Hydraulics are useful for countless applications, allowing for force to be transferred between points through the use of an incompressible fluid. Hydraulic equipment will often feature a number of components and pieces that enable their operations, each serving a distinct role that allows for fluid force to be managed and taken advantage of. Accumulators are common hydraulic devices, typically being used by hydraulic systems for the means of storing energy and smoothing out pulsations. Allowing for a system to meet extreme demands while permitting the use of a weaker pump, hydraulic accumulators are quite useful for many fluid energy applications.
In their most basic form, hydraulic accumulators are a type of pressure storage reservoir that holds incompressible hydraulic fluids under pressure. The pressure is provided by an external source of mechanical energy, that of which sources from an engine, raised weight, compressed gas, or spring. Depending on one’s needs for a particular system or application, there are a number of accumulator types that one may take advantage of. As each differs in its construction and capabilities, it can be useful to have a general understanding of all so that you may find the best fit.
In the early history of hydraulic accumulators, raised water towers served as the initial type. By pumping water to the top of towers with steam pumps, pressure could be utilized as machinery took advantage of the hydrostatic head of the water’s height. While simple in functionality, water towers needed to be very tall to create the water height necessary for ample hydraulic power. As a result, water towers were expensive and became obsolete as more advanced options came about.
With a raised weight accumulator, a vertical cylinder containing fluid is attached to a hydraulic line to provide power. For the generation of pressure, the cylinder is closed by a piston which contains weights for the means of creating a downward force that pressurizes fluids. With this assembly, nearly constant pressure is achieved no matter the amount of fluid that is left within the cylinder. These accumulators have been used for many applications, often allowing for the operation of lock gates, cranes, bridges, and more.
The air-filled accumulator is quite simplistic, featuring an enclosed volume that is filled with air. Although they are not as strong as other types due to their low capacity, they can absorb pressure fluctuations as a buffer for the means of smoothing out piston pump delivery.
Compressed Gas Closed Accumulator
Compressed gas closed accumulators come in the form of a cylinder that has two chambers separated by a diaphragm alongside a floating piston or enclosed bladder. While one chamber is filled with fluid and is attached to the hydraulic line, the other is filled with an inert gas under pressure for the means of achieving compressive force. As the compressed gas changes in volume, the pressure on the fluid is adjusted as well.
The spring type is somewhat similar to the gas-charged accumulator, albeit using a heavy spring or series of springs to achieve compressive force. As springs provide a magnitude of force that is linearly proportional to changes in their length, the compression of the spring will increase the force it exerts on a fluid.
Metal Bellows Type
Metal bellows accumulators are also similar to compressed gas accumulators, though they feature hermetically sealed welded metal bellows instead of an elastic diaphragm and floating piston. Metal bellows accumulators are advantageous in various ways, featuring an exceptionally low spring rate, efficient usage of casing volume, resistance to significant over-pressure, and more. Despite their advantages, metal bellows accumulators are often much more expensive than other options.
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