Simple Pressure-Relief Valve

The most widely used type of pressure control valve is the pressure-relief valve because it is found in practically every hydraulic system. Schematic diagram of simple relief valve is shown in Fig. 1.1 and three-dimensional view is shown in Fig. 1.2. It is normally a closed valve whose function is to limit the pressure to a specified maximum value by diverting pump flow back to the tank. A poppet is held seated inside the valve by a heavy spring. When the system pressure reaches a high enough value, the poppet is forced off its seat. This permits flow through the outlet to the tank as long as this high pressure level is maintained. Note the external adjusting screw, which varies spring force and, thus, the pressure at which the valve begins to open (cracking pressure)(Fig. 1.3).

It should be noted that the poppet must open sufficiently to allow full pump flow. The pressure that exists at full pump flow can be substantially greater than cracking pressure. The pressure at full pump flow is the pressure level that is specified when referring to the pressure setting of the valve. It is the maximum pressure level permitted by the relief valve.

If the hydraulic system does not accept any flow, then all the pump flow must return to the tank via the relief valve. The pressure-relief valve provides protection against any overloads experienced by the actuators in the hydraulic system. Of course, a relief valve is not needed if a pressure-compensated vane pump is used. Obviously one important function of a pressure-relief valve is to limit the force or torque produced by hydraulic cylinders or motors.

The main advantage of direct-acting relief valves over pilot-operated relief valves is that they respond very rapidly to pressure buildup. Because there is only one moving part in a direct-acting relief valve, it can open rapidly, thus minimizing pressure spikes.

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