A pneumatic system is a collection of interconnected components that uses compressed air to perform certain tasks for automated machinery. It catches air, transfers it across a circuit, and uses the produced energy to complete tasks. Compressed air or pressured gas is frequently filtered to protect cylinders and tools. Pneumatics are used in a variety of applications, including automation solutions, automatic doors, and large factory operations. 

Sometimes, high performance in pneumatic systems isn’t present. To achieve that, frequent adjustments are required, as well as regular checks. Whenever there are some problems with your pneumatic system and you don’t know what’s the root cause, you feel the need for troubleshooting. So, we’ve compiled the following 5 tips to help you troubleshoot your pneumatic system. 

Safety And Questions to Ask

Secure the system before troubleshooting. Ensure the power supply is turned off to avoid any potentially dangerous electrical activity. Safety is an important aspect of troubleshooting. Explosions from air receiver tanks have injured many people. It can cause serious injuries to workers and damage to property. Because air is highly compressible, you must apply precautions when troubleshooting. Also, before inspecting any equipment, don't forget to put on safety clothing.

When your systems fail, ask yourself:

  • What works or doesn’t work during the system operation: what’s happening with its functions?
  • When did the issue arise? Is it a recurring or sudden failure?
  • Where does the issue occur – in the beginning or midway of the machine cycle?

Problems with filtration units or valves, insufficient pressure, and a slow-moving or drifting actuator are some of the most common issues. Understanding if it’s a sudden or recurring issue can help you take the proper measures. Sudden breakdowns often show catastrophic failures, such as broken components or mechanical problems. While leaks, pollutants, or worn components in the system are more likely to cause gradual breakdowns. 

Determining where the issue originates in the machine cycle can also assist in understanding whether it is a one-time failure or a recurring issue. Check your maintenance records to see if any recurring issues are noted. It can help you understand:

  • Where to start
  • Why the issue continues to occur
  • What measures to take to prevent it

System Inspection

Before running a pneumatic system or making repairs, it's critical to understand how all of the machine's components and subsystems work. There are two types of documentation that pneumatic systems have:

  1. A Schematic Drawing – a road map that describes how each component works. The schematic includes information regarding flow rates, cylinder stroke lengths, pressure test points, air motor speeds, pressure settings, bill of materials, etc. This kind of data can help you figure out if your system is performing within its design parameters.
  1. A Service or Maintenance Manual – contains information about possible issues, which will assist you in diagnosing and fixing them.

Also, consider visual inspection since problems such as leaking, ruptured hoses, broken components, etc. are frequently identified by walking around the machine. Check the pressure regulator valve to see if there's enough pressure. If the filter is clogged, you may need to replace it and clean out the pollutants. Check for air or fluid leaks and pinched hoses. Ask as many essential questions regarding the system as possible if you are unfamiliar with the components or the machine operation. Understand the interrelationships of all the components and subsystems located in the machine before attempting to run it or fix it.

Operation of the System and Isolation of Subsystems

After reading the documentation and inspecting the system, power it up and run it so you can observe the system in action and discover the problem firsthand. Is the problem that was reported still present? Observing the equipment in action may reveal the issue and cut your troubleshooting time in half. Again, conduct a visual inspection, look for air leakage, system pressures (that don’t meet documentation requirements), etc. Check to ensure that the machine's power supply has been shut off before trying to fix it after it has been run. Check for any remaining stored pressure in the system.

Because all of the pieces of the machine are interconnected, a failure in one subsystem will almost certainly lead to a problem in another subsystem. It is beneficial to isolate each subsystem so that you can concentrate on each one separately. Although this reduces the diagnostic area, it necessitates more safety precautions when using the equipment. For instance, you should keep an eye on internal system pressures while the machine is running to ensure that you don't go over the maximum allowed pressures.

Making a List and Testing

A full understanding of the system and its components is essential to match the problem to the source. Make a list of possible causes and narrow them down to understand which one of the remaining causes is most likely to be the source of the problem. This stage may appear challenging at first, but it is essential for the upcoming repair process. Implementing different tests, including pressure checks with an accurate gauge, checking flow rate using a flow meter, actuator alignment, etc. can help you narrow down the list of possible causes and identify the problem more clearly.

Repairing or Replacing

Once you’ve found the actual cause, it’s time to understand whether you want to repair or replace the part. Your downtime and expenses will rise if you choose to repair components for rapid reinstallation while your downtime will be reduced and your inventory cost will be higher if you replace them with new components. Your choice will be influenced by whether replacement parts are easily available or if repairs can be completed in-house. 

Reporting your findings is the final step in troubleshooting pneumatic systems. Paperwork is a necessary part of the process and keeping track of problems, solutions, and modifications to particular machines can assist in future troubleshooting. Also, updating your schematics regularly will help you address problems faster in the future. 

If you look for pneumatic systems, contact HAK Fluid Power Equipment LTD today!