How To Maintain A Pneumatic Cylinder

Post By: Ryan King On: 06-06-2024 Read Time: 5 minutes - Guides - Pneumatics

Pneumatic cylinders are usually very reliable, but over time they’ll inevitably suffer from wear. Proper maintenance is essential to prevent a decline in performance and eventual failure. Establishing a regular schedule for inspection and repair can help prevent problems from becoming serious and extend your cylinder’s lifespan. Here we’ll look at some of the symptoms of a malfunctioning or damaged cylinder, investigate the possible causes of failure, and what actions you can take to repair or replace it. 

Why Is Maintaining Pneumatic Cylinders So Important?

The key to ensuring the reliability and longevity of your pneumatic cylinder is always to keep it in good condition. Regular maintenance will help you detect and fix problems before they become serious and lead to failure and costly downtime. There are several basic maintenance tasks that you should perform regularly, including cleaning the cylinder, inspecting the seals and checking lubrication. You should also identify and replace worn or damaged components, including fittings.

Cleaning Your Actuator

Dust, dirt or moisture will slow down performance and cause damage if they get into the actuator. It’s important to clean the pneumatic cylinder’s surface regularly with a soft soaked cloth, using a compressed air nozzle to remove any particulates that might get inside it. Use an appropriate pneumatic cylinder degreaser or cleaning solvent, applying a small amount on a clean cloth or rag. Wipe the surface thoroughly, plus the entire span of the piston rod, to remove any contaminants, dirt or old lubricant. 

Lubrication

Although many modern pneumatic cylinders are designed to be self-lubricating, using lubricant can help extend their lifespan. It helps to prevent premature wear by reducing the friction between moving components in the actuator. Most pneumatic actuators have built-in, adjustable lubrication in an FRL unit, but you should check the original equipment manufacturer's (OEM’s) specs to see whether lubrication is recommended. 

If you’re replacing seals and refurbishing a pneumatic cylinder, use a solid lubricant. Always use the one recommended by the OEM for the moving parts of the actuator, such as bearing grease. Prolonged cylinder use may eventually wash solid grease away, so always check there’s enough oil in the lubricator tank. Some conditions of use may demand more frequent lubrication, such as extreme environmental conditions. Exposure to chemicals or high heat will damage the equipment more quickly without sufficient lubrication. 

Pneumatic Cyliner

The main pneumatic cylinder components that require regular lubrication are:

  • Tube inner surface

  • Tube gaskets

  • Piston outer surface

  • Piston rod surface

  • Piston seal outer and inner surfaces 

  • Piston seal groove

  • Rod seal

Inspection

Pneumatic actuators are fitted with seals to prevent air loss and are extremely important for the system to operate effectively. You should inspect the condition of its seals regularly, to detect any cracks or possible leaks as early as possible. If you find a leak, replace the seal or gasket as soon as possible. Also check the cylinder rod, tube and rod seal for any signs of rust or damage, as these are the most susceptible.

Replacing Pneumatic Cylinder Components 

Even if you maintain your pneumatic cylinder regularly, parts do sometimes fail. Replacing worn components will prevent breakdown. These include accessories like lugs, compensating connectors, ball joints and forks. Make sure that all replacement parts conform to the specifications of the OEM. It helps to make a list of all the areas and components that require special attention and what signs to watch out for that your cylinder may need replacing.

Several OEMs offer kits for repairing pneumatic cylinders. It’s a good idea to keep one or two in stock so you can quickly make running repairs. If your inspection reveals extensive damage to the cylinder, it may be easier to replace the whole unit rather than trying to repair it. If you carry out effective repairs but find that the same issues keep reoccurring, check that you have the correct pneumatic cylinder for your chosen application.

Training

The proper maintenance of pneumatic cylinders requires appropriate skills and knowledge, as not all of them need the same type of servicing. That’s why you’ll often see special training courses for service technicians and pneumatic system operators, like those offered by Festo, our specialist partner. Investing in appropriate training will help you maintain your systems at optimal operational quality. Alternatively, you can get help from our professional service team, who possess the relevant experience and, if necessary, specialised tools to carry out effective repairs or replacements.

Planning

Planning a maintenance schedule will include establishing regular inspections and servicing. Your maintenance plan should encompass the time and frequency of inspections, lubrication and component replacement. You can do this effectively with computerised maintenance management systems (CMMS), that help schedule inspections, monitor performance and programme maintenance intervals. 

Optimising Your Pneumatic Cylinder’s Performance

Pneumatic technology is playing an increasingly important role in many of today’s industries. Pneumatic cylinders are one of the most vital elements of this technology. The key to their longevity and efficiency lies in proper upkeep and maintenance. Regular cleaning, an inspection of seals, lubrication and replacement of worn components are the best routes to maintaining your cylinder’s peak operating condition. This reduces the risk of failure and optimises its overall performance. Pneumatic cylinders can also be customised; in some cases, a custom-built cylinder could offer you an even better performance. 

Effective maintenance of pneumatic cylinders not only helps to prolong their service life but also contributes to the increased efficiency of any equipment or machinery in which they’re used. If you neglect to carry out simple and regular maintenance of your pneumatic cylinder, you might find yourself looking at costly downtime and a significantly shorter equipment lifespan. It’s worth investing time in planning a regular maintenance schedule. This will ensure that your cylinder and its associated machinery and equipment continue to operate optimally and without interruption.