When designing manifolds for mobile machinery, one can quickly become overwhelmed with the volume of cartridge valve options available for installation into machined aluminum or steel blocks. Valve manufacturers offer hundreds of directional, pressure and flow control valves, often only separated by slight differences, such as an orifice.
Partnering with a local fluid power company is your best bet to take advantage of a cartridge valve manufacturer’s components library. These companies are trained and have appropriate resources to help them bring your manifold to life. Many manufacturers have proprietary design software that includes their entire valve library in a light-CAD format. The highly-trained distributor drags symbols into the digital workspace, arranges them to match the desired function and then uses that design as the basis for the physical manifold.
Designing manifold circuits for mobile machinery is quite rewarding. The level of creativity and ingenuity possible when creating circuits is highly satisfying. Unique valves such as a load-sensing logic element bring distinct performance options ordinarily tricky in the industrial realm. Imagine monitoring downstream pressure via a load-sense network to feed pressure to an automatically regulating logic element. This type of unique valve enables a fixed flow system to operate as if it was powered by a load-sensing pump, providing on-demand flow and pressure matching what the actuators require.
Aside from the infinite combination of valves to produce any imaginable hydraulic function, manifolds provide creative space-saving solutions. Compared to stacked valve systems, which are bulky and limiting, you design manifolds with only the material required for the job. Reduced plumbing is especially important. Rather than the pressure and tank end ports and single plane work ports of a bar manifold, you can mount the valves and ports of a custom manifold nearly anywhere you wish, as best suits the design.
Although single manifold prices can be rather expensive – much engineering time goes into these after all – a custom hydraulic manifold when produced in the hundreds is the least expensive method of circuit creation. Cartridge valves are inexpensive by their nature, and when design and setup costs spread across hundreds of blocks, these manifolds are shockingly cheap.