in place, pneumatic cylinder repairs will still be necessary.
As pneumatic cylinder technology continues to improve, engineers are incorporating this functional equipment more and more for a number of reasons. The most common reason is that because pneumatic cylinders do not require fluid and a fluid reservoir, they will never spring a leak. This in turn prevents contamination of the areas around the cylinder, and the potential failure of other systems due to exposure to the hydraulic fluid. Apart from this operating benefit, however, pneumatic cylinders are not maintenance-free. Here are some of the typical factors that can cause pneumatic cylinders to fail.
Pneumatic Cylinder Side Loading
Side loading is the most common cause of pneumatic cylinder failure. Pressure applied laterally to the axis of the cylinder creates a number of critical problems that will quickly lead to cylinder failure. These problems include cylinder tube scoring, uneven or rapid piston rod and bearing wear, and seal failure, to name a few.
Side loading is primarily a result of how the pneumatic cylinder is installed within the system it operates in. Once side loading occurs, pneumatic cylinder repairs will be needed.
Insufficient Lubrication of Pneumatic Cylinders
Proper lubrication is essential to the problem-free operation of a pneumatic cylinder. If the seals inside of the cylinder itself are not properly and continuously lubricated, they will dry out and ultimately fail, often with catastrophic results.
Pneumatic Cylinder Contamination
Introducing contaminants into a pneumatic cylinder is another problem that will cause the cylinder to fail. Contaminants can block the operating parts of the pneumatic cylinder, which will restrict free movement, which in turn causes reduced functionality or total failure.
Contaminants can be introduced from the pneumatic air supply itself or from the operating environment in general. Particulate matter, water, and oil are all examples of contaminants that will affect the performance of a cylinder.
Machines with multiple pneumatic cylinders require that all of the cylinders are properly synchronized in order for the machine to function properly. In a complex system requiring multiple synchronized cylinders, there are a number of methods to achieve the necessary synchronization, all of which must be managed and maintained. When pneumatic cylinders fall out of synchronization, the machine itself will not function properly and the likelihood of cylinder failure increases significantly. At this point it is highly likely that pneumatic cylinder repairs will be needed.
Exceeding Operational Limits
Operating a pneumatic cylinder outside of its optimal performance range will invariably lead to cylinder failure. When exposed to excessive loads, the internal components of the cylinder are stressed, which in turn causes reduced performance and ultimately premature failure. An effective preventative maintenance program must monitor the operational parameters in which the pneumatic cylinders continuously operate.
Preventative Maintenance for Pneumatic Cylinders
Although you can never completely guarantee that a pneumatic cylinder will not fail, there are several things that you can and should do to avert failure. These simple steps, when applied properly and consistently, can significantly reduce downtime:
- 1. Installation — One of the best ways to ensure the life and function of a pneumatic cylinder is to install it properly. Improper installation, like using the wrong tools, can significantly shorten the cylinder’s life.
- 2. Torque — Fasteners must be properly torqued for the correct installation of tie rods.
- 3. Fittings — Contaminants are often introduced into the cylinder from fittings which are themselves contaminated. Rusted fittings are a frequent cause of pneumatic cylinder contamination and failure.
- 4. Filters — Filters should be changed regularly according to the manufacturer’s specifications in order to ensure that the cylinder is protected and contaminant free.
Hydraulic Repair Facility Specializing in Pneumatic Cylinder Repairs
As pneumatic systems evolve and improve, they are becoming much more common in a growing number of technical applications. The evolution of pneumatic technology has helped make pneumatic cylinders the logical choice for many processes.
MAC technicians are highly trained to service any brand of pneumatic cylinder that you may be using. We are experienced in many different industry applications, including manufacturing, waste handling, aviation, construction, recycling, and agriculture. We offer a full range of preventative maintenance services for pneumatic cylinders and systems, and in the event of system failure, our skilled and experienced technicians can troubleshoot the problem and repair the equipment in short order. We understand the waste and frustration that comes with down equipment, and we focus our efforts on solving the problem and getting your equipment back online in the shortest possible time. Call MAC today for more information about our services!