How Do Pneumatic Positioners Work?

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  • Pneumatics is the use of air or gas pressure to operate mechanical equipment. A pneumatic valve positioner is used in combination with actuators, or pieces of equipment that uses a source of energy to create movement, and valves, which regulate the flow of the gas to create pressure. Any piece of machinery that uses an actuator and valves to control motion needs a positioner to help maintain the direction of the valve opening. There are a variety of reasons to use a valve positioner, including increasing the speed of changes in a process, minimizing friction and increasing venting.

  • Engines and motors use actuators to help start motion within the electrical system. Valves control the flow of air used to start the actuators. Pneumatic valve positioners help the valve openings get to the correct position to direct the air. The positioner is responsible for increasing or decreasing the air pressure to the actuator. A controller directs the focus of the valve and the valve positioner works accordingly.

  • Pneumatic positioners are usually located on the side or top of the actuator and are commonly installed directly on the pillars of the actuator. A feedback arm connects the positioner to the spindles of the actuator. The positioner connects mechanically to the valve stem and is moved in relation to signals received by the controller. Control knobs located on the positioner control the signal that directs the focus of the air, as well as the air supply. Each pneumatic positioner has a minimum and maximum air pressure allotment for efficient performance. If the air pressure exceeds these standards of operation, the positioner will not function properly.

  • During operation, a pneumatic positioner recognizes the signal given from the controller and outputs air pressure as directed. This air pressure toggles the actuator, ensuring that the pressure from the controller and the valve opening align. The positioner can also increase the speed of a valve's response by using an extremely highly pressurized stream of air. Supplying high pressure for the valve and actuator causes the positioner to act a an amplifier for the force provided by the mechanism.

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