Trouble-Free Maintenance with Electric Actuators

Electric Actuators vs. Fluid Cylinders

A maintenance department comparison

You need equipment that works just like it is supposed to and offers you reliability. It can sometimes feel like a luxury when you have a machine in your plant that just works the way it’s supposed to, all day, every day. The simple act of replacing hydraulic cylinders with electric actuator technology can get you one step closer to that goal. This post will walk you through some of the ins and outs of that upgrade process.

MRO: maintenance, repairs, and operations

We can imagine that there are two pieces of equipment. Two versions of the exact same machine except that one uses electric actuators and one uses hydraulic cylinders. Both of those components perform the function of moving an actuator, typically in and out, in and out, in and out… over and over, all day.

Why would you prefer one over the other? You would choose the option that saves time, money, and hassle. Wouldn’t it be nice to eliminate headaches for your maintenance team? You and your team face challenges every day, such as:

  1. Changing out oils in a machine
  2. Checking and repairing fluid connectors and hoses
  3. Cleaning up any fluid spills
  4. Fixing contamination problems
  5. Inspecting the integrity of rod & piston seals
  6. Swapping filters
  7. Managing a store room of consumables (wear & tear spare parts, fluids, filters)
  8. Preventive and predictive maintenance on pumps
  9. Quality issues due to uncontrolled motion
  10. Regular greasing of fittings and joints as prescribed
  11. Replacing damaged seals
  12. Troubleshooting pressure fluctuations
  13. Investigating condition monitoring techniques
  14. Undertaking regular critical equipment analysis
  15. Safety issues resulting from oil spills – slips, trips, falls

Plus, there are all the small responsibilities that are almost too minor to count, like adding fluids to a machine (synthetic oils, hydraulic fluids, cutting oils, etc.) i.e. topping off. Even these informal tasks add up or can be a point of frustration.

Upgrading to electric actuators can save you time, money, and hassle for all of these tasks.

Trouble-Free Maintenance with Electric Actuators

Some common motion applications. L to R: (1) injection molding, (2) storage & retrieval, (3) pressing, punching, piercing. Electric actuators can be a good fit for these types of applications.

Regular critical equipment analysis

One of the most important tasks the maintenance team can undertake is to review their equipment. What pieces of equipment tend to malfunction most frequently? What malfunctions tend to cost your company the most money to resolve? These are important questions to ask. Sometimes, an honest look into technical problems can give you insight on what fixes are top priority.
If that sounds like a challenge that you and your team face, keep in mind that Horizon Solutions does offer professional Maintenance & Production services. The goal is to help you reduce your plant’s downtime.

Once you know what pieces of equipment seem to be the most inclined to give you trouble – no matter what type of equipment it is – one of the options you have is to replace or upgrade.

Upgrading and/or replacing

For each company, upgrading and replacing will be a different story. Only you know whether it makes more sense to take something and swap out a few components or to just scrap it and get something new. Either way, replacing hydraulic cylinders with electric actuator technology can be easy. Some electric cylinders can be “drop in” replacements. Certainly, doing so will help you with many of the common MRO type tasks listed above. But more importantly, it will have a serious effect on the Total Cost of Ownership for that piece of machinery and for your entire plant.

When you switch from hydraulic cylinders to electric actuators:

  • You no longer have barrels and pails of hydraulic oil to manage, move and dispose of properly
    • Why is this important? Spills and leaks are a major cause of health and safety issues
  • Electric actuators components come greased for life
  • You no longer have fluid lines or pumps as additional sub-systems to oversee
  • Electric actuators are typically sized for life of application, minimal maintenance is required
  • Upkeep is simplified, that actuator will work the way it supposed to, all day, every day
    • Why is this important? Your machines will not be affected by changes in line pressure or loss of fluid

You don’t want to over-complicate things here

Keep in mind, we’re just reviewing options here. In the real world, it may or may not make more sense to simply have a piece of equipment that uses a hydraulic cylinder and swap in a new hydraulic cylinder of the same type. Not every application requires a complete overhaul and rework of components. If you want to keep using hydraulic cylinders, check out the options available from Enerpac. These cylinders can offer a simple solution for large force requirements.

TCO: Total Cost of Ownership

What is TCO?

TCO Total Cost of Ownership Electric Actuators

When compared to hydraulic cylinders, electric actuators offer:

  1. Lower energy usage i.e. lower electric utility costs +
  2. Fewer repairs and lower maintenance costs +
  3. Drastically reduced clean-up costs.

All of which factor in to giving you a lower Total Cost of Ownership. If you would like to learn more about the TCO calculations for electric actuators, you should contact a Horizon Solutions Motion Specialist today. Replacing or upgrading old technology to electric actuators will very likely give you an attractive improvement in your Total Cost of Ownership.

This post is part 2 of 2. Part 1 is Engineering Efficiency with Electric Actuators. Part 2 is Trouble-free Maintenance with Electric Actuators.

What are your maintenance pain points? Have you had issues with hydraulic equipment in the past?

 

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About the author

Chris Williams
Chris Williams

Chris is an Automation Specialist with for Horizon Solutions, focusing on motion control and motion applications. He has experience with a wide variety of automation technologies. Chris is a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology and resides in Rochester, NY. He enjoys hiking and biking throughout the city. Both at home and at work, Chris is often a leader for identifying new technologies and opportunities to use them in real world applications.