At this year’s Conexpo/IFPE, a number of major manufacturers canceled their presence due to the risks associated with COVID-19. Parker Hannifin was among that group. An IFPE without Parker or any of the other large fluid power companies means attendees were not provided the chance to learn what these innovators were planning to showcase at the event. As a result, Dennis C. Allen, the company’s Global Mobile Engineering & Business Development Manager took the time to give an overview of what their booth would have entailed. Fluid Power World will also follow-up this virtual tour with a deeper look at various product releases in the coming weeks.
Parker’s new introductions align with some of the major trends sweeping the construction-equipment industry. One such trend, said Allen, is the continued and increasing emphasis on electronics for control. “More and more platforms that we’re engaged in are converting to in-cab electronics. We see steer-by-wire, brake-by-wire, accelerate-by-wire, with a move to add more modular controls and take advantage of products which are now coming over from the automotive side. There’s a real push to get hydraulics out of the cab, with more and more electronic implementation of basic functionality,” he said.
“Coupled with that would be more interest in IoT. It has become an all-embracing technology in terms of getting a lot of vehicle information broadcast.” There is tremendous interest among users to harness the data, monitor vehicle performance, and enable capabilities like geofencing and uptime analysis, he continued.
For example, Parker’s engineers can take that broadcast data and create customized dashboards, letting customers view the information in terms of simple charts and graphs. That, in turn, can be used to track productivity, define future maintenance needs and permit remote diagnostics. “Obviously if a machine has issues in the field, rather than sending out a repair technician, we can perform basic diagnostics over the phone with the customer while the machine is operating, in real time,” he said. Often, it eliminates the need for a service call.
Parker has a team focused on the implementation of IoT platforms in a variety of applications in the mobile, construction and material-handling markets. The work is supported with a number of devices that can either be installed as standalone devices or in conjunction with an IQAN system.
Parker’s IQAN electronic control system includes a comprehensive suite of design and operating software that is complemented by hardware such as master controllers, expansion modules, sensors and displays.
“At the show, we were going to introduce IQAN 6. This next generation of our IQAN software gives more capabilities in terms of mathematical and modeling tools. The new version interfaces with MathLab and Simulink,” said Allen. This allows users to design and program offline in these platforms and then upload the program when complete. The ability to interface with simulation software allows us to model how a machine might perform.
Everybody talks about wanting greater performance, whether that’s in terms of better controllability and precision, lower fuel consumption or more tons of dirt moved in an hour. “We can design the electronic controls, plug in parameters for the components being controlled, and better predict efficiency or fuel consumption before physically building a machine,” he said. Or they can remotely make modifications to installed systems that result in a higher level of performance. Upgrades are sent directly to the IQAN system on a machine in the field, where the operator can immediately benefit from the upgrade.
Another major industry trend is the interest surrounding electric drives for mobile equipment, said Allen. “Many of the projects we’re working on have something to do with electromobility. Obviously, a number of our customers were going to be releasing new machines at ConExpo. We have seen a tremendous interest from really all of our OEMs globally. I think the market is really trying to understand what machines, what applications, and the motivational factors for this continual interest in electromobility.
“We had a dedicated exhibit which showed the range of our electric motors from less than a kilowatt to a megawatt size.” The company’s GVM series motors are designed for both electric powertrains and for electrohydraulic actuation. They are available in operating voltages from 24 to 800 Vdc. “There’s a lot of interest in electromobility and the supporting control technologies,” he said. “We’ve divided this market into two spheres.” One is a focused on propel applications. This would include Class 8 truck, bus and coach markets in addition to off-highway markets. The second is what we consider to be the implement side. For example, the arm function on an excavator or the bucket and arms on a wheel loader.
In both instances the motors are said to offer lower weight and higher power in a smaller package than comparable motors on the market. Designed for demanding applications, the GVM motors meet or exceed SAE J1455 environmental standards.
“With electric motors, we get maximum torque at very, very low rpm, so now we are able to run the electric motor from very low to very high rpm’s. Our electric motors in small sizes are capable of 10,000 rpm. So now you’ve got a really wide control range over vehicle functions using the variable-speed capability of an electric motor,” said Allen.
Parker’s mobile focus also included some recent acquisitions that would have played a prominent role at the show. One involves Helac and its PowerTilt, a hydraulically powered construction-equipment attachment that lets operators of backhoes and excavators tilt any bucket or attachment side-to-side up to 180°. It’s said to increase productivity and versatility by simply tilting the attachment instead of moving the entire machine. It is suited for tasks like digging beveled trenches and positioning brushcutters, mowers, and hydraulic hammers.
Another significant acquisition involves Lord Corp. Among the many products that Lord brings to Parker is a range of devices based on magneto-resistive (MR) fluid technology. For example, its cab and seat dampers can change damping characteristics on-the-fly, based on sensor input and control commands.
An MR technology getting considerable notice is the company’s Tactile Feedback Device (TFD) steering unit, a key component of fully electric and electrohydraulic steer-by-wire systems. These devices combine steering-position sensing, communication and continuously variable resistive steering torque, delivering high-fidelity tactile feedback and maximum control to the operator. The resistive steering feedback is fully programmable, with custom algorithms available based on equipment operating conditions.
Parker Lord TFDs can change the steering response of the system based on vehicle speed and other operating parameters. “So I can make the steering system extraordinarily responsive at very low speeds, and less responsive at very high speeds,” Allen explained. The complaint with electronic systems is that they provide no operator feedback, he explained. “If you turn a handle or move a knob or lever there is no resistance. You lose the so-called ‘feeling’ in the system. Now with magneto-resistive fluid, we can give the operator feedback to the steering wheel that provides a resisting force. And you change the response based on the vehicle speed.”
Central tire inflation
Another new product that would have been introduced is Parker’s Central Tire Inflation System (CTIS) which improves mobility for ag, construction and military vehicles operating in severe off-road or soft soil conditions. The CTIS effectively exhausts air to give the tire a wider footprint, which puts more of the tread in contact with the ground and improves traction. “At the same time, if you’re a farmer, you get less ground pressure and less rutting, which is obviously of interest in terms of preserving the integrity of the field,” said Allen.
The system lets the driver optimize tire inflation pressure from the cab with a simple push of a button. Wheel ends are equipped with CTIS valves, which come in a variety of sizes and configurations. A pneumatic control unit with electropneumatic valves and pressure sensors provides decision making and logic execution. It monitors and changes tire pressure as needed. An onboard compressor supplies the air. The operator can select among four terrain modes: highway; cross country; mud, sand, and snow; and emergency, and the system automatically adjusts to pressure targets.