How Digital Hydraulics Can Boost Excavator Performance and Efficiency

Hydraulic systems are widely used in heavy machinery, such as excavators, because of their high power density, robustness, and reliability. However, conventional hydraulic systems also have some drawbacks, such as high energy consumption, noise, leakage, and maintenance costs. To overcome these challenges, a new technology called digital hydraulics has emerged, which promises to improve the performance, efficiency, and sustainability of hydraulic systems.

What is digital hydraulics?

Digital hydraulics is a technology that uses discrete on/off valves instead of traditional proportional or servo valves to control the fluid flow and pressure in a hydraulic system. By switching the valves on and off rapidly, the system can achieve any desired flow or pressure level by combining the individual valve flows in a binary manner. For example, if there are three valves with flow rates of 1, 2, and 4 liters per minute, the system can produce 8 different flow levels from 0 to 7 liters per minute by turning the valves on and off accordingly.

The advantages of digital hydraulics are:

  • Energy efficiency: Since the on/off valves do not leak, there is no need to have a pump running all the time. The system only consumes energy when the valves are switched, and the energy can be recovered by using an accumulator or a regenerative circuit. This can reduce the energy consumption by up to 50% compared to conventional hydraulics.
  • Reliability: The on/off valves are simple, robust, and inexpensive compared to proportional or servo valves, which are prone to wear, contamination, and failure. The system can also tolerate valve faults by reconfiguring the remaining valves to achieve the desired output. This can increase the reliability and reduce the maintenance costs of the system.
  • Control performance: The on/off valves are fast and precise, which enables the system to respond quickly and accurately to the commands and feedback signals. The system can also use advanced control algorithms, such as feedforward and model predictive control, to optimize the valve switching patterns and improve the dynamic behavior and stability of the system.

How does digital hydraulics improve excavator efficiency?

Excavators are machines that use hydraulic systems to perform digging, lifting, and loading tasks. The hydraulic system consists of a pump, a valve block, and several actuators, such as cylinders and motors, that move the boom, arm, bucket, and swing of the excavator. The efficiency of the hydraulic system affects the productivity, fuel consumption, and emissions of the excavator.

By applying digital hydraulics to the excavator, the system can achieve the following benefits:

  • Reduced fuel consumption: By using digital hydraulics, the pump can operate at a lower pressure and flow rate, which reduces the power demand and fuel consumption of the engine. The system can also recover the potential energy of the boom and arm by using an accumulator or a regenerative circuit, which further reduces the fuel consumption. According to a study by Danfoss Power Solutions, digital hydraulics can reduce the fuel consumption of an excavator by up to 25% compared to conventional hydraulics.
  • Improved productivity: By using digital hydraulics, the system can achieve faster and smoother movements of the excavator, which improves the productivity and efficiency of the digging and loading tasks. The system can also adapt to different load conditions and operator preferences by using adaptive control algorithms, which improves the performance and comfort of the excavator.
  • Lower emissions: By using digital hydraulics, the system can reduce the emissions of the excavator by reducing the fuel consumption and the noise level. The system can also use renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind power, to charge the accumulator or the regenerative circuit, which further reduces the environmental impact of the excavator.

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