Actuators Air Cylinders Blog Interchangeable Cylinders

Engineer Your Pneumatic Actuator for Application Challenges

As you consider the many actuators available from various manufacturers, you may need to look beyond off-the-shelf cylinders in order to satisfy a desired performance benchmark or stand up to a challenging operating condition. In these instances, you can choose to modify your actuator, specify special features or add accessories to achieve the performance or reliability your application demands. This blog post — the third in our series on interchangeable actuators — presents some common issues you may need to confront when choosing a pneumatic cylinder along with considerations to help meet the challenge:

When you need end position cushioning:
For low-energy applications with shorter strokes and slow speeds, elastomer bumpers can be integrated onto the piston head or into the head and cap of the cylinder body.

Another option — air cushions — protects the cylinder in applications requiring higher energy to support high speeds or a larger mass. Air cushions trap air between the cushion seal and the piston, forcing the air through a small exhaust orifice, creating a backpressure that slows down the piston before it reaches the end cap. Some air cushions come with a fixed orifice air pathway, but most are manually adjustable using a screwdriver. A third option — self-adjusting air cushions — sends the air through tapered slots in the cushion spear, creating optimal cushioning even when application conditions change.

adjustable and self-adjusting air cushions

When you need maximum force output:
Output force (F) = operating pressure (P) x the piston surface area (A)

Each of the variables in the equation can be changed. However, these changes present trade-offs:

Increase the operating pressure. While an obvious first choice, this strategy may cause you to hit compressor strength and pressure rating limits. And, using a stronger compressor will require more energy.

Increase the piston surface area. Consider this approach when you have static operating pressure. However, increasing the piston surface area may call for a heavier, more robust design as well as additional tie rods to support the larger loads as well as an expanded footprint.

Increase the piston surface area by adding more pistons to act on the piston rod. You can, for example, triple your force output by incorporating three pistons on a single rod. This strategy adds length to the cylinder but will maximize the force output in a given space on a machine.

When you need to maintain a specific orientation:
If your actuator has a small bore, adding a dual, or twin, rod is an easy choice. A non-circular-shaped rod can also prevent unwanted rotation. Choices include a circular rod with flats throughout the piston rod, hex-shaped rods for single-acting cylinders or square rods for double-acting cylinders. Non-circular rods can be hard to seal. A third option — internal guide pins — does not increase the cylinder’s footprint. Note that the pins are not meant to bear loads, so the rod can only handle a limited amount of torque.

You Don’t Have To Go It Alone
Choosing the right cylinder does not mean you have to go it alone. Manufacturers can assist you in a variety of ways, such as with online tools. For example, Fabco-Air’s online Configure & CAD Tool lets users select a product to configure from the ground up, option by option. Fabco experts are also available to provide support, and we excel at creating custom “specials” for hard to satisfy requirements. When your application involves challenges that exceed what’s possible with standard pneumatic actuators, Fabco-Air offers a broad lineup of cylinders, accessories, online tools and technical support to meet your needs while saving you time and effort.

For more information about specifying pneumatic cylinders, download our white paper.

Actuators Blog

Interchangeability Standards Take the Guesswork Out of Replacing an Actuator

Sometimes a machine builder may prefer to replace an actuator with an easier-to-obtain unit or one with more desirable features. In order to help simplify the transition, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and National Fluid Power Association (NFPA) developed standards for cylinder interchangeability. These standards offer the assurance of knowing that a replacement cylinder will be dimensionally compatible across other compliant brands, and machine builders are not bound to one supplier’s products when modifying a machine. That means customers can obtain replacements that have the same form, fit and function as the original, and they can upgrade equipment faster. Interchangeability standards typically specify:

  • Piston rod-type cylinders.
  • Standard bore sizes and piston rod diameters.
  • Standard cylinder strokes.
  • Piston rod end thread sizes.
  • All cylinder dimensions that are relevant for customer interfaces, such as length, port thread and mounting dimensions.
  • Accessory dimensions, in some cases.

Not all actuators are created equal. For example, different manufacturers may use different materials in cylinder construction, and the scope of standard features or options can vary. Different manufacturers will also have various price points.

You may also encounter de facto industry standards, which typically develop around a product that achieves good market share and is replicated by other manufacturers. Fabco-Air’s Original Pancake® cylinder is one such example.

Fabco’s varied actuator lineup includes many interchangeable cylinders. Examples include the rugged, high-performance NFPA Series available in a full offering of features and mounting styles, and the cost-optimized FCQN Series, OEM-NFPA, which integrates many of the features as a standard offering. There’s also an ISO 6431 cylinder — the FAQ2R — featuring a hard-anodized aluminum body. If space is a concern, the popular Pancake® II and our stainless steel F Series are also interchangeable.

Stress-Free Cylinder Replacement

NFPA and ISO standards eliminate the worry of choosing an air cylinder that doesn’t meet your size or function expectations. For even more assurance, it also pays to work with a manufacturer that offers cylinders that both comply with these standards and come in a variety of sizes, mounting styles and constructions. Fabco-Air’s experts can review your requirements and help you select the interchangeable actuator that best meets your needs, making cylinder replacement quick, easy and stress-free.

For more information about specifying pneumatic cylinders, download our white paper.

Actuators Blog

Interchangeable Pneumatic Actuators: An Overview

When you need a pneumatic actuator, you’ll find an overwhelming range of products available from various manufacturers. But because no two applications are alike, you must weigh a lot of considerations before selecting and ordering an actuator. Basic considerations should include the size and mounting options as well as any specific features that will help satisfy your needs. This blog post — the first in a series on interchangeable actuators — provides a brief overview of four common cylinder styles:

Compact cylinders. As the name suggests, compact cylinders are desirable for installations with limited space as well as those with small loads or very small lateral forces acting on the piston rod. Lightweight and repairable compact cylinders have some of the smallest bore sizes available, from 1/4 up to five inches, and strokes are typically less than four inches. Compact cylinders have two common styles, including tie rod construction with round or square end caps, and extruded profiles with square bodies. These cylinders are usually mounted via through-holes or tapped threaded holes, or via rear-pivot.

Optional features include a choice of male or female rod threads, single-acting versions, magnetic piston for use with sensors, bumpers to reduce noise, double rods, non-rotating types for maintaining a specific orientation and seals for harsh environmental conditions.

Round body cylinders. Inexpensive cylindrical shaped cylinders are designed with small widths for applications with limited installation space or small to medium load requirements. They have similar optional features as compact cylinders. Round body cylinders are typically used for moving, holding, lifting and pushing-type use cases, or applications with minimal lateral forces acting on the piston rod. Mounting can be achieved via an integrated front-facing nose thread or a rear pivot pin or hole. Lightweight round body cylinders come with small bore sizes from 5/16 to three inches, and strokes can range from less than 10 inches to more than 50 inches. Some round body cylinders are not repairable.

Tie rod cylinders. When you need a more durable cylinder, tie rod cylinders can meet the requirements thanks to their large integrated piston rod bushings. Tie rod construction accommodates the large bores — up to 12 inches or larger — that provide thousands of pounds of forces. Strokes can typically range from less than 8 inches to more than 100 inches. Offered with a wide variety of mounting styles, repairable tie rod cylinders are designed for medium to heavy loads and applications in which medium lateral forces act on the rod.

Profile cylinders. These cylinders offer many of the same features and specifications as tie rod cylinders, but their aluminum profile limits bore sizes to approximately five inches. Profile cylinder construction offers some advantages, including integrated slots to house a sensor without it protruding from the body, a smooth shape and appearance as well as lower costs.

Make Cylinder Selection Less Challenging

Pneumatic actuators are well-known for delivering reliable, accurate motion, making them well-suited for use in a wide range of machines and systems across many industries. Future blog posts in this series will review interchangeability standards and the factors to consider when choosing a cylinder that meets specific objectives. Taken together, this overview of the different types of cylinders to choose from, along with our upcoming posts on interchangeable pneumatic cylinder basics, will make cylinder specification considerably less challenging.

For more information about specifying pneumatic cylinders, download our white paper.

Actuators Blog

A Compact, Durable Cylinder With World-Class Value and Versatility

It’s no secret that Fabco-Air is well-known for its high-performance compact air cylinders in imperial dimensions. However, there may be situations where you need the same short strokes, high quality and rich set of features you’ve come to expect from a compact Fabco-Air cylinder, but in a metric-size unit. That’s why we offer the Global™ Series of compact cylinders in a broad array of models and options.

This true metric interchange cylinder delivers short strokes and fits into tight spaces — just like its domestic counterpart, the Original Pancake®. Featuring durable and rigid anodized aluminum extrusion construction, the Global Series features oversized hard chrome stainless steel piston rods and an extra-long piston rod bearing. The rod bearing’s non-metallic composite gives it exceptional load-bearing capability along with corrosion and moisture resistance and very low friction. An optional magnetic piston provides position sensing with mid-stroke signaling and exact end-of-stroke sensing. Additional features include:

  • Pre-lubed with Magnalube-G® grease for a long lifetime.
  • A wide range of mounting options.
  • Multiple dovetails to accommodate multiple switches without the need for mounting brackets.

Cylinders Designed With Versatility in Mind

The Global Series cylinder was designed to offer exceptional versatility. It comes in 10 bore sizes ranging from 12 to 100 millimeter diameters, standard strokes are from five to 150 millimeters in length, and it is available in a wide variety of configurations. And, the family is interchangeable with many square, compact actuators from manufacturers worldwide. Thanks to its interchangeability, combined with its metric dimensions, the Global Series is an ideal choice for machine builders who want to make their products available to regions that use metric measurements, interface their cylinder with other metric components in a system or to simply streamline their design process.

In addition to standard cylinders, the Global Series includes two variants:

  • GT Series cylinders with anodized aluminum tool plate.
  • Global Series stopper cylinders for conveyor applications.

Metric Interchange Without the Sacrifice

When a machine design calls for a compact cylinder in metric dimensions, the Global Series gives you that option without sacrificing features and performance. And, if a standard Global Series cylinder doesn’t match all your requirements, Fabco-Air can create a custom special and get it to you just as fast as our off-the-shelf products.

For more information about Fabco-Air’s Global Series cylinders, please visit our product page.

White Paper

Interchangeable Pneumatic Actuator Selection

Actuators Blog

Round Body Cylinders Overcome Harsh Conditions and Limited Space

Designers whose machines call for actuators typically have two constant demands: integrate cylinders into smaller spaces and work with a tighter budget. Machines intended for use in harsh or washdown-intensive environments are no exception, and they have the added factor of requiring a robust air cylinder to stand up to the tough conditions. Round body cylinders can check off all these boxes and offer versatility for use in a wide variety of applications.

The Basics of Round Body Cylinders

Round body cylinders are typically used for moving, holding, lifting and pushing low or medium loads in applications with limited installation space. They are also appropriate for applications where minimal lateral forces act on the rod. Round body cylinders are characterized by their light weight and small widths. They’re also desirable for applications with a tight budget thanks to their economic, non-repairable design and easy replacement. In fact, many round body cylinders are directly interchangeable and dimensionally compatible across other popular, compliant brands.

And when it comes to harsh environments and food production applications, round body cylinders offer exceptional durability. Though most are constructed with aluminum heads and caps, many manufacturers offer variants with anodized end caps or are made with Delrin® or other polymer materials that are lightweight, cost-effective and typically resilient to chemicals. Stainless steel is a more robust option, and it is well-suited for acidic applications. Fabco offers two round body cylinder families that are robust and effective options for harsh environments and food production applications:

Fabco Round Body Lines: F Series and H Series

Fabco’s round body cylinders come with a 304 stainless steel body and feature a 303 stainless steel ground, polished and roller-burnished cylinder rod and high-strength aluminum piston, making them appropriate for light-duty applications in food and beverage or packaging equipment.

F Series: These cylinders are designed to be directly interchangeable with the leading competitors in the industry. They feature quick response and full flow port performance, pre-lubrication for maintenance-free operation and a rod bushing made with oil-impregnated sintered bronze for wear resistance and long life. Bore sizes range from 5⁄16 through 3 inches with stroke lengths up to 60 inches, standard. Standard variants constructed from either Delrin or stainless steel are also available.

H Series: This non-repairable actuator is interchangeable with the previous version offered by Humphrey, and interchanges as well as those from a wide range of competitor units. The H Series’ unrestricted porting design results in maximum air flow, fast response and smooth rod movement. Bore sizes range from ½ to 2 ½ inches, and standard stroke lengths go up to 60 inches. The H Series includes options for anodized heads and caps for a cost-effective washdown solution.

Round Body Cylinders Offer Peace of Mind

Machines used in harsh environments or food zones are not exempt from space and budget constraints. Round body cylinders such as the interchangeable F Series and Humphrey Interchange H Series are designed to overcome both space limitations and challenging environments. Their combination of performance, reliability and customization options will give you peace of mind over a long operating lifetime.

For more information about Fabco-Air Round Body Cylinders, visit our actuators page.


Fabco-Air: Pneumatic Linear Slides


Fabco-Air: Pneumatic Grippers

Air Preparation Blog

Air Preparation Products Keep Pneumatic Systems at Peak Performance

When designing and building a pneumatic system for your industrial applications, keep in mind that even the most durable, highest-performance components will suffer from sub-optimal performance and damage that will reduce their expected life if the compressed air is of poor quality. Compressed air entering the system contains particles that can, for instance, damage seals in valves and cylinders. Water can also compromise systems by washing away lubricants. And, the compressed air must be at the right pressure. Any of these conditions can cause critical equipment to fail prematurely.

If you want to get the best performance and longest life out of the equipment throughout your pneumatic system, air preparation is a must. Various individual components and combination units can help you ensure proper air quality. For example, filter-regulator-lubricator (FRL) units are among the most common components, and their modularity allows designers to create the right combination for the system. Here’s an overview of some of the air preparation products that can keep pneumatic systems clean and functioning, using Fabco-Air products as examples:

  • Filters. Filters can remove particles before they can contaminate and compromise components around your system. Certain models remove materials down to 5µ, making them an effective first line of defense.
  • Regulators. Make sure your clean air is at the right pressure throughout your system. Fabco’s FA user-adjustable regulators feature a square embedded pressure gauge with psi scale and one MBCR-type mounting bracket and panel nut.
  • Lubricators. These units inject a small amount of oil into your system to keep downstream components running smoothly by reducing wear and preventing corrosion.
  • FRLs. Filter-regulator-lubricator units offer comprehensive air management while making efficient use of space.
  • Combinations. Air preparation products can be combined into two-in-one and three-in-one units to suit your space and budget requirements.
  • Custom/Special. If standard or combination air preparation products don’t match your system’s needs, Fabco can create custom units as specials. In fact, we specialize in modified products.

Filters, regulators and lubricators are available with a wide range of NPT port sizes and operate at up to 145 psi of pressure. In addition, Fabco’s lineup of preparation products also features mist separators and micro-mist separators that remove particles as small as 0.01 µ, plus a full range of valves to keep personnel safe including lockout-tagout, soft-start and quick exhaust valves.

Ensure System Reliability and Safety

Air quality is critical for your pneumatic system’s productivity and reliability. In order to get the most from your pneumatic systems and ensure long operating lifetimes for components, you must maintain the right air pressure and protect against contamination and moisture. Fabco-Air offers a broad lineup of air preparation products that will keep your pneumatic systems running smoothly and safely.

For more information about Fabco’s air preparation products, visit our product page.


How to Specify Pneumatic Cylinders

With the range of styles, sizes and shapes of pneumatic cylinders on the market today, it can sometimes be difficult to specify the type of cylinder you need for your application. As the number of standard options available on the market grows, you may feel spoiled for choice due to the sheer amount of products that may fit within your specifications. But how often is “good enough” actually good enough?

Sometimes it’s easier to choose a custom cylinder, but that choice is often costly and quickly becomes cost-prohibitive if you need to work with many cylinders at once. How do you specify a pneumatic cylinder for a specific application without resorting to a custom option? Read our white paper to learn four design aspects that can help you specify the right air cylinder for your needs.