Working Principle of Motion-balance pneumatic positioners

By | January 24, 2016

Motion-balance pneumatic valve positioner designs also exist, whereby the motion of the valve stem counteracts motion (not force) from another element. The following illustration shows how a simple motion-balance positioner would work:


In this mechanism, an increasing signal pressure causes the beam to advance toward the nozzle, generating increased nozzle backpressure which then causes the pneumatic amplifying relay to send more air pressure to the valve actuator. As the valve stem lifts up, the upward motion imparted to the right-hand end of the beam counters the beam’s previous advance toward the nozzle. When equilibrium is reached, the beam will be in an angled position with the bellows’ motion balanced by valve stem motion.

The following photograph shows a close view of a Fisher model 3582 pneumatic motion-balance positioner’s mechanism: 


At the heart of this mechanism is a D-shaped metal ring translating bellows motion and valve stem motion into flapper (baffle) motion. As the bellows (located underneath the upper-right corner of the D-ring) expands with increasing pneumatic signal pressure, it rocks the beam along its vertical axis. With the positioner set for direct-acting operation, this rocking motion drives the flapper closer to the nozzle, increasing backpressure and sending more compressed air to the valve actuator:


As the valve stem moves, a feedback lever rotates a cam underneath the bottom-most portion of the D-ring. A roller-tipped “follower” riding on that cam translates the valve stem’s motion to another rocking motion on the beam, this time along the horizontal axis. Depending on how the  cam has been fixed to the feedback shaft, this motion may rock the flapper farther away from the nozzle or closer toward the nozzle. This selection of cam orientation must match the action of the actuator: either direct (air to extend the stem) or reverse (air to retract the stem).

The D-ring mechanism is rather ingenious, as it allows convenient adjustment of span by angling the flapper (baffle) assembly at different points along the ring’s circumference. If the flapper assembly is set close to horizontal, it will be maximally sensitive to bellows motion and minimally sensitive to valve stem motion, forcing the valve to move farther to balance small motions of the bellows (long stroke length). Conversely, if the flapper assembly is set close to vertical, it will be maximally sensitive to valve stem motion and minimally sensitive to bellows motion, resulting in little valve stroke (i.e. the bellows needs to expand greatly in order to balance a small amount of stem motion).

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