Schematic drawings make it possible to show circuit functions when using components from different manufacturers. A 4-way valve or other component from one supplier may bear little physical resemblance to one from other suppliers. Using actual cutaway views of valves to show how a machine operates would be fine for one circuit using a single supplier's valves. However, another machine with different parts would have a completely different-looking drawing. A person trying to work on these different machines would have to know each brand's ins and outs . . . and how they affect operations. This means designing and troubleshooting every circuit would require special and different knowledge. Using schematic symbols requires learning only one set of information for any component.

Schematic symbols also give more information than a picture of the part. It may almost impossible to tell if a 4-way valve is 3-position by looking at a pictorial representation. On the other hand, its symbol makes all features immediately clear. Another advantage is that by using ISO symbols the drawing can be read by persons from different countries. Any notes or the material list may be unreadable because of language differences, but anyone trained in symbology can follow and understand circuit function.

Parts of a typical pneumatic system

The schematic in Figure 5-1 starts at the filter, regulator, and lubricator (FRL) combination that is connected to the plant-air supply. FRL units are important because they assure a clean, lubricated supply of air at a constant pressure. It's important to keep these units supplied, drained, and set correctly to keep the circuit operating smoothly and efficiently.

The filter is first in line to remove contamination and condensed water. It should be drained regularly or fitted with an automatic drain. The regulator should be set at the lowest pressure that will produce good parts at the cycle rate specified. The lubricator should be adjusted to allow oil to enter the air stream at a reasonable rate. In poorly maintained plants, the filter may be completely full of contaminants, the regulator is screwed all the way in, and the lubricator is completely empty.

Air-logic controls

Air-operated miniature valves called air-logic controls control the circuit in Figure 5-1. Air-logic controls run on shop air and are actuated by air palm buttons and limit valves to start and continue a cycle.

This circuit has an OSHA safe anti tie-down dual palm button start control. The two palm buttons must be operated at almost the same time or the cylinder will not extend. Tying down one palm button renders the circuit inoperative until it is released. The rest of the logic circuit causes the drills to extend and keeps the clamp cylinder down until they have all retracted and stopped. This circuit also has an anti-repeat feature, which means the cycle only operates once, even if the operator continues to hold the palm buttons down. Safety features such as these are easy to implement.

Directional-control valves

A 5-way, double-pilot-operated directional control valve operates the cylinder. This valve extends and retracts the cylinder according to signals from the air logic controls in the cabinet. Movement also requires inputs from the palm buttons to make sure the operator is safely clear of the cylinder before it operates. This directional control valve has speed-control mufflers in its exhaust port to control cylinder speed in both directions. These devices also reduce noise from exhausting air.

A limit valve at the extend stroke of the cylinder makes sure it has reached the part before the drills start. A limit valve monitors position but it cannot tell if the cylinder has reached full clamping force. In most applications when the cylinder is close enough to make the limit valve, it will be at or near clamping force before the next operation gets to the work. In some applications it might be necessary to add a pressure sequence valve to make sure the cylinder reaches a certain pressure before the cycle continues.