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Hydraulic control manifold is complex assemblies in which many pipes come together and intersect. Traditionally, manufacturers have machined and cross-drilled hydraulic control manifold cross sections. However, due to angular machining constraints, this method does not optimize fluid efficiency in the most efficient manner. Additionally, adjusting flow rates often requires adding plugs inside the flow paths, which poses challenges for maintaining consistent machining accuracy.

3D Science Valley has introduced ZhuoYi’s solution to optimising hydraulic blocks, and now, on the basis of a hydraulic block that was once slimmed down by half the material volume, ZhuoYi has further optimised it to the very end, and this time, slimmed down by half the material volume again…

Before starting the new story, let’s review together how we initially optimized the hydraulic control manifold.

The image below shows a structure where we have machined cross-drilled holes to incorporate terminal plugs into a section of the fluid block, with a 90-degree vertical cross inside the fluid channel and a 90-degree bend in the direction of the fluid.

A VFD analysis showed that some areas would face low flow while others would face turbulence. To further adjust the flow pattern, we need to use internal plugs, but this adds complexity and does not eliminate the need for fluid to pass through sharp bends. From a hydrodynamic perspective, the design of traditionally machined hydraulic integrated blocks had significant potential for improvement, but at that time, we did not have the flexibility offered by 3D printing technology.

Selective laser melting additive manufacturing technology, which melts metal powder layer by layer to manufacture products, enables us to pre-optimize the design of fluid flow paths while reducing unnecessary valve body weight.

Step 1: Extracting Fluid Paths

The first step is to extract the fluid paths, including those cross-drilled designs, which, unlike traditional machining that starts with a solid block of metal, involves removing the portion of the design that traditional machining fluids don’t pass through, but rather holes drilled for machining needs. Leaving the pipes, and functional manifolds, through which the fluid will pass. The right side shows the final extracted design.

Step 2: Optimising the flow shape

Now we begin to reduce and simplify the fluid flow path without the constraints imposed by cross-drilling designs, aiming to reduce turbulence by replacing sharp corners with rounded bends in the design.The image shows a flow path concept that identifies flow separation and stagnation zones.

Step 3: Determine wall thickness and support structure

Once we optimize the fluid path, we need to determine the wall thickness and support structure to calculate and analyze the hydrodynamic pressures using a Finite Element Analysis (FEA) stress model.

Finally, the support structure acts as a scaffold to hold the components together and acts as a build support and anchor during the build process.

This great example not only reduces the weight of the hydraulic valve block by 50 per cent, but also improves the efficiency of fluid flow, avoids the need for further assembly and improves the performance and stability of the valve body.

In the second design iteration, we considered that the valve blocks are used in series, and if any block breaks, they need to be individually disassembled and repaired.Therefore, we ensured that these blocks are easily removable. Another consideration was increasing the stiffness of the part to prevent chattering of the blocks during the finishing process, so we changed the material from aluminum to stainless steel in the second design iteration.

The second iteration achieved a 79% reduction in material volume. The reduction in additive manufacturing time was significant because it depended largely on the amount of material that needed to be melted.The savings came from two sources: improved material efficiency and reduced processing time and costs.

Not only that, but we significantly improved the performance of the hydraulic control manifold, achieving a 60 per cent increase in flow efficiency while ensuring compatibility with existing designs. We also significantly reduced the probability of failure of the hydraulic control manifold by using stronger materials.

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