CONEXPO-CON/AGG and the International Fluid Power Exposition (IFPE) 2023, taking place March 14-18, is bringing together a wide array of new construction equipment and components which help make these machines function, including hydraulics and pneumatics.
There is so much news and information gained throughout this week, one of the biggest for the fluid power and construction industries which happens only once every 3 years, that it can be hard to keep track of it all — but the Power & Motion team is on the case.
In this piece you'll find a collection of news, information and our general insights from walking the show floor, highlighting what technologies and trends are shaping the hydraulics, pneumatics and motion control industries as well as other technologies of relevance.
Visit our IFPE channel for even more news, interviews and other content related to this year's largest event for the fluid power and motion control industries.
Out of Chaos Comes Order
Among its other attractions, Las Vegas knows something about putting on a show. Few trade events are bigger shows than CONEXPO and IFPE, which launched Tuesday morning.
When the first attendees visited the 1,800 exhibitors covering more than 2.8 million sq. ft. of floor space, the show grounds were pristine. The carpet was vacuumed, the plants were in place, the video displays twinkled enthusiastically and the equipment—the real stars of the show—was shined and ready to receive its due attention.
Just 24 hours before that opening, however, the show resembled carefully restrained disarray in defined booth spaces. The various lifts, tuggers and cranes were put through their paces in the days leading up to this year’s event. The irony is that in many cases at CONEXPO & IFPE, it is the machinery and technologies that are on display across the convention center that helped bring order to the pre-show chaos. If you want to see the capabilities of fluid power and construction equipment, show up one day before a trade show starts.
Digital Transformation Taking Place in Waves
ifm Efector, a developer of various electronic components including sensors and IO-links, discussed the move toward digitalization in the construction equipment industry during a press conference at CONEXPO & IFPE. According to Kevin Vanderslice, Director of Sales, Mobile Industry, the digital transformation taking place requires a consideration of the why — Why is digitalization important? Why invest in it? Why care about the data that can be gotten from a machine?
Determining answers to the why can help to ensure the correct solutions are developed and implemented to provide the information customers need.
He also noted the digital revolution is happening and in different waves; everyone is at various stages of adopting digital solutions and working to achieve different goals.
Cat on a Hot New Platform
One of the more unique pre-show events was Cat’s unveiling of its C13D diesel engine platform. The company held the event at Allegiant Stadium, home of the Las Vegas Raiders. Company officials said in a press release the C13D was “designed to achieve best-in-class power density, torque and fuel efficiency for heavy-duty off-highway applications.”
The company also reaffirmed its commitment to a diesel engine at a time when electric propulsion and alternative fuels are generating a lot of attention at this year’s event. The two concepts are not incompatible, said Cat officials at the event, noting the fuel efficiency improvements with the new engine and the ability to incorporate the future use of fuels such as natural gas and hydrogen.
“We’ve really optimized this as the platform of the future,” said Cat general manager Mark Stratton. “If you need a diesel engine, if that’s the right answer for your solution, we think we’ve got the best one on the market.”
New Test Stand to Aid Tribological Developments
Test Industry, a developer of test equipment for various industries including hydraulics, has worked with the Maha Fluid Power Research Center at Purdue on the development of a new test stand for tribology research. The test chamber can evaluate potential tribological issues in a variety of hydraulic components.
As noted during a press conference at CONEXPO and IFPE discussing the test stand and research to date with it, there continues to be a greater need for efficiency in hydraulic systems, especially with electrification gaining ground in many industries. How hydraulic oil flows through components can greatly impact this efficiency, hence the development of the new test stand to better evaluate potential tribological effects on a component's performance.
The test stand has been under development for several years and is expected to be available in the market in 2023.
The Role of Sensors and Software is Growing
Many discussions with companies throughout IFPE showed the increasing use of sensors and software within fluid power systems. Several manufacturers demonstrated components with integrated sensors. Helios Technologies' Sun Hydraulics brand, for instance, showed its eSense electro-hydraulic cylinder featuring integrated pressure sensors which can help to save energy, up to 85% from research conducted with the Maha Fluid Power Research Center, and reduce the bounce some excavator booms or other machines may experience.
Sensor developers are spread throughout IFPE, further demonstrating their presence in the fluid power industry. Rheintacho, for instance, develops sensors specifically for hydraulic systems. The company is looking to grow its market share in North America and other regions around the world, seeing the demand from the industry.
Companies also demonstrated the growing use of software which is being utilized in a variety of ways. Danfoss introduced its PC-GO controller and software designed to help OEM customers more easily program their hydraulic systems. It allows quick and easy customization of hydraulic systems without OEMs having to spend a large amount of time on software development themselves.
In conjunction with the increased use of these technologies, and the general trend toward digitalization taking place in the industry, were demonstrations of IoT (Internet of Things) and how it can fit into fluid power applications. Parker Hannifin, for instance, showed its various hardware products enabling IoT. With these components data can be collected and transmitted to machine owners to help them be more proactive about any possible maintenance needs or performance issues. The company is also working to integrate this technology with its electrification solutions to help better evaluate the size of batteries an application might need or monitor how much charge is left in a battery.
The range of technologies on display at CONEXPO & IFPE 2023 demonstrate the ever evolving nature of the construction and fluid power industries. Evident throughout the show is the ramp ups being made in electrification and advanced technologies, such as those for digitalization and automation. But there is also an understanding of the continued need for so-called traditional technologies, but finding ways to further improve those to aid with efficiency and productivity. As tends to be said by many working in these industries, it's an exciting time to be working in construction and fluid power.