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 Tech of the Week

Highly accurate piezo-driven pressure controller produces no EM signature, offers 5X power/heat savings over solenoids in lower-speed applications


Accurate piezo-driven pressure controller produces no EM signature, offers 5X power/heat savings over solenoid.

Parker’s Active Pressure Controller (APC) series is a family of compact, modular controllers based on piezo actuator technology. The controllers maintain the pressure of non-corrosive to mildly corrosive gases using a piezo-actuated valve with an integral, closed-loop pressure control circuit. The APC consumes minimal power (<40 mA at 12 VDC — about 20% of a comparable solenoid in lower-speed applications) while offering exceptional response time (<20 ms). It produces a minimal EM signature, which makes it ideal for use near EM-sensitive equipment, which solenoids cannot do. Life expectancy of an APC is about 2 billion cycles; in addition, the piezo controlling the valve offers “soft actuation” so that the valve being controlled is never opened or closed ballistically. Between the long actuator life and soft actuation, the lifetime and accuracy of the APC is exceptional. The onboard analog control electronics provide outstanding accuracy (+/-0.2% FS typical). Inside the APC is Parker’s RLP (Ruggedized, Laminated Piezo), a PZT disk laminated between two metal layers under heat and pressure. RLP’s unique construction increases deflection 1000-fold from an unmodified 0.2 micron to 200 microns. The APC control scheme enables “set and forget” operation for applications where stand-alone operation is desirable. Simply tune the APC’s onboard pressure set point adjustment to the desired level and walk away. The onboard control loop will maintain pressure at the set-point indefinitely. If preferred, the APC can also be controlled through external control hardware. The APC is custom-engineered to specific application requirements.

Parker builds each APC around the customer’s application requirements, so you need not settle for “off the shelf” ranges. Standard pressure ranges include 0–3.63 psid up to 0–145 psid; flow rates can be controlled in the range of 0–40 slpm of air. Two body styles are also available with 10–32 threaded ports featured on the Upright body and face sealing ports incorporated into the Manifold Mount body. Custom configurations are also possible.

The APC offers many advantages over solenoid-operated pressure regulators.

  • APC produces minimal heat and EM signatures, so it has no impact on sensitive flow measurements or EM-sensitive equipment. Solenoid devices produce both heat and EM.
  • APC power consumption is about 20% that of a comparable solenoid in lower-speed applications (APC draws less than 40 mA at 12 VDC).
  • APC provides rapid response time (< 20ms) to provide a high rate of flow stability.

Substantial development has taken place and the first commercial units are being delivered to several forward-thinking companies. A production line exists with the capacity to manufacture up to 750,000 RLP units per year. RLP (Ruggedized, Laminated Piezo) units operate the active pressure controller.

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