What do cable television, the fax machine and a lever-operated hydraulic valve have in common? If you answered, “ripped him? Damn-near killed him!”, well, you’re way off base with that punch line, but I like where your mind is at. If you answered, “none of those objects will be around in a decade,” then give yourself a Kit Kat - and a break if you so choose.
Change serves more than to give old farts at the YMCA something to complain about, and I embrace change. I was happy when the wireless remote replaced the push-button console wired-remote to change cable channels. Mercedes got it right when they patented their “Keyless Go” fob allowing a push-button-less unlocking of the car just by having the fob in your pocket when you touch the door handle. Upon entering the vehicle, a push button start allows you to run the car without ever having to insert and turn an ignition key.
If you’ve still playing in the bush-league, and doing pedestrian activities like turning keys or changing TV channels with anything other than your retina, then perhaps pulling levers to operate hydraulic functions is something you’re okay with. If you actually enjoy lever valves, then pencil some extra quality time with them on the weekends, because you have about a decade left in your relationship.
All joking aside, there are a lot of applications where a lever valve just can’t be beat, like logsplitters and, um, that’s about it. Granted, if there is no electrical power available to run solenoid valves and their controllers, a lever valve is the only choice. However, my beef is with solenoid operated mobile spool valves with full-sized levers to provide “backup” operation should the electronics fail. You valves know who you are.
These dual-personality mobile valves want to have the best of both worlds, but are just a big fat compromise. They’re normally used in applications with wireless remote control as security in case the remote or controller should fail or lose power. But seriously, how often does this happen? Some feel the extra cost to equip valves with this capability is worth it when they imagine being stuck on the job, unable to unload a truck or finish pumping concrete. The redundancy offers peace of mind.
Some valves are electric with optional handles and some valves are manual with optional solenoid operation. The latter sometimes require the spool clearances to be opened up to allow the direct acting solenoids to even move the spool. The consequence is higher leakage, and mobile valves aren’t already known to be “tight.” To keep clearances tight, or on larger valves impossible to shift directly with coils, you can have pilot operated solenoids, taking advantage of hydraulic pressure to move spools. Although better performing, these can be downright monstrous in both price and appearance. Just use a 12 volt solenoid valve for Pete’s sake!
But alas, the economy is driven by the consumer, and if customers want levers with their electric valves, they get them. If it was up to the machine manufacturer, they’d travel the more profitable path to ditch the expensive sectional valves with electro-proportional control and go to highly customizable integrated manifolds with a couple “manual overrides” thrown in for diagnostics.
I’m sure the day will come when I can operate a front-end loader with sophisticated facial-recognition software by raising my eyebrow or curling a lip, and I’ll be first in line to test drive. Until that day comes, I’ll continue to ask people why they need levers on an electric valve while I’m at work, and I’ll continue to spend my leisure time playing my Atari 2600; I just wish the joystick cable was long enough to reach the couch so I don’t have to sit on the floor to play.