Okay, so IFPE 2011 and associated events are now recent history. Did they live up to all the hype? I’d say so. Exhibitors introduced many new products. Some were evolutionary steps forward, some advanced the state of the art substantially, and others may never come to fruition.
Smart hose, smart cylinders, filter media with lower pressure drop, and more energy-efficient components lead the pack from the commercial front. But dozens of innovations were described by representatives affiliated with the Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP). Some of the results of CCEFP projects sound like can’t-miss technology to advance the capabilities of fluid power technology. Others have produced interesting results, but leave me wondering how they can find practical application in the real world. But what’s more important than deciding which will fly and which will wither away is that so much is happening.
| Alan Hitchcox |
Most modern developments in fluid power technology in America have come from industry, driven by competition. Any cooperative projects between industry and academia have been isolated efforts — driven by individual vision. In Europe and Asia, however, cooperative fluid power R&D between industry and academia has been (and still is) alive and well. But now we have the CCEFP, which brings together experts from industry with some of the top minds of academia. It was great to hear of so many projects and of such diversity being conducted at universities around the country.
The CCEFP is funded, in large part, by the National Science Foundation — $4 million per year comes from NSF, universities match up to $800,000, and about $700,000 comes from industry membership fees. Associated projects receive $1.6 million from the government and just about $800,000 from industry, says CCEFP Director Kim Stelson. NSF funding will begin to be phased out in three years and completely gone in five. Without more industry support, Americans may end up on the sidelines again by losing a driving force for fluid power advancements. And our recovering economy makes it an ideal time for industry to commit to filling the void that will be left when NSF funding runs out.
After all, CCEFP is beneficial for all of fluid power technology, no matter what country you call home.