Hybrid MEMS Proportional Valve Prototype Operational

The fluid power research projects coming out of the Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP) have continued to progress, and all ten of the newly funded projects were presented at the CCEFP Industry-University Summit in April 2017. The Hybrid MEMS Proportional Valve project was presented by Nathan Hagstrom, a graduate research assistant at the University of Minnesota. The project has produced an operational first prototype.

Project Premise: MEMS scale piezoelectric materials to create ultra-efficient miniature proportional pneumatic valves have been studied by CCEFP researchers for a number of years now, but the manufacturing challenges to overcome have proven to be quite daunting. The purpose of this project has been to accelerate the commercialization potential of this innovative approach by leveraging both MEMS-based and conventional elements in a novel “hybrid” configuration. By doing so, the resulting valve stands to not only decrease the power required to drive comparable pneumatic valves by three orders of magnitude, but also create the fastest responding pneumatic valves known.

Recent Progress and Next Steps: The first prototype has been operational with proportional, although non-linear, flow control. It has also shown high operating flow rates and pressures, which are expected to further improve. Next steps to further refine the project include:

  • Measuring dynamic performance attributes.
  • Quantifying contamination resistance.
  • Demonstrating the pneumatic alpha prototype on the Ankle-Foot Orthosis.
  • Creating the hydraulic pilot valve.
  • Developing position feedback capability.

 See the presentation slides from the summit below:

Watch for project updates as the project progresses.

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