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CHAPTER 14: Sequence Valves and Reducing Valves

Apr 8, 2007Bud Trinkel | Hydraulics & Pneumatics

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CHAPTER 14: Sequence Valves and Reducing Valves

Counterbalance valves

Air line regulators

Pressure-reducing and reducing//relieving valves

QUIZ on Chapter 14
Table of Contents
Answers to Quiz 14

Pressure controls (other than relief and unloading valves)

There are some parts of fluid power circuits that need pressure control. (Chapter 9 covered relief and unloading valves that control pressure in pump circuits.) Other types of
pressure controls include sequence valves, counterbalance valves, and reducing valves. Though the internal works (and the symbols) are similar, these three pressure controls
perform entirely different functions. Sequence valves and counterbalance valves are normally closed -- like relief valves and unloading valves -- but they usually allow bidirectional flow, so they need a bypass check valve in their bodies. Sequence valves always have an external drain connected directly to tank. Counterbalance valves are internally
drained, except when used in some regeneration circuits.
RELATED

Quiz on Chapter 14: Sequence Valves and Reducing Valves


CHAPTER 13: Flow Controls and Flow Dividers
CHAPTER 15: Fluid Power Actuators, part 1

Reducing valves are normally open and respond to outlet pressure to keep outlet flow from going above their set pressure. They also can have a bypass check valve. Reducing
valves always have an external drain connected directly to tank. Any backpressure in this drain line adds to the valves spring setting.

Relief valves, unloading valves, sequence valves, counterbalance valves, and reducing valves are the most difficult to discern on a schematic drawing because their symbols are so
similar. Take extra care when diagnosing a problem to make sure these valves are correctly identified and their function understood.

Sequence valves

There are times when two or more actuators, operating in a parallel circuit, must move in sequence. The only positive way to do this is with separate directional control valves
and limit switches or limit valves. This setup assures the first actuator has reached a specific location before the next operation commences. If there is no safety concern or
possibility of product damage if the first actuator does not complete its cycle before the second starts, a sequence valve can be a simple way to control the actuators actions.

The symbols and cutaways in Figure 14-1 are for hydraulic and pneumatic sequence valves. The main difference between these valves is that most hydraulic sequence valves are
single purpose and must be used in series with a directional control valve, while many air sequence valves are pilot-operated directional control valves with an adjustable spring

return. In either case, a preset pressure must be reached before the valves allow fluid to pass or change flow paths. Many manufacturers offer a direct-acting internally piloted
hydraulic sequence valve like the design shown in Figure 14-1. This valve can be changed to external pilot in the field if required.

Figure 14-1. Hydraulic and pneumatic sequence valves

Several manufacturers offer pilot-operated sequence valves also. Pilot-operated sequence valves stay closed to within 50 psi or less of their set pressure. Direct-acting sequence valves may
partially open at pressures that are 100 to150 psi below set pressure -- and thus allow premature actuator creep.

A balanced spool -- held in place by an adjustable-force spring -- blocks fluid at the hydraulic sequence valves inlet. When pressure at the inlet reaches the spring setting,
pressure in the internal pilot line pushes the spool up to allow enough flow to the outlet to keep pressure from going higher. Pressure at the inlet never drops below set pressure
when there is flow to the outlet. When outlet pressure exceeds set pressure, the valve opens fully and pressure at both ports equalizes. Notice that the drain port hooked to tank
must be at no pressure or constant pressure because any pressure in this line adds to spring setting. (Remember that a sequence valve must always have an external drain.)

A bypass check valve allows reverse flow when the valve is used in a line with bi-directional flow. In some applications a sequence valve may be externally piloted from another
operation. Most valves can be converted in the field. (The designer should always change the part number to reflect the conversion.)

Pneumatic sequence valves typically are 5-way directional control valves with adjustable springs to set their shifting pressure. They are used to start a second operation after the
preceding one finishes. Some older machines have one solenoid valve to start the cycle and several sequence valves to extend and retract all other actuators. Some precautions:
A sequence valve shifts on a pressure build-up and may start a second operation prematurely if an actuator stalls or is stopped for any reason. If personnel safety or product
damage can occur due to an incomplete stroke, dont use sequence valves. Instead, use limit switches or limit valves and directional control valves for each operation sequence.
When flow controls are required they must be meter-in types. Take the signal to the sequence valve from the line downstream from the flow control because pressure at this
point will be whatever is required to move the actuator and its load.

The circuit in Figure 14-2 is typical for air-powered machines. Cyl. 1 extends to clamp a part when an electrical input signal shifts the solenoid pilot-operated valve. As Cyl.
1extends, pressure beyond the meter-in flow control at its cap end becomes as high as necessary to move the cylinder and its load. With the sequence valve set to shift at 70
psi,Cyl. 2 should not move until Cyl. 1 has extended and securely clamped the part. If the clamp does not make a full stroke for any reason, the Cyl. 2 extending prematurely will
not damage the part or be unsafe. When the clamp is at 70 psi or higher, the sequence valve shifts to extend Cyl. 2. Both cylinders can return simultaneously without causing any
problems.

Figure 14-2. Typical pneumatic sequence valve circuit

One great feature of a sequence-operated circuit is it does not matter how far the first cylinder must move before the next operation takes place. Thick or thin parts are clamped at the same force
before the next operation starts because pressure must build to the same level to trigger the next sequence.

Cyl. 2 has meter-out flow controls to retard its movement and hold pressure on Cyl. 1 during the stamping operation. De-energizing the solenoid pilot-operated valve allows both
cylinders to return home at the same time.

The hydraulic sequence circuit in Figure 14-3 is typical for a machine that must clamp and hold pressure while a second operation takes place. Sequence valve 1 is set at 550
psi; pressure at clamp Cyl. 1 must be at least 550 psi before punch Cyl. 2 can extend. While punch Cyl. 2 is extending, pressure in the circuit never drops below 550 psi. If the
punching operation requires more than 550 psi, the pressure in the whole circuit increases -- up to the relief valve setting.

Figure 14-3. Typical hydraulic sequence valve circuit

Sequence valve 2 (set at 450 psi) keeps Cyl. 1 from getting a retract signal untilCyl. 2 has returned and pressure increases. A pilot-operated check valve maintains clamp force while the punch
cylinder retracts. The signal to open the pilot-operated check valve comes from the line between Sequence Valve 2and Cyl. 1, so there is no signal until Cyl. 2 fully retracts. (This circuit is not
safe if pressure buildup comes from some source other than clamp contact or the end of stroke so that the punch cylinder operates prematurely.)

Sequence valves often generate a great deal of heat because the first actuator to move takes higher pressure than the subsequent actuators. This means there is usually a high
pressure drop across a sequence valve that results in wasted energy. In some circuits, a kick-down sequence valve can reduce the energy loss. The cutaway view and symbol
inFigure 14-4 show the inner workings of a kick-down sequence valve to explain how it controls opening pressure and then unloads it.

Figure 14-4. Kick-down sequence valve

Fluid from the inlet flows through the control orifice and up to the adjustable poppet where it is blocked. The resulting pressure tries to open the poppet while equal pressure and a light spring
acting on the opposite side hold it shut. When pressure increases enough to unseat the adjustable poppet and more flow starts passing the poppet than going through the control orifice, the
pressure imbalance lets the poppet raise. When the poppet moves enough to let trapped fluid go through the bypass orifice, pressure on top of the poppet drops off -- because the bypass orifice
is larger than the control orifice. At this point, the only force acting to hold the poppet shut is spring force and backpressure at the outlet port. When flow stops, the poppet closes again due to
pressure equalization and spring force on the poppet.

The circuit in Figure 14-5 is the same as in 14-3 except it incorporates kick-down sequence valves in place of standard sequence valves. Cyl. 2 will not extend in this circuit until
pressure on Cyl. 1 has reached 750 psi. The difference is when a kick-down sequence valve opens at its pressure setting, it allows fluid to pass at 50 psi plus whatever it takes to
overcome downstream resistance. This means the whole circuit from the pump to all actuators is 50 psi plus Cyl. 2s resistance. The pilot-operated check valve at Cyl. 1s cap-end
port keeps it pressurized at near full force, while Cyl. 2 extends at low force. Energy waste is very low so heat buildup is minimal. (Other sequence valve circuits can be found in
the e-book Fluid Power Circuits Explained by the author of this manual, which will be launched in the next few months.)

CHAPTER 14: Sequence Valves and Reducing Valves


Apr 8, 2007Bud Trinkel | Hydraulics & Pneumatics

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INSHARE
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What is in this article?:

CHAPTER 14: Sequence Valves and Reducing Valves

Counterbalance valves

Air line regulators

Pressure-reducing and reducing//relieving valves

QUIZ on Chapter 14
Table of Contents
Answers to Quiz 14

Counterbalance valves

The fourth and last normally closed pressure control valve found in hydraulic circuits is the counterbalance valve. Cylinders with external forces -- such as weight from a platen,
machine members, or tooling -- acting against them will overrun when cycled if oil flowing out of them is not restricted. A meter-out flow control circuit is one way to control

overrunning loads but it has one main drawback. A flow controls speed is fixed except for manual adjustment or when using an infinitely variable proportional type. Because
flow is fixed, the actuator will continue at the same speed even when working flow to it increases or decreases. Thus, control is minimal and there could be high energy waste.
(Figure 13-8 shows a meter-out flow control circuit for running away loads.)

Figure 14-5. Hydraulic circuit with kick-down sequence valves

A counterbalance valve keeps an actuator from running away regardless of flow changes because it responds to pressure signals, not flow. A counterbalance valve is almost the same as a
sequence valve except it normally does not have an external drain connection. The cutaways and symbols in Figure 14-6 depict the physical makeup of three different counterbalance valves
and how they are represented on a schematic drawing.

The two cutaways and symbols on the left are spool designs with internal and external pilots. The valve on the right is a poppet design that is both Internally and externally
piloted. Each valve type has advantages in different circuit arrangements that will be discussed later. A counterbalance valve usually has a bypass check valve for reverse flow
because its most common use is in controlling actuators with running away or overrunning loads.

Figure 14-6. Three types of counterbalance valves

An internal pilot-operated counterbalance valve shifts to allow excess fluid to flow to the outlet when pressure at the inlet increases to the pressure set by the pressure adjustment. Pressure at
the inlet never drops below set pressure when there is flow at the outlet. Flow from the inlet to the outlet is just enough so that backpressure on the actuator never drops below set pressure. This
means the actuator moves only as fast as it is supplied and stops when Inlet flow ceases.

Pressure adjustment on the Internal-piloted counterbalance valve is usually made by first screwing the pressure adjustment all the way in. To assure that the valve is capable of
high enough pressure, start the pump and raise the load a small amount. Then center the directional valve -- which connects the cylinder rod-end port to tank -- to see if it holds.
If the load holds, next raise the load in increments -- checking for load stop every few inches. With the load suspended, start reducing set pressure on the counterbalance valve

slowly until the load creeps forward. When the load starts drifting down slowly, increase pressure until movement stops, then turn the pressure adjustment another quarter to
half turn higher. This method of adjusting usually wastes less energy while it always stops and holds the load.

The main disadvantage of an internal pilot-operated counterbalance valve is that backpressure is constant and it holds back even when the actuator needs maximum force.
Another disadvantage is that to maintain optimum performance, an Internal-piloted counterbalance valve must be readjusted every time the load changes. The valves main
advantage is that it produces smooth cylinder action while advancing to the work.

An external pilot-operated counterbalance valve shifts to allow excess fluid flow to the outlet when pressure at the opposite cylinder port reaches the pressure set by the pressure
adjustment. Pressure at the inlet never drops below load-induced pressure plus pressure set on the pressure adjustment when there is flow at the outlet. Flow from inlet to outlet
is just enough that the actuator moves only as fast as it is supplied and stops when flow to the actuator ceases.

Pressure adjustment on the external pilot-operated counterbalance valve can be made on a test stand by setting the pressure adjustment at 100 to 200 psi. If pressure must be
set on the machine, set the pressure adjustment higher than 200 psi and lift the load a small distance to make sure it stops and holds. If it holds, continue to raise the load high
enough to have some time for the next step. Now, power the load down and observe pump pressure. Pump pressure while lowering the load should not exceed 200 psi. Continue
this action until pump pressure is between 100 and 200 psi while the load is lowering. This method of adjusting usually wastes less energy while always stopping and holding the
load.

The main disadvantage to an external pilot-operated counterbalance valve is that it may cause lunging or even stop cylinder action while advancing to the work. The main
advantage is that backpressure is only present when the actuator is advancing to the work. At work contact, pressure at the actuator inlet increases and forces the counterbalance
valve wide open, thus eliminating all backpressure. Another advantage is that an external pilot-operated counterbalance valve does not need to be readjusted when the load
changes.

Internal and external pilot-operated counterbalance valves shift when pressure at the internal pilot area reaches the pressure set on the pressure adjustment and allows excess
flow to go to the outlet. Pressure at the Inlet never drops below set pressure when there is flow at the outlet. Flow from the inlet to the outlet is just enough that backpressure on
the actuator never drops below set pressure. This means the actuator moves only as fast as it is supplied and stops when Inlet flow ceases.

Pressure adjustment on an internal and external pilot-operated counterbalance valve is usually made by first screwing the pressure adjustment all the way in. To assure that the
valve is capable of high enough pressure, start the pump and raise the load a small amount. Then center the directional valve that has the cylinder rod-end port connected to
tank -- to see if it holds. If the load holds, then raise the load in increments -- checking for load stop every few inches. With the load suspended, start reducing set pressure slowly
until the load creeps forward. When the load starts drifting down slowly, increase pressure until movement stops, then turn the pressure adjustment another quarter to half turn
higher. This method of adjusting usually wastes less energy while always stopping and holding the load.

An internal and external pilot-operated counterbalance valve lowers loads smoothly and opens fully when pressure at the actuator inlet increases upon contact with the work.
The valve does need to be readjusted when loads change, but this is a small price to pay for good control.

Figure 14-7 depicts a vertically oriented cylinder with rod facing down and a load trying to extend it. To keep the cylinder from running away, the counterbalance valve must
resist the load-induced pressure from the weight. The load-induced pressure can be calculated and the counterbalance valve could be preset at 100 to 150 psi higher on a test
stand, but pressure adjustment is usually done at the machine (as mentioned earlier).

Figure 14-7. Internally pilot-operated counterbalance valve circuit

Notice that the directional control valve has ports A and B connected to tank in the center condition. There is no chance of extra pressure buildup in the pilot line while the circuit is at rest. If
ports A or B were blocked, pressure could build and pilot the counterbalance valve open, allowing the cylinder to drift.

Energizing solenoid A1 sends pump flow to the cylinder cap end. As pressure builds there, pressure also increases in the rod end. When pressure at the cylinder rod end reaches
100 to 150 psi above the load-induced pressure, the cylinder starts to extend as fast as the pump fills the cap end. When flow increases, cylinder speed increases and when flow
decreases, cylinder speed decreases.

As stated in the counterbalance valve explanation, backpressure at the cylinder rod end is present during the entire extend stroke. As a result, at work contact cylinder force is
reduced by counterbalance pressure times the cylinders rod-end area. The total weight of the platen and tooling on a press plus the amount of added pressure at the
counterbalance valve cannot be used to do work. Energy is expended to raise the weight but it is not recouped during the work cycle. Energizing solenoid B1 sends fluid around
the counterbalance valve through the bypass check valve and on to the cylinder rod end to retract it.

Figure 14-8. Externally pilot-operated counterbalance valve circuit

The circuit in Figure 14-8 shows the same cylinder with an external pilot-operated counterbalance valve. An externally piloted valve can be set at approximately 100 to 200 psi regardless of
load-induced pressure in the cylinder. This is especially convenient in applications where loads constantly change. It is also the best use of energy because the counterbalance valve opens fully
when the cylinder meets resistance so the weight is able to do some work. Because backpressure on the cylinder rod end is zero, more force is available.

Energizing solenoid A1 sends fluid to the cylinders cap end to start it extending. As pressure builds in the cylinder cap end, it pressurizes the external pilot and opens the
counterbalance valve The valve only opens enough to let fluid out when the cap end is at pilot pressure. If pilot pressure is set too low, the counterbalance valve may quickly open

too far -- allowing the cylinder to run away and pilot pressure to drop. At this point, the counterbalance valve shuts abruptly and the cylinder stops. Almost immediately,
pressure again builds at the cylinder cap end, the counterbalance valve reopens, and the same scenario repeats until the cylinder meets resistance. A meter-in flow control in the
external pilot line can help, but is very difficult to set. Energizing solenoid B1 sends fluid around the counterbalance valve through the bypass check valve and on to the cylinder
rod end to retract it.

The internal and external pilot-operated counterbalance valve in Figure 14-9incorporates the best features of both valves. The internal pilot provides a smooth advance stroke
at low force, while the external pilot opens the valve fully to eliminate backpressure from the cylinder rod end when it contacts the workpiece. (Like the internally piloted valve.
this version must be reset at each load change to maintain its efficiency and keep energy losses low.)

Figure 14-9. Internally and externally pilot-operated counterbalance valve circuit

The symbols in these example circuits show a direct-acting pressure control valve. Several suppliers offer a pilot-operated version that is more stable and has less pressure differential between
cracking and full flow operation.

The circuits shown here work equally well with hydraulic motors, except that a counterbalance valve will not stop and hold a running away load on a motor without creep. All
hydraulic motors have internal leakage that increases as the motor wears. The counterbalance valve may not have any bypass but fluid will slip by the motor parts no matter
what its design.

There are no counterbalance valves for air circuits. Air circuits depend on meter-out flow controls to keep an actuator from running away. Usually an air circuit uses a 2-position
valve that keeps pressure on the retract side at rest so it stays in place at end of stroke. When a load must be stopped in mid-stroke, a 3-position valve with cylinder ports blocked
in center is the common method of trying to do this. There also is available a pilot-operated check valve for air service that gives some control for stopping and holding a
pneumatic cylinder in mid-stroke.