The world of fluid power is awesome, but it’s not perfect. There are some things I would wish for, but may or may not become reality. Still, a boy can dream, can’t he? And since I’m dreaming, I may as well dream big. Here is my list of Top 5 things fluid power needs:
5. I want one style of hose connection. I get it, everyone has their preference. We might as well argue if Ford, Dodge or Chevy make the best truck (for the record, it’s the Mazda B-series, anyway), because nobody can agree on JIC, ORB, Metric, BSP or ORF. There are other options, of course – NPT, I see you back there … put your hand down, nobody cares.
If just one series of connection existed, we’d all save time, money and headaches. The problem is that every governing body thinks their connection style is the best. Don’t get me wrong, an O-ring boss fitting makes more a great seal, but come on, when is the North American fluid power industry going to accept that metric dimensioning is the only way that makes sense? Stubbornness doesn’t make a good bedfellow with progress.
4. An International Fluid Power Association. Nearly every country or continent has their own fluid power association, but see number 5 above as proof of how much it advances the industry as a whole. The sobering fact is electric actuation is taking over all facets of machinery, from automobiles to machinery. To remain competitive, the world of fluid power needs an aggregated effort to approach the future of our industry with a plan rather than a wish (or a Top 5 list).
There is some good news, however. As a chairperson at the Canadian Fluid Power Association, I am speaking at the World Fluid Power Summit at the International Fluid Power Exposition this March in Las Vegas. Although we are focusing our discussions on economics of the fluid power industry, perhaps we can whisper about a united front, to push for a future existing with fluid power.
3. Government regulation. Ugh, I can’t believe I just said that, but it’s the unfortunate truth. You can’t break wind in a plant’s electrical room without a permit, yet any monkey with a wrench (pun intended) can work on a fluid power system. How did the fluid power industry fly so low under the radar, when clearly so much is at stake as it pertains to safety and the environment?
Before you send hate mail, consider this. The EPA and other organizations mandate safe levels of pollutants a vehicle can emit, and set a corporate minimum fuel economy for automotive manufacturers. This has forced manufacturers to advance their products exponentially to the point a family car can run circles around a 1969 muscle car, all while emitting tailpipe air cleaner than it sucked in and achieving 30 mpg to boot.
If we had regulators telling our industry we had minimum efficiency levels to achieve, for example, we’d be forced to look for new technologies to achieve those targets. Gear pumps would fall from production, and piston pumps would become economically viable for everyday systems, because they’d be the only option (currently). New technologies would be developed to ensure fluid power is around to see the 22nd Century.
2. A better hydraulic fluid. Seriously, how much research goes into hydraulic fluid that doesn’t involve either viscosity or biodegradability? Why isn’t there a fluid yet that has lower mass with ultra-low viscosity yet excellent lubricity … and, you can put it in your coffee? We need a liquid that pumps with little or no resistance, yet still acts like hydraulic fluid should. Perhaps if number 3 was a reality, we’d already have this.
1. A Disney movie about a fluid power robot. Let’s face it, the tech world rules us, and every kid grows up wanting to be a video game designer or a princess. We need something to get the children excited about fluid power. I can count all the twenty-somethings I know in the fluid power industry on my tail.
If there was a pop-culture icon using fluid power, perhaps the younger generation could dream about one day being a part of we do and love. The fluid power industry is special, and we all know it. But are we doing a good job of reaching out the young ones? I say nay. Some of us are trying, however. Both the NFPA and CFPA hold fluid power challenges, aimed at educating young students with fluid power projects and gathering them to compete.
These programs are successful, but are really just on the ground floor. If you’re reading this and are a decision making in your company, reach out to the NFPA or CFPA (click for links) to see how you can sponsor a school or donate your time to help. Our industry can’t succeed unless we start from the bottom up by inspiring young minds to dream of fluid power robots.