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Valve actuator

1.1 Manual

A manual actuator employs levers, gears, or wheels to
move the valve stem. Manual actuators are powered by
hand. Manual actuators are inexpensive, typically self-
contained and easy to operate. However, some large
valves are impossible to operate manually and some
valves may be located in remote, toxic or hostile envi-
ronments that prevent manual operations. As a safety
feature, certain types of situations may require quicker
operation than manual actuators can provide to close the

Electric actuator (blue cylinder) on a valve in a power plant. A 1.2 Pneumatic
black handwheel is visible on the actuator, which allows man-
ual positioning of the valve. The blue valve body is visible in-line
Air (or other gas) pressure is the power source for pneu-
with the pipe. The valve actuator opens or closes the butterfly disc
matic valve actuators. They are used on linear or quarter-
of the valve based on electrical signals sent to the actuator. An-
other valve actuator is visible in the background, with windows turn valves. Air pressure acts on a piston or bellows di-
to indicate the valve position. aphragm creating linear force on a valve stem. Alterna-
tively, a quarter-turn vane-type actuator produces torque
to provide rotary motion to operate a quarter-turn valve.
A valve actuator is the mechanism for opening and clos- A pneumatic actuator may be arranged to be spring-
ing a valve. Manually operated valves require someone in closed or spring-opened, with air pressure overcoming the
attendance to adjust them using a direct or geared mech- spring to provide movement. A “double acting” actuator
anism attached to the valve stem. Power-operated actua- use air applied to different inlets to move the valve in the
tors, using gas pressure, hydraulic pressure or electricity, opening or closing direction. A central compressed air
allow a valve to be adjusted remotely, or allow rapid op- system can provide the clean, dry, compressed air needed
eration of large valves. Power-operated valve actuators for pneumatic actuators. In some types, for example, reg-
may be the final elements of an automatic control loop ulators for compressed gas, the supply pressure is pro-
which automatically regulates some flow, level or other vided from the process gas stream and waste gas either
process. Actuators may be only to open and close the vented to air or dumped into lower-pressure process pip-
valve, or may allow intermediate positioning; some valve ing.
actuators include switches or other ways to remotely in-
dicate the position of the valve.
Used for the automation of industrial valves, actuators 1.3 Hydraulic
can be found in all kinds of process plants. They are used
in waste water treatment plants, power plants, refineries,
Hydraulic actuators convert fluid pressure into motion.
mining and nuclear processes, and pipelines. Valve ac- Similar to pneumatic actuators, they are used on linear
tuators play a major part in automating process control.or quarter-turn valves. Fluid pressure acting on a pis-
The valves to be automated vary both in design and di- ton provides linear thrust for gate or globe valves. A
mension. The diameters of the valves range from a few quarter-turn actuator produces torque to provide rotary
inches to a few feet. motion to operate a quarter-turn valve. Most types of hy-
draulic actuators can be supplied with fail-safe features
to close or open a valve under emergency circumstances.
Hydraulic pressure can be supplied by a self-contained
1 Types hydraulic pressure pump. In some applications, such as
water pumping stations, the process fluid can provide hy-
There are four common types of actuators: manual, pneu- draulic pressure, although the actuators must use materi-
matic, hydraulic, and electric. als compatible with the fluid.


If there is a spring such as emergencies. on the piston to the valve stem. In the case of an electric actuator. An anomaly is detected. higher pressures. provide higher torques from standstill than comparable . The electric actuator uses an electric motor to provide Piston actuators use a piston which moves along the torque to operate a valve. it will force the valve open or closed do not require a powerful electric supply to move the and will keep it in that position while power is restored. However. The piston rod conveys the force energy efficient. They have the advantage that they inside of the actuator. 2 Actuator movement A typical representative of the valves to be automated is a plug-type control valve. Piston actuators allow which is not always the case. Just like the plug in the bathtub is pressed into the drain. rising stem ball valves. valve. 3 Features of an electric actuator Gate Valve with Handwheel (L) and with Linear Pneumatic Ac- tuator (R) A linear actuator opens and closes valves that can be op- erated via linear force. Diaphragm actuators are made out of a round piece of rubber and squeezed around its edges between two side 3. longer travel ranges. the plug is pressed into the plug seat by a stroke movement.5 Spring A spring is used to provide defined behavior in the case of loss of power. and higher thrust forces than diaphragm actuators. They can only operate once.1 Motor (1) of a cylinder or chamber that allows air pressure to enter either side pushing the piece of rubber one direction or the Robust asynchronous three-phase AC motors are mostly other. example of loss of power is when the air compressor (the leased. Once any and is sometimes the driving factor in specifications. the spring is re. the type sometimes called a “rising stem” valve. control valves and gate valves. An actuator may be specified “fail open” or “fail close” to or automatically when all power has been lost. They are quiet. main source of compressed air that provides the fluid for without resetting.2 3 FEATURES OF AN ELECTRIC ACTUATOR 1.[1] [2] The two main types of linear actuators are diaphragm and Electric multi-turn actuator with controls piston. or power is lost. This is important in safety related incidents Spring-based actuators hold back a spring. The pressure of the medium acts upon the plug while the thrust unit has to provide the same amount of thrust to be able to hold and move the plug against this pressure. 1.4 Electric A diaphragm actuator is useful if the supply pressure is moderate and the valve travel and thrust required are low. non-toxic and length of a cylinder. A rod is connected to the center of the diaphragm used as the driving force. The rod is single-phase AC or DC motors are used. and so are used for one-use purposes the actuator to move) shuts down. describe its behavior. for some applications also so that it moves as the pressure is applied. These types of valves include globe valves. losing power will keep the valve stationary unless there is a back up power supply. operating the valve. electricity must be available. These mo- then connected to a valve stem which allows the valve to tors are specially adapted for valve automation as they experience the linear motion thereby opening or closing. so they can operate from restricted battery power.

valve position as continuous 4-20mA current or voltage e. When exceeding a set limit. Modern actuators include integral controls which process signals locally without any delay. Special con- mitted. The actuators are expected to operate un- der extreme ambient conditions. The higher the torque to be trans. Mechanical torque-limiting de.7 Electrical connection (7) 3. 4 Functions Dimensions and design of valve mounting flange and valve attachments are stipulated in the standards EN ISO 4. The torque switching measures the torque subject to mechanic wear.1 Automatic switching off in the end po- 5210 for multi-turn actuators or EN ISO 5211 for part- turn actuators. Controls use the switchgear present in the valve. can be designed as a separately sealed terminal bung or fore self-locking i. This is called torque seating. a PLC. are not reached. First: The mission in process automation applications.g. leading to a low efficiency to the electrical connection. signal. This task heat buildup can be excessive. The design of valve attachments for linear sitions actuators is generally based on DIN 3358.2 Limit and torque sensors (2) also include the switchgear required to control the elec- tric motor. during manual operation.e. For maintenance purposes. an automatic switch-off proce- 3.This is called limit seating.8 Fieldbus connection (8) 3. ing feedback signals on the actuator status are connected tion ratio within the gear stage.4 Valve attachment (4) Fieldbus technology is increasingly used for data trans- The valve attachment consists of two elements. The electrical connection which is desired for the actuators. Another task of the actua- with a remote position transmitter which indicates the tor controls is to provide the DCS with feedback signals. Second: The output drive type used to transmit the torque or the thrust from the actuator to the valve shaft. however they are gen. this is to switch the electric motor on or off depending on the signalled in the same way. This enables a high reduc.g. Two fundamentally different switch-off mechanisms can be used. The end position is signalled by a limit switch.3. 3. closing element. position at a defined force or a defined torque to ensure The electronic torque limiting switches are not functional that the valve seals tightly. After receiving an operation command.3 Gearing (3) The supply cables of the motor and the signal cables Often a worm gearing is used to reduce the high output for transmitting the commands to the actuator and send- speed of the electric motor. it prevents accidental and undesired plug/socket connector. Both actuator signals and operation commands of the erally not used for continuous operation since the motor DCS are processed within the actuator controls. e.6 Actuator controls (6) 3 conventional motors. the larger the flange required. Electric ac- flange used to firmly connect the actuator to the counter. when reaching a valve end position. ing manual operation. a necessary requirement to unseat 3. The controls 3. This can either be reversing contactors or The limit switches signal when an end position has been thyristors which. The gearing is there.5 Manual operation (5) dure is started.ator is switched off when exceeding the set torque limit. can in principle be assumed by external controls. the actuator moves the valve in direction OPEN or CLOSE. The controls switch off the ac- In their basic version most electric actuators are equipped tuator as soon as the set tripping point has been reached. tuators can therefore be equipped with all common field- part on the valve side. bus interfaces used in process automation. the changes of the valve position by acting upon the valve’s wiring should be easily disconnected and reconnected. When reaching the end position. Actuators are often equipped signals or commands present. .6 Actuator controls (6) sticky valves. 3. However there are valve types missioning or power failure. Just like there is a multitude of valves there is also a multitude of valve attachments. nections are required for the connection of fieldbus data cables. being an electric component. The handwheel does not for which the closing element has to be moved in the end move during motor operation.The controls are programmed as to ensure that the actu- vices are commonly used to prevent torque overload dur. with a handwheel for operating the actuators during com.

They trip when the temperature limit has been ex- ceeded and the controls switch off the motor. due to a trapped Modern actuators have extensive diagnostic functions object. e.2 Positioning duty was reduced accordingly. the flow control to an ele. the torque switching will trip when reaching the which can help identify the cause of a failure. The same running time by this development. more and more functions have been transferred from the DCS to the field devices.4 Diagnosis cessive torque. the positioning behaviour is monitored and continuously optimised via controller parameters. The simplest example is the posi- limits as in open-close duty apply. electric actuators are equipped with fully- fledged process controllers (PID controllers). Temperature sensors are required to protect the motor 5 Duty types against overheating. The motor is controlled until the actual value is iden- tical to the setpoint. The data volume to be transmitted 5. nology and the introduction of micro processors. the operation to be optimised by changing the parameters fore distinguish between normal operation torque switch and the wear of both actuator and valve to be reduced.g.3 Modulating duty Meanwhile. [4] 4. In this situation the end position is log the operating data.e. Study of the logged data allows not signalled by the limit switch. t1 is the operating time and may not exceed the maximum permissible running time The positioner [1] is supplied with a setpoint [2] and an actual value [3]. 5. the actuator can assume the tasks of a PLC which otherwise would have to be additionally installed. then it will be either Due to increasing decentralisation in automation tech- open or closed and intermediate positions are not held.1 Open-close duty If a valve is used as a shut-off valve.3 Process control functions 5.2 Safety functions vated tank. but it also serves as overload protection over the whole travel and protects the valve against ex.4 5 DUTY TYPES 4. For some applications by other man- ufacturers. tripping in one of the end positions and switching off in an intermediate position due to excessive torque. The controls can there. Especially The most distinctive feature of a closed-loop application for remote installations. tion control. If excessive torque acts upon the closing element in an intermediate position. 4. Typical time period in open-close duty. e. Electric actuators whose func- Defined intermediate positions are approached for setting tions have been considerably expanded are also affected a static flow through a pipeline. The torque switching is not only used for torque seating in the end position. in particular by the introduction of fieldbus that changing conditions require frequent adjustment of . the increase of the motor current is also mon- itored. Modern positioners are equipped with self- adaptation i.g. They also set tripping torque. Thermoswitches or PTC thermistors which are embedded in the motor windings mostly reliably fulfil this task. The DCS generally needs a feedback signal Typical time period in modulating duty.

This can be achieved by a flameproof enclosure. ATEX 94/9/EC applies.. the actuator must withstand the standardized worldwide. and in technical process plants + 100 °C may be exceeded. Actuators are specified for the desired life and reliability Actuators designed for these applications. assembly. pipelines. 6.2 Ambient temperatures In Siberia. Valve actuator applica.. When a potentially explosive gas-air-mixture or gas-dust-mixture occurs. in US. Most actuator manufacturers also supply devices to enclosure protection IP 68 which provides protection against submersion up to a max. This includes among others refineries. Such actu- . The manufacturers put a lot of work intervals of a few seconds. oil and gas exploration or even mining. tions are often safety related.1 Enclosure protection The enclosure protection types are defined according to the IP codes of EN 60529. actuators are always designed in high en- tive closed-loop applications require adjustments within closure protection. temperature range.3 Explosion protection Actuators are used in applications where potentially ex- plosive atmospheres may occur. Actua- tor design must be able to withstand the high number of starts without any deterioration in control accuracy. FM) or the CEC in Canada (approval by the CSA). Explosion protection is not required for the valve. these greases can liquify and lose their lubricating power. For this reason. 7 Additional uses Process-control plants are often operated for several decades which justifies the higher demands put on the Small electric actuators can be used in a wide variety of lifetime of the devices. being for a given set of application service conditions. When sizing the actuator. Within the European Union.and also in the Sahara leaving the housing even if there is an explosion inside. 6. The basic versions of most 6 Service conditions electric actuators are designed to the second highest en- closure protection IP 67. Failure of an actuator may cause accidents in process- controlled plants and toxic substances may leak into the environment.6. where the housing is designed to prevent ignition sparks from . At high temperatures. Explosion-proof actuators have to meet the design tors put high demands on the reliability of the devices. the NEC (approval by ditions of a specific application.1 Enclosure protection 5 the actuator. head of water of 1 m). have to be qualified by a test dition to the static and dynamic load and response time authority (notified body). the actuator must not act as ig- nition source. This means they are protected against the ingress of dust and water during immersion (30 min at a max. head of water of 6 m. are higher than in open-close or positioning duty. to set a certain flow rate. temperatures down to – 60 °C may occur. Hot surfaces on the actuator as well as ig- nition sparks created by the actuator have to be avoided. Sensi.. requirements of these directives and regulations. explosion-proof devices. packaging and testing applications. the ambient temperature and the selection of the correct lu- bricant are of major importance. Using the proper lubricant is crucial for full operation un- der these conditions.. corrosion environment and other con. The demands on the actuator and knowledge into corrosion protection. In ad. 6. Greases which may be used at room temperature can become too solid at low temperatures for the actuator to overcome the resistance within the device. therefore the plant opera. for example. Actuators are used in Siberia.

[2] Baumann. Such actuators are often used to replace pneumatic cylinders. Actu- ation is not Turn Turn Turn”. KG. “Actuator drawings and catalogs” . Oliver "Type of documents/Cut-away draw- ings/Actuators". 2008. [3] Preston. auma Riester GmbH & Co.6 8 REFERENCES ators can be linear. Valve World Americas (5): 6. David. “For Gate Valves. September 28. [3] 8 References [1] Etheridge. and can be combined to perform work in three dimen- sions. rotary. or a combination of the two. Cooper (June 2014).

org/wikipedia/commons/2/27/Actuator_siberia. Tucvbif.svg Source: Nillerdk.1 Text • Valve actuator Source: https://en.jpg Source: https://upload.0 Contributors: ? Original artist: ? • File:Question_book-new.jpg License: CC BY 3.jpg License: CC-BY-3. Fratrep. Actus123.svg License: ? Contributors: ? Original artist: ? • File:Gate_Valve_with_Handwheel_(L)_and_with_Linear_Pneumatic_Actuator_(R). Nick Number. contributors. Andy Dingley.JPG License: CC BY 3. RussBot. Materialscientist. FrescoBot.2 Images • File:Actuator_positioner. Auto mations. Thunderbird2. Wdl1961. Woohookitty.wikimedia. User48365. Magioladitis. JamesBurns.0 Contributors: Own work Original artist: Khepster (talk) (Uploads) • File:Actuator_sahara. HerbstrittM~enwiki.0 .png created by User:Equazcion Original artist: Tkgd2007 • GoodDay.0 Contributors: Own work Original artist: Galison • File:Power_plant_a.0 de Contributors: Own work Original artist: HerbstrittM • File:Charakteristics_open_close_duty.wikimedia.jpg License: CC BY-SA 3. Dbarak. JAnDbot.jpg License: CC-BY-SA-3. Based on Image:Question book.JPG Source: https://upload.jpg License: CC BY-SA 2. 10metreh. D'ohBot.0 de Contributors: Own work Original artist: HerbstrittM • Contributors: Hooperbloob. Addbot. Thecityofjoy and Anonymous: 72 9.wikimedia.wikimedia. OnAzaleaPath.wikimedia. Iknowyourider. Alpha Quadrant.wikimedia.jpg Source: https://upload.jpg License: CC BY-SA 2. Khepster. MrOllie.0 Contributors: Own work Original artist: HerbstrittMse 9. and licenses 9. EmausBot. Catsquisher.3 Content license • Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3. Anaxial.wikimedia.svg License: Cc-by-sa-3. Mandarax. SmackBot.jpg Source: https://upload. 7 9 Text and image wikipedia/commons/8/83/Gate_Valve_with_Handwheel_%28L%29_and_with_Linear_Pneumatic_Actuator_%28R%29. J. Motors on the brain. Wtshymanski. DMacks. BD2412.wikipedia.wikimedia. CombatWombat42. Source: https://upload.0 Contributors: Created from scratch in Adobe Illustrator. LittleWink. M-le- Contributors: Own work Original artist: Khepster (talk) (Uploads) • File:Charakteristics_modulating_duty. Woonhocho. Squids and Chips.jpg Source: modulating_duty. KylieTastic.lifeguard. DieSwartzPunkt. Davincsk. SwisterTwister. Mike. Lee3409. RhinosoRoss. ClueBot NG.wikipedia to Commons. Hullernuc.wikimedia.0 Contributors: Transferred from en.wikimedia.jpg Source: https://upload. AvicAWB. ForeverHball.jpg License: CC BY 3. DoorsAjar. IceCreamAntisocial. Gal- ison. Original artist: Khepster at English Wikipedia • close_duty. Minimac. Josh Parris. Vrenator. Alaibot. Mroing. Ribot- BOT.svg Source: https://upload.jpg Source: https://upload.