Industry Coalition Sought to Expand Human Scale Fluid Power Systems Research

additive manufacturing at Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Eric Lanke NFPA CEO


by Eric Lanke

The National Fluid Power Association (NFPA), in partnership with the Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP), is seeking participants in an industry coalition to help drive the growth of human scale fluid power systems research in the United States.

We’re defining “human scale” fluid power systems as those operating at power levels of roughly 10kW or less. There are many current and potential applications of fluid power at this scale, including industrial automation, human assist and therapeutic devices, medical devices and robots, and exoskeletons and military robots. The CCEFP’s current work in advanced pneumatics, miniature hydraulics and compact power supplies has built a base of knowledge and enabling technologies that is ready to expand and create new markets and applications for fluid power technology.

We will be seeking federal grant money to fund these future activities, and believe that credible cases can be made to entities like the Department of Defense to support research and development of these technologies. The high power density of fluid power systems is a natural advantage for the envisioned systems, and growing trends in additive manufacturing will enable monolithic flexible structures that can incorporate actuation and sensing into smaller and smaller packages. Much in the same way that the computer industry grew out of military and government needs before the rise of its consumer applications, we believe a similar opportunity now exists for human scale fluid power systems. In the future, a fluid powered robot or device could be present in every home.

Industry support and involvement is needed to realize these opportunities. To that end, NFPA members and other companies interested in the future commercialization of these technologies are invited to attend a planning meeting that will be held at Vanderbilt University on December 9, 2015. The objective of this meeting will be two-fold: (1) Form focused teams of industry and academics within discrete human scale research areas that can credibly pursue federal funding, and (2) Prioritize the government agencies where funding can best be sought. The meeting will be preceded by a dinner on the evening of December 8, and will be held on December 9 from 8 AM to 3 PM at Vanderbilt’s LASIR (Laboratory for Systems Integrity and Reliability). Industry members not familiar with LASIR and its capabilities are also invited to attend to learn more about it. Additional details on the meeting will be provided upon RSVP to Eric Lanke at


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