Hydraulic Single Acting Piston Cylinders

The single-acting piston-type cylinder is similar in design and operation to the single-acting ram-type cylinder. The single-acting piston-type cylinder uses fluid pressure to provide the force in one direction, and spring tension, gravity,
compressed air, or nitrogen is used to provide the force in the opposite direction. Figure 10-5 shows a single-acting, spring-loaded, piston-type actuating cylinder. In this cylinder the spring is located on the rod side of the piston. In some spring-loaded cylinders the spring is located on the blank side, and the fluid port is on the rod side of the cylinder.

A three-way directional control valve is normally used to control the operation of the single-acting piston-type cylinder. To extend the piston rod, fluid under pressure is directed through the port into the cylinder (fig. 10-5). This
pressure acts on the surface area of the blank side of the piston and forces the piston to the right. This action moves the rod to the right, through the end of the cylinder, thus moving the actuated unit in one direction. During this action, the spring is compressed between the rod side of the piston and the end of the cylinder. The length of the stroke depends upon the physical limits within the cylinder and the required movement of the actuated unit.

To retract the piston rod, the directional control valve is moved to the opposite working position, which releases the pressure in the cylinder. The spring tension forces the piston to the left, retracting the piston rod and moving the actuated unit in the opposite direction. The fluid is free to flow from the cylinder through the port, back through the control valve to the return line in hydraulic systems or to the atmosphere in pneumatic systems.

The end of the cylinder opposite the fluid port is vented to the atmosphere. This prevents air from being trapped in this area. Any trapped air would compress during the extension stroke, creating excess pressure on the rod side of the piston. This would cause sluggish movement of the piston and could eventually cause a complete lock, preventing the fluid pressure from moving the piston.

The spring-loaded cylinder is used in arresting gear systems on some models of carrier aircraft. To raise (retract) the arresting hook, fluid pressure is directed through the arresting hook control valve to the rod side of the cylinder. This force moves the piston, which, through the rod and mechanical linkage, retracts the arresting hook. The arresting hook extends when fluid pressure is released from the rod side of the cylinder, allowing the spring to expand.

Leakage between the cylinder wall and piston is prevented by adequate seals. The piston in figure 10-5 contains V-ring seals.

Hydraulic Piston Cylinders

An actuating cylinder in which the cross sectional area of the piston is less than one-half the cross-sectional area of the movable element is referred to as a piston-type cylinder. This type of cylinder is normally used for applications that require both push and pull functions. The piston type cylinder is the most common type used in fluid power systems.

The essential parts of a piston-type cylinder are a cylindrical barrel, a piston and rod, end caps, and suitable seals. The end caps are attached to the ends of the barrel. These end caps usually contain the fluid ports. The end cap on the rod
end contains a hole for the piston rod to pass through. Suitable seals are used between the hole and the piston rod to keep fluid from leaking out and to keep dirt and other contaminants from entering the barrel. The opposite end cap of most cylinders is provided with a fitting for securing the actuating cylinder to some structure. This end cap is referred to as the anchor end cap.

The piston rod may extend through either or both ends of the cylinder. The extended end of the rod is normally threaded so that some type of mechanical connector, such as an eyebolt or a clevis, and a locknut can be attached. This threaded connection of the rod and mechanical connector provides for adjustment between the rod and the unit to be actuated. After the correct adjustment is made, the locknut is tightened against the connector to prevent the connector from turning. The other end of the connector is attached, either directly or through additional mechanical linkage, to the unit to be actuated.

In order to satisfy the many requirements of fluid power systems, piston-type cylinders are available in various designs.

Hydraulic Double Acting Piston Cylinders

Most piston-type actuating cylinders are double-acting, which means that fluid under pressure can be applied to either side of the piston to apply force and provide movement.

One design of the double-acting cylinder is shown in figure 10-6. This cylinder contains one piston and piston rod assembly. The stroke of the piston and piston rod assembly in either direction is produced by fluid pressure. The two fluid ports, one near each end of the cylinder, alternate as inlet and outlet ports, depending on the direction of flow from the directional control valve. This actuator (fig. 10-6) is referred to as an unbalanced actuating cylinder because there is a difference in the effective working areas on the two sides of the piston. Therefore, this type of cylinder is normally installed so that the blank side of the piston carries the greater load; that is, the cylinder carries the greater load during the piston rod extension stroke.

A four-way directional control valve is normally used to control the operation of this type of cylinder. The valve can be positioned to direct fluid under pressure to either end of the cylinder and allow the displaced fluid to flow from the
opposite end of the cylinder through the control valve to the return line in hydraulic systems or to the atmosphere in pneumatic systems.

There are applications where it is necessary to move two mechanisms at the same time. In this case, double-acting piston-type actuating cylinders of different designs are required. See figures 10-7 and 10-8.

Figure 10-7 shows a three-port, double-acting piston-type actuating cylinder. This actuator contains two pistons and piston rod assemblies. Fluid is directed through port A by a four-way directional control valve and moves the pistons outward, thus moving the mechanisms attached to the pistons’ rods. The fluid on the rod side of each piston is forced out of the cylinder through ports B and C, which are connected by a common line to the directional control valve. The displaced fluid then flows through the control valve to the return line or to the atmosphere.

When fluid under pressure is directed into the cylinder through ports B and C, the two pistons move inward, also moving the mechanisms attached to them. Fluid between the two pistons is free to flow from the cylinder through port A and through the control valve to the return line or to the atmosphere.

The actuating cylinder shown in figure 10-8 is a double-acting balanced type. The piston rod extends through the piston and out through both ends of the cylinder. One or both ends of the piston rod may be attached to a mechanism to be operated. In either case, the cylinder provides equal areas on each side of the piston. Therefore, the same amount of fluid and force is used to move the piston a certain distance in either direction.