Your actuator’s operating environment should be one of your top considerations during product selection. If you select an actuator that cannot withstand challenging environmental conditions—such as washdowns—lifetime, cleanliness and your system’s ultimate productivity can suffer. This blog post, the fourth in our series on interchangeable pneumatic actuators, will offer tips for specifying pneumatic actuators that stand up to harsh and wet environments, and it describes some of the construction features and accessories you should look for, using examples from Fabco-Air’s broad range of products.
If your actuator must perform in a harsh environment, your best course of action is to choose the most robust cylinder possible, based on its orientation and operating environment. Consider whether the cylinder will encounter corrosive materials or harsh chemical agents that may contact the rod and rod seal, and select a robust material like stainless steel to resist these elements. Seals and wipers can help prevent exposure.
Food and beverage industry applications also require special attention. Every aspect of machine design and component selection should be addressed with food safety and hygiene in mind. In food zones, a cylinder can be a breeding ground for bacteria and debris buildup. When specifying a cylinder for a food and beverage environment, follow these best practices:
- Look for a self-draining actuator.
- Avoid corners or dead spaces.
- Avoid fasteners and connectors with threads and crevices.
- Specify corrosion-resistant materials.
- Look for FDA NSF-H1-approved lubricants.
- Make sure the cylinder is well-sealed.
When it comes to materials, the operating environment along with the cylinder type and size will influence your selection. For example, compact or round body cylinder offerings typically include units made from Delrin® or other polymers. These materials are lightweight, cost-effective and typically resilient to chemicals. Stainless steel is a more robust option, and can be well-suited for tougher applications such as battery assembly or dairy production. Stainless steel types 303 and 304 are popular for many applications, while 316 grade stainless steel is desirable for the harshest applications.
Fabco-Air’s F-Series cylinder is made of 304 stainless steel and features a 303 stainless steel cylinder rod and high-strength aluminum piston, making it well-suited for light-duty applications in food and beverage or packaging equipment. For space-constrained food equipment, our popular Pancake® compact cylinders come in washdown-resistant Delrin and stainless steel versions.
Achieve Optimal, Reliable Actuator Performance
When implementing a pneumatic actuator in challenging environments, you can enhance your machine’s reliability with proper product selection and protection measures. Fabco-Air offers actuator products with durable construction and stainless steel variants, food-grade lubricants and many options to protect your investment in harsh, wet and corrosive environments. And, Fabco can also help you meet the food industry’s strict sanitary requirements. If your requirements call for custom cylinders, we can turn orders around fast. Be sure to contact our experienced sales engineers who can help you begin your selection.
For more information about specifying pneumatic cylinders, download our white paper.