When I joined Hydraulics & Pneumatics nearly 30 years ago, I was the kid who would have to learn about electronic controls used with fluid power systems. Like many of those in the fluid power industry, I find physical concepts much easier to grasp than electrical. Back in college, learning that ac circuit analysis involves using square roots of negative numbers made it easy to decide to stick with the physical realm of technology.
Still, you can’t bury your head in the sand, so I took continuing-education courses through the years to learn more about electronic control in small doses. I also served a few years on NFPA’s electronics technical committee, which proved extremely beneficial because so many people in the fluid power industry are willing to help each other.
Aside from a big jump from analog to digital control, electronics in fluid power has gone through evolutionary changes. Technological advancements have made components smaller, faster, and more versatile. However, components with Bluetooth and similar wireless communication have only recently been introduced to the fluid power market. Just last year we reported on a pressure a sensor with Bluetooth capability, and just last month we described a hydraulic pressure-control cartridge valve with Bluetooth for monitoring and controlling the valve. Three or four products within a little less than a year is a modest start, but it makes you wonder if we’re on the verge of an electronic control revolution.
If so, we should see dozens of Bluetooth-capable fluid power products by the end of next year. Then again, some new technology may arise that quickly renders Bluetooth obsolete. Only time will tell.