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People who use hydraulic pumps continually look for ways to improve their efficiency. One way to do that is to choose a type capable of electronic load sensing (e-load sensing).
Traditional load-sensing controls on hydraulic systems respond to external loads by adjusting the output flow to maintain a consistent pressure drop across the metering orifice. The pump receives the feedback, then changes the flow accordingly.
However, e-load sensing offers opportunities for better pump efficiency because it puts more control in the operator’s hands. For example, you can get a hydraulic pump with an electronic control unit (ECU) with a graphical user interface that allows setting the desired parameters. Manipulation of the pump can also occur with an integrated ECU or intelligent sensors.
Electronic load sensing gives users increased control over their hydraulic pumps that can translate into better efficiency. For example, they can set things up so the pump only provides the precise amount of power needed at a given time based on inputs from the ECU or sensors. Besides boosting pump efficiency, this can reduce emissions and fuel consumption.
Fiber-Optic Load-Sensing Options Allow Better Data Collection
Load sensing also gets more efficient as users have a greater amount of actionable data to shape their decisions. Some people may wish to collect more information by pairing e-load sensors with fiber-optic measuring devices. Solutions on the market allow real-time bearing load measurements courtesy of a fiber-optic cable that can gather data up to 10 kilometers away from the light source.
People can then take load and direction measurements in the moment and make appropriate decisions based on the collected data. It was already possible to measure specifics like temperature, vibration and bearing speed. However, it proved challenging to measure bearing load in real-time until recently.
Although the fiber-optic system uses light rather than electronics, it could complement an e-load-sensing system and help operators gain insights into machine statistics. Getting more accurate data could also aid pump testing during the design phase, which could translate into better efficiency later.
In one case, a company used fiber-optic sensors to test and validate a new centrifugal process pump on a mechanical rig. This approach allowed getting previously unavailable data and could enable the organization’s decision-makers to achieve better future design solutions.
Strategic Choices Boost Pump Efficiency
People who work with hydraulic pumps know various factors can lead to improved efficiency. For example, some companies have hydraulic designs with high-capacity priming systems. They prime three times faster than non-vacuum-assisted types.
In one case, an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) had a goal to meet and believed it was within reach through careful pump selection and increased control. The aim was to cause a 10% drop in a sugarcane harvester’s fuel consumption. The company met that milestone by adding electronic load-sensing capabilities and other improvements.
One of the major changes involved switching a gear pump out and using a variable-displacement open circuit with electronic displacement control instead. It could sense the load specifications and only provide the exact torque needed to handle them. Plus, the sensor input regulated the flow output and allowed regulating the equipment’s power consumption.
This example shows why it’s crucial to consider the top desirable outcomes from the redesign of hydraulic equipment. This puts people in a better position to see how e-load sensing might help and what other improvements could complement that feature.
E-Load Sensing Makes Equipment Components Perform More Reliably
Using electronic load sensors in hydraulic equipment can also enhance efficiency by promoting better reliability for specific components. One experiment involved using the load-sensing feature to influence the operations of a fan commonly used with air seeders.
Researchers connected the fan to the tractor's port and controlled it with a dedicated valve block and a sensor measured the direct load-sensing pressure. The team then started the fan with a defined flow and no damping parameters.
Without the benefit of the e-load-sensing systems, the fan experienced a high degree of oscillation. However, by applying an electronic load pressure filter, operators could substantially reduce the fan’s movement. This could lead to an air seeder’s fan working more consistently, causing more efficient equipment operation overall.
The people involved in the test also confirmed that manufacturers could achieve better efficiency by applying electronic load sensing to improve the interaction between a trailer and its attached tool or implement. Since e-load sensing allows customizing the hydraulic system to specific applications, the work performed can be optimized.
Relatedly, the data shown to operators allows them to see when efficiency levels drop unexpectedly. Such trends could indicate a hydraulic pump or other component needs replacement or maintenance. Users that get early alerts of such problems can avoid the issues that could cause long-term machine outages or related productivity disruptions.
Prioritizing Efficiency Makes Good Business Sense
Now that you have some examples of how electronic load sensing can bring better efficiency, you may wonder whether a more efficient machine can really make up for the money a company could save by buying a less expensive system.
The Hydraulic Institute published a fascinating study that helps people understand more about an equipment’s life cycle costs. The content gave the example of a typical 100-horsepower pump that costs $30,000 to purchase and install. Its owners ran the pump continuously at a full load, and that electricity cost 8 cents per kilowatt-hour. In that instance, electricity costs would reach $52,000 annually.
In the study’s example, installation costs account for only 4% of the pump’s lifetime energy costs, assuming that the pump lasts for 15 years and the operator runs it continuously, bringing energy costs to $780,000. A more efficient model reduces the required pump input power during operation, which keeps electricity expenses down.
It’s not always easy to initially justify the money, labor and time required to determine the best ways to make a hydraulic pump more efficient. However, e-load sensing can help get the intended results. This research shows that putting forth the effort could bring significant cost savings. Even if electronic load sensing alone does not result in all the desired gains, it’s a good starting point.
Take a Closer Look at E-Load Sensing
If you’ve got your sights set on better efficiency for your hydraulic pumps, electronic load sensing is well worth consideration. Before making any changes to existing machines or investing in new ones, choose metrics that’ll help you measure whether efficiency is going in the right direction after changes. That will make it easier to track the differences and make further adjustments if necessary.