Actuators Air Cylinders Blog Interchangeable Cylinders

Select an Actuator That Stands up To Harsh Environments

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.

SS NFPA Actuator

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.

Delrin Original Pancake

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Actuators Air Preparation Blog

Food-Grade Pneumatic Cylinders Served Fast

When it comes to food and beverage production, exposure to moisture and chemicals from washdowns is likely your first concern when specifying an actuator. But, thanks to the ever-challenging throughput demands of the food industry, getting the right actuator quickly is also a top priority. That’s why it pays to work with a vendor that has a lineup of products that stand up to the rigors of food and beverage industry applications and can be tailor-made quickly to satisfy your special requirements.

Many Fabco-Air pneumatic cylinders are available in food-grade variants that offer exceptional moisture and chemical resistance for a wide variety of applications such as meat, poultry and fish processing as well as filling and sealing, packaging, canning and sorting. And, our food-grade cylinders come with corrosion-resistant seals and FDA-approved lubricants. Highlights of our food and beverage pneumatic cylinder offering include:

  • Original Pancake® and Pancake® II. Designers of food and beverage equipment don’t have to sacrifice short strokes, compact size and durable construction. Pancake variants are washdown resistant and are offered in Delrin® and all-stainless steel versions.
  • F-Series interchangeable cylinders. Our light-duty, cost-effective cylinders are available in Delrin or stainless steel versions. The F-Series Delrin variant comes with a Delrin head and cap, and stainless steel piston rods for corrosion resistance. The Stainless Steel F-Series is made from 303 and 304 stainless steel and comes with a food-rated rod wiper.
  • NFPA Series. Both the OEM and standard NFPA from Fabco offer corrosion resistance as standard with an anodized head, cap and barrel with options to include a stainless steel piston rod, tie rods and fasteners. Additional options such as Viton seals and metallic rod scrapers also increase the durability of these cylinders in harsher environments. Fabco can also provide an NFPA with hard anodized head and cap and a composite barrel, and, for the harshest environments, an all-stainless NFPA — both as custom solutions.
  • Air Preparation. Our lineup of air preparation products for food and beverage applications includes FRL and mist separation units.

Custom Food-Grade Cylinders With Quick Turnarounds

In today’s food and beverage industry, having the right parts for your equipment is critical to achieving and maintaining optimum production. Because these Fabco-Air products are variants of standard models, we can deliver them to you quickly so your equipment can get up and running to meet your challenging food and beverage production goals.

For more information about Fabco-Air pneumatic cylinders for food and beverage applications, visit our industry page.

Actuators Blog High Force Actuators

Powerful Cylinders for High-Force Applications

When it comes to shearing, punching or broaching applications, you’ll need a lot of force to do the job — especially if it involves metal workpieces. But obtaining that muscle adds a lot of headaches to what should be a simple setup. For example, high-pressure hydraulics can give you the force you need, but they can make a mess and add expensive equipment to your system. And, pneumatic cylinders come with the challenge of obtaining enough compressed air to do the job.

Thankfully, there’s a clean option that can deliver the high force you need while still economizing on space and air requirements. Fabco Multi-Power® cylinders provide tremendous thrust using a small amount of compressed air. In fact, just 100 psi of shop air can produce 22 pounds of force. No high-pressure hydraulics and no bulky, large-bore cylinders are needed.

The Multi-Power Principle

The Multi-Power cylinder design incorporates multiple pistons attached to a single rod that has integral air channels integrated through the shaft. Multiple pistons create a larger collective surface area for the shop air pressure to act on, while pistons are pressurized simultaneously. The result: extraordinary thrust forces at the cylinder rod. That means you get maximum power from the smallest footprint possible. Multi-Power cylinders use only one piston to retract, so you can achieve 22 to 37 percent air volume savings. And, mounting savings can range from 44 to 75 percent. Additional features and benefits of Multi-Power cylinders include:

  • A wide range of bore sizes
  • A composite rod bearing for long life
  • Chrome-plated stainless steel piston rods
  • Prelubrication with Magnalube-G® Teflon grease
  • Available in two, three and four stages with many mounting options (including NFPA).

If a standard product doesn’t suit your needs, we can tailor-make a cylinder with a Multi-Power design. You can also choose a Multi-Power version of these popular Fabco-Air actuators:

  • Pancake®
  • Pancake® II
  • Longstroke™
  • Square I®
  • Air presses

High Force Output With No Hassle

There are times when an application requires greater output forces than can be obtained from conventional cylinders even though space is at a premium. With Fabco Air’s Multi-Power line of cylinders, you can avoid the hassles and costs involved with conventional actuators and high-pressure hydraulic systems.

For more information about Fabco Air’s Multi-Power line of high-force actuators, visit the product page.

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How Cylinders Support Copy Exact Manufacturing in Semiconductor Applications

When it comes to semiconductor applications, you need pneumatic components that offer high precision and reliability in a compact package. They should also conform to the Copy Exactly! standards prevalent in the industry, ensuring performance and quality consistency across the entire operation.

Let’s take a closer look at these features, which can help you select the right pneumatic parts for semiconductor equipment:

What is Copy Exact Manufacturing?

To ensure uniformity and consistency across the entire process, many semiconductor manufacturers have adopted a Copy Exact (CE) production strategy. This means new or replacement pneumatic cylinders must exhibit functional and physical interchangeability with each other, achieving the same technical and performance outputs as legacy parts. This method ensures components never vary from their original design and guarantees your manufacturing process is maintained without any quality issues.

From laboratories to high-volume production environments, look for cylinders that meet the demands of CE manufacturing. For example, our proven Pancake® cylinders—with all their features, material options and sizes—never vary in performance or design, leading to consistent end-products every time.

Durable Materials in a Compact Package

To meet your specific media requirements, cylinders, linear slides and valves should incorporate durable materials like aluminum and stainless steel, both of which enable smooth motion and longevity in semiconductor equipment. In addition, look for pneumatic parts that feature a lightweight, compact design—making them ideal for tight installation spaces.

Our Pancake® cylinders, for example, provide short strokes in a low-profile design. They also feature the longest possible stroke for the smallest package size.

Standard and Custom Cylinders—When You Need Them

With over half of our pneumatic products designed as specialty models, contact us today if one of our standard cylinders doesn’t fit your requirements. Best of all, you’ll still enjoy the same short lead times as our off-the-shelf products.

To learn more about our Pancake cylinders, please visit our product page.

Actuators Blog

Exploring Important Cylinder Features for Medical Applications

From lab automation to device manufacturing, medical applications demand cylinders that offer reliability, consistent performance and above all—cleanliness. At Fabco-Air, we offer both custom and off-the-shelf cylinders that meet these requirements to keep your critical processes running smoothly.

Hygienic design resists corrosion. For safe, reliable operation in clean manufacturing environments, we offer cylinders made from corrosion-resistant stainless steel and Delrin®. For more specific requirements, our engineering team can leverage a variety of proprietary coatings to ensure the cylinders hold up to any caustic substances. If the cylinder is directly exposed to a sensitive environment, we can also incorporate corrosion-resistant seals and use FDA-approved lubricants.

Compact package fits tight installations. Cylinders like our popular Original Pancake®, Global Series™, Square 1® and F Series are also lightweight and compact; their low-profile design enables installation even in the tightest of footprints. As a result, our cylinders achieve a long cycle life and maximum performance for the smallest package size, making them ideal for lab environments and other installations where space may be an issue.

Overcome challenges with unlimited customization. Whether for medical device manufacturing or pharmaceutical production, we can adapt any of our standard cylinders to meet your unique application requirements. These specials can include many modified features related to size, media compatibility, temperature, material systems, sealing and more.

For example, we customized one of our double-acting Pancake® II Cylinders to fit a small space in a medical packaging machine. We milled flats on both end caps for more precise alignment and incorporated a 4-inch bore by 1-inch stroke, high-strength composite wall, hard chrome-plated stainless steel piston rod, polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) composite rod bearings and internally lubricated dynamic O-rings.

For more information on how we can deliver a standard or custom cylinder for your medical application, visit our product page.