As trends in medtech have moved toward the miniaturization of new products, lighter-weight and more portable solutions, pneumatics technology has been keeping pace by focusing on application-specific solutions. Reducing power consumption, particularly for battery-operated equipment, has become an important factor, along with the ability to leverage more precise control and innovations in electro-pneumatic control. But in general, the key has been the technology adapting to the challenges created by the next generation of design and industry advances.
The industry has moved toward proportional control and electro-pneumatics for more precise control solutions. With devices such as ventilators or respirators, the operation of units in the past has been on-and-off, pushing a breath in and taking a breath out. Manufacturers are, however, using pneumatics to profile the breath provided to the patient to be more natural and assist in the recovery process. Proportional pneumatic controls are also used in biomedical research.
Another reason the medtech industry uses pneumatics, specifically components, is because of the cleanliness of compressed air, unlike with hydraulic oils. A manifold system or valve block allows for less system contamination. Integrating components through good design improves the appearance of the circuit, but also eliminates potential leak points and eases system assembly.
Control valves are a fundamental component of any pneumatic system. Selecting the right air valves to control system pressure, direction of flow and rate of flow is crucial when designing fluid power circuitry. If the pneumatic valve is too big for your application, you will be wasting air and money. If it’s too small, the actuator will not function properly.
Another trend, considered Pneumatics 2.0, is a platform called IntelliSense, which enables users to be proactive about maintenance and system optimization. A first in pneumatics, the platform combines sensors, cylinders, and software to deliver real-time performance data. It features predictive diagnostics, remote monitoring, machine efficiency and maximizes production.
One manufacturer also offers pneumatics accessories: A flow control to maintain a constant flow in one direction and full flow in the opposite direction; miniature filters designed to remove most contaminant particles from compressed air systems; and a filtered orifice restrictor featuring a stainless steel filter screen that protects the restrictor from most contaminant particles. Orifice restrictors also offer precise flow control and are precision molded of polysulfone. Models are available for inline and 10-32 threaded applications.