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Effective fluid power design

Effective fluid power design The latest software tools available to fluid design engineers, integrated into the computer aided engineering workflow make project planning simpler, improve documentation and accelerate system design.

For many years, generic CAD tools were the fluid power engineer's only choice. Today, the power of technology and the growing influence of computers on engineering have spurred the development of various software tools to aid in the design process, allowing better designs to be produced quickly and economically. The fluid power sector is no exception. Fluid power engineers can improve the efficiency of their hydraulic, pneumatic, lubrication and cooling designs with a complete engineering automation solution. Features include user-friendly tools, advanced capabilities, dynamic and realistic simulation as well as flexible project documentation.

Developed specifically for fluid power, the software boasts unique, intelligent and automatic features that allow users to complete projects much faster and produce higher quality documentation than they can by using conventional CAD tools. In addition it offers a comprehensive range of logic functions which are designed to make project planning easier and to help avoid errors.

This latest generation of fluid engineering design software can be integrated in the MCAD workflow, and combines tried and tested fluid system planning and new 3D technology. "This means that components that have been placed in the fluid circuit diagram, such as valves or cylinders, can be assembled in 3D and put onto pasteboards using a simple method that is similar to the LEGO principle," explains EPLAN UK director Ken Christie. "Users do not need in-depth 3D knowledge, and the 2D derivations and manufacturing drawings are created automatically as part of the documentation. Valuable manufacturing information such as the amount of layout space required, number of drill holes or hose lengths is therefore available at an early stage."

Fostering design standardisation, modern design software lets fluid engineers save and re-use frequently used subsystems, in the form of macros, directly in the planning. This means that specialist knowledge is retained, and can be retrieved at any time. It also speeds up planning and safeguards quality throughout all disciplines. "Essentially, fluid engineering design software provides an opportunity to avoid errors, particularly in view of the increasing complexity of mechatronic components such as valve islands. In addition, the knowledge of the fluid engineer is used where it is needed - during the selection and dimensioning of components, the fluid system connections thereof and their correct positioning," says Christie.

The tools available to fluid engineers today further offer powerful parts management and customisable reports specific to fluid engineering. Documentation such as parts, spare parts, wearing parts, hose, tube, and piping lists are created automatically. Furthermore, various criteria such as pneumatics, hydraulics, cooling or lubrication can easily be configured, and separate reports for each discipline can be created.

In addition, with auto-connecting and smart-connecting features, fluid engineers are able to automatically generate and retain connections between positioned symbols. These connections may be furnished with logical properties and evaluated; additionally, the symbols may be combined into functional units and saved as macros. The bill of materials is also generated at the same time as the drawing, thus ensuring that a uniform database is always available. "These functions," says Christie, "show that fluid design has evolved from drawing to engineering, following in the footsteps of electrical design, which has long since completed the same evolutionary development."

Although fluid engineering design software offers significant benefits as a stand-alone solution, efficient design requires that all disciplines involved be networked, which means that the benefits are multiplied if the software is combined with the equivalent tool for electrical design. Serving as an example of this connectedness in practice is Dutch heavy lift manufacturer Huisman-Itrec.

The company, which builds large cranes for ships, shipyards and ports as well as load-moving devices, pipe-laying equipment and offshore drilling platforms, is known for fostering innovation and creativity, and is considered to be on the cutting edge of automated design. After upgraded to the new EPLAN Electric P8 in the electrical department, the company also introduced EPLAN Fluid in the hydraulics department. According to Jens Ekelaar, Electrical Department manager, implementing EPLAN Fluid was done in the context of synchronising project work with the electrical department, and has resulted in a more structured way of working. The company is also in the process of linking EPLAN Fluid and EPLAN Electric P8, which Ekelaar believes will result in even greater advantages.

While Huisman was founded almost eight decades ago, Itrec was formed more recently to perform virtually all engineering and design work in-house. Ekelaar explains: "Most of the cranes, pipe-laying and load-moving devices are custom-built to the customer's requirements. The technical and creative concept department (Itrec) develops the design. The subsequent engineering of the steel and drives takes place via basic and detailed design, after which shop drawings are made. These are then sent to one of our three manufacturing sites, where the product is made. Only after the product is tested - on board ship in the case of a crane - is the final transfer to the customer completed."

He adds: "When every project is as big as a ship's crane or offshore drilling rig, basic EPLAN features such as automated list-building, cross-referencing or error-checking are especially valuable. And by fostering collaboration between our fluid and electrical engineers, EPLAN has helped make us more efficient."
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