Precision Orifice Uses
Precision orifices are designed with simplicity and versatility in mind. When sized correctly, plastic flow restrictors can serve a variety of functions in a fluid or gas system. The most common application is to regulate the flow of fluid or gas within any number of industrial systems.
The orifice diameter with the characteristics of the flowing material defines a flow rate for the system, which remains constant within a small margin of error. In this way, precision orifices form an elegant solution for maintaining flow rate. Other common uses include the following:
- Cylinders and actuators must typically spin at a set rate. Precision orifices can easily maintain this rate as pneumatic components operate.
- In pneumatic systems, precision orifices throttle pressure by restricting gas flow to a specified level.
- Similarly, precision orifices act as snubbers—that is, they prevent dangerous spikes in pressure by distributing pressure changes over a set distance.
- Finally, miniature precision orifices, in particular, are sometimes used as a source of ultrasonic sound, which can be generated when air moves through a small opening.
Why “Precision” Is Important
Precision orifices are so named because they passively maintain an exact flow rate, enabling the many applications listed above. Precision, in this sense, is not just a benefit but a critical feature that enables proper system functioning. These components enable fine-grained control of parameters such as:
- Flow Rate: When using a precision orifice, flow rate is predictable, accurate, and consistent. Before purchasing an orifice, it’s important to calculate the diameter and shape necessary to achieve the desired flow rate. However, once installed, little additional maintenance is necessary to keep the system flowing exactly as it should.
- Flow Ratios: Along similar lines, precision orifices can also regulate flow of multiple materials to achieve a desired ratio. To use orifices in this way, each liquid or gas should be routed through its own flow regulator such that, over a set period of time, the ratio of all outputs matches some predetermined value. While this requires some calculation upfront, the method allows for a self-sustaining method of flow rate and ratio regulation.
- Timing: Circuits demand precise timing to function properly. Precision orifices ensure that flow continues as expected to prevent malfunction.
- Repeatability: In any industrial process, repeatability is a critical metric, allowing for confidence in a system’s integrity. Imprecise components compromise this reliability.
- Consistency: Inconsistent flow is not just a minor annoyance. Over time, irregularities or incompatible regulatory components can damage piping, leading to erosion or surface buildup. Application-specific, tightly controlled components are therefore necessary to protect the system in both the short and long term.
Applications for Precision Orifices/Flow Restrictors
As detailed, precision orifices can fulfill many functions, including flow regulation and pressure throttling. However, these capabilities are especially useful in certain industries:
- Medical and Dental: Many medical devices rely on tightly controlled gas or liquid flow, including incubators, respiration equipment, and pneumatic beds and chairs.
- Laboratory and Analytical Instrumentation: Labs and testing facilities cannot guarantee accurate results without reliable methods of obtaining and analyzing samples. Flow restrictors can regulate performance at either stage of analysis in all manner of lab testing processes.
- Aerospace: Actuators and pneumatic controls are used throughout the aerospace industry for such diverse functions as engaging the landing gear and controlling cargo doors. Precision orifices are a cost-effective but reliable method of regulating these processes.
- HVAC: Precision orifices provide a simple means of maintaining appropriate flow in heating and cooling systems.
- Process Control and Automation: Even the most complex orifice designs are ultimately passive, maintaining system performance with little need for operator intervention. These properties make flow restrictors ideal for use in process control or automation processes, where they allow for hands-off, streamlined operations at a low price.