Power and performance in a small package

Mark Fletcher delves into the world of pneumatics and discovers that the
size/performance benchmark has been breached yet again

Miniaturisation of pneumatic components is a common trend as industry tackles the real-estate costs of accommodating massive cabinets, long cable runs and over-sized components. One area facing particular scrutiny is valve islands. These small (and getting smaller) assemblies, vital cogs in the automation industry, have in recent years been getting smaller and smaller without losing performance, testament to the engineers and companies that design them. Norgren’s latest offering, the VM10, should certainly raise a few eyebrows, as it goes that extra step, offering users a staggering seven million different configurations as well as high levels of performance. Although just 10mm in width, each valve ‘slice’ boasts a flow rate of 430l/min, a figure that, according to Norgren, is unsurpassed for units of this size where flows of around 220 to 300l/min are more the norm. This performance means the VM10 can be used in place of larger and more expensive 16mm or ISO valves. This impressive airflow figure is all down to the design of the spool and the seal pack. They have been constructed so as to offer very smooth flow paths with minimum turbulence. And in the drive to save space, weight and cost, the valve can offer two functions in one station. Two 3/2 valves can exist on one ‘slice’ or, using the complete slice, 5/2 or 5/3 valve operation can be utilised. In effect, each ‘slice’ can offer six functions including normally open/closed and sol/sol and sol/spring options. Each valve is joined to its neighbour using a patented interlock device, removing the need for tie rods and creating a connection that has been tested successfully up to 40 bar. Available in 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 and 16-station islands, users can also specify two coils per ‘slice’, thereby creating 32 outputs. This, according to Norgren, is double the capacity available elsewhere. Connectivity of the valve islands is accomplished via different top housings. By coming in from the top, the island’s footprint within a cabinet is fieldbus independent. The islands offer 4 to 16 multipole stations and 4 to 16 fieldbus stations which can, in turn, deal with seven different fieldbus protocols. The electronics within the island will also detect the baud rate of any communications, bringing in a large element of plug-and-play. When it comes to applications, the valves are made from 40% glass-filled nylon that makes them both thermally stable and thermally resistant. In addition, they exhibit good chemical resistance and and zero moisture uptake, and offer good dimensional stability. Incidentally, Norgren also points out that their light grey livery makes them suitable for all industry sectors. Of course the seven million configurations could make some of you dive for cover. With this in mind Norgren offers a free software package, available from www.uk.norgren.com. The valve island configurator is, according to the company, exceptionally easy to use by both experienced and first-time users, the end result being a meaningful part number. Once customers have configured their valve island a line diagram is instantly available. Users will then be offered one of thirteen different CAD file formats for incorporation into their own drawings. • Seven million combinations are offered by the VM10 range • The use of glass-filled nylon bodies ensures robustness and integrity in a number of applications • The units exceed the industry norm in terms of flow rate and outputs