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Fluid Power Technology Roadmaps

Technology Roadmap for the Fluid Power Industry

In August 2009, the National Fluid Power Association (NFPA) published the Technology Roadmap for the Fluid Power Industry. The purpose of the Roadmap was to provide NFPA member companies and their research partners with an industry-wide consensus regarding the research and development needs of the fluid power industry.

The Roadmap was the result of a facilitated process among representatives from 20 organizations in the fluid power industry, and it charted a ten-year research and technology development agenda to realize industry-elevating advancements in mobile hydraulics, industrial hydraulics, and pneumatics. In creating the Roadmap, the representatives specifically focused on advancements they thought would help the industry meet the future needs of its customers, expand fluid power into new customer markets, and attract the best and brightest students to field.

Since its publication, the Roadmap has been used by the NFPA Education and Technology Foundation and the Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP) to guide their respective research efforts, and by numerous NFPA members and other industry partners to inform decisions about research partnerships and product development.

NFPA members can download the 2009 Technology Roadmap for the Fluid Power Industry here.


A Pre-Competitive Research Agenda for the Fluid Power Industry

In 2012, NFPA convened a task force of industry representatives to review and update the Technology Roadmap for the Fluid Power Industry. Their report, A Pre-Competitive Research Agenda for the Fluid Power Industry, was published in January 2013, and addressed several shortcomings of the original Roadmap. The updated report:

  • Expanded the use of end market customer perspectives and drivers in determining the fluid power research challenges to be met and objectives to be achieved.
  • Defined “pre-competitive” for the purposes of the report and NFPA’s future use. The report’s research agenda is targeted in areas that are broad enough that they are unlikely to be pursued by individual companies for competitive advantage, but targeted enough that they are likely to result in technological advancements that can assist wide industry sectors.
  • Reviewed and incorporated the research successes and progress of the CCEFP in the identification of future research objectives.
  • Made specific recommendations for supporting market education and standardization efforts that will complement and help advance the research agenda.

The 2012 report has again been used by the NFPA Education and Technology Foundation and the CCEFP to guide their respective research efforts, and again by numerous NFPA members and other industry partners to inform decisions about research partnerships and product development. It has also been used by NFPA to guide its market education and standards development work.

The 2012 report, A Pre-Competitive Research Agenda for the Fluid Power Industry, can be accessed here. There is no cost, but a brief registration process is required.


2015 NFPA Technology Roadmap: Improving the Design and Function of Fluid Power Components and Systems

In 2014, NFPA launched the NFPA Roadmap Committee, a permanent volunteer structure tasked with developing, maintaining, and supplementing the NFPA Technology Roadmap, the industry consensus-based document which identifies the areas of pre-competitive research needed to increase fluid power’s competitive position in the marketplace, open up new markets for fluid power, and attract the best and brightest students to the field.

The Committee’s first report was published in August 2015, and it is an update to the task force report published in January 2013, reviewing and updating a pre-competitive research agenda for the fluid power industry. Because many of the challenges to be addressed in this agenda deal with the design and function of fluid power components and systems, this report has been titled the 2015 NFPA Technology Roadmap: Improving the Design and Function of Fluid Power Components and Systems.

In completing this work, the Roadmap Committee utilized many of the same processes and objectives identified by the 2012 task force, including the use of end market customer perspectives and drivers, the definition of pre-competitive research, the incorporation of CCEFP research successes and progress, and the inclusion of market education and standardization recommendations.

The 2015 NFPA Technology Roadmap: Improving the Design and Function of Fluid Power Components and Systems can be accessed here. There is no cost, but a brief registration process is required.


Fluid Power Advanced Manufacturing Consortium

The Fluid Power Advanced Manufacturing Consortium is a collaboration between the NFPA, the Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power, the Association of Manufacturing Technology and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Its purpose is to advance fluid power manufacturing in the United States, and it’s the result of acquiring more than $400,000 in grant funding from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

The first project of the Consortium will be to define a fluid power manufacturing roadmap. This roadmap, like the NFPA Technology Roadmap, will focus on identifying the areas of pre-competitive research that are needed to advance fluid power technology in the United States. But unlike our existing roadmap, which focuses primarily on improving design and performance characteristics of our components and systems, the fluid power manufacturing roadmap will focus on improving the mechanisms and methods for manufacturing our components and systems.

A kick-off session for the Consortium to begin working on this new roadmap was held July 28-29, 2015, on the campus of Georgia Tech, and more than 40 industry professionals and academics attended. The objectives of the session were straightforward:

  1. Identify what customers of fluid power products want to accomplish to improve their competitiveness.
  2. Describe emerging manufacturing technologies to improve fluid power manufacturing.
  3. List fluid power manufacturing capabilities that address customers’ competitiveness.

A series of breakout sessions to discuss all three objectives, one breakout each for hydraulics used in mobile applications, for hydraulics used in industrial applications, and for pneumatics, and then came back into general session to report out and look for areas of commonality.

One of the most interesting outputs was the list of emerging manufacturing technologies the group thought could be better utilized to improve the manufacture of fluid power products. Those recommendations included:

  • Coatings that improve performance (durability, enhance load bearing, etc.).
  • Real-time, in-process sensing, feedback and control.
  • New, disruptive materials and their processing.
  • Metrology.
  • Integrated, batch-free heat treating.
  • Direct metal additive manufacturing.
  • Robotics for small batch assembly and manufacturing.
  • Manufacturing inspired design practices that better leverage all of the above.

Each of those bullet points, and the conversations they represent, just scratched the surface on possible applicability to the manufacture of fluid power products, and the resulting competitive advantages that they might bring to the manufacturer and to the manufacturer’s customer. They have been vetted enough, however, to move to the next stage in the roadmapping process, which is to develop a more detailed “innovation scorecard” for each of these emerging technologies, more explicitly stating the potential benefits and barriers associated with applying each to fluid power manufacturing.

Several of these scorecards were drafted and reviewed at a second workshop held March 30-31, 2016 on the campus of Georgia Tech, and several more are currently in development. To see the output of that second workshop, as well as information on a third session held May 24-25, 2016, in conjunction with the Manufacturing Machines and Equipment division of the National Science Foundation, please visit the website of the Fluid Power Advanced Manufacturing Consortium .

If you’re interested in learning more, contact Eric Lanke at the NFPA office, at elanke@nfpa.com
or call (414) 778-3351.


U.S. Department of Energy Study on Energy Consumption of Fluid Power Systems

In addition to the above activities, The U.S. Department of Energy has published a study estimating the total amount of energy consumed by fluid power systems in the United States. NFPA participated in the study and uses it to help frame new technology development initiatives for the industry.

The study report can be accessed here.