Custom Manifolds

Custom manifolds are primarily used in hydraulic and pneumatic fluid power systems to control the flow of pressurized oil or air through circuits that power machinery. They are used in both industrial and mobile applications. Like a switchboard in an electrical circuit, manifolds are considered the hub of any fluid power system. Integration and control are two reasons manifolds are often used in fluid power systems. Thre estyles of functional components are available for integrated manifolds:

  • Cartridges that thread into the manifold
  • Cartridges that slip into the steel or aluminum manifold
  • Functional modules that stack on top of the manifold under thedirectional control valves

There are many different types of functional valve cartridges available in stackable modules including proportional flow and pressure control valves, pressure reducing & relief valves, pilot-operated check valves, flow control pressure and non-pressure compensated valves, unloading, sequence & counter balance valves, and various solenoid-operated poppet and spool type valves.

Benefits of using integrated manifolds include:

  • Reducedlabor costs to mount and pipe valves. Fewer piping connections reduce thepotential for leakage.
  • Efficiencyis increased because the reduction in piping decreases pressure drops and heatgeneration in the system.
  • Serviceabilityis improved because cartridges can be removed and replaced quickly withoutdisturbing external piping.
  • Manifolds can be used for mounting or to splita primary source of fluid off into secondary circuits.

Disadvantages
Cost—In the case of a custom manifold that uses threaded or insert cartridges, the volume must be high enough to offset developmental costs. Manifolds that use stacking modules are much simpler in design. The cost of the base manifold is low and offset by the slightly higher cost of the stackable modules. 

Troubleshooting —Manifolds are sometimes viewed as a “black box” making troubleshooting a concern. However, if a system is properly designed and test points provided in key locations, finding the problem becomes much quicker and simpler.

Nonrepairable cartridges—Many cartridges are assembled in a way that makes them nonrepairable and difficult to service. The only option available may be a new replacement cartridge. 

Nonstandard cartridges—Valve cartridges are generally interchangeable, increasing availability. However, if a user selects a brand of cartridge that is not generally interchangeable with other models, then a cartridge failure can be a problem.

With the increasing need for smaller, more versatile units, a custom block may be just what you need for your application. You can save labor and material costs by integrating entire circuits into a custom block. However, this relies heavily on the circuit integrity, design expertise and manufacturing quality that has been built into each manifold. The quality and performance of any fluid power system is only as good as the level of expertise that has produced it.  For more information,