Industrial Sized Balancing Act With Pressure Gauges

B-52 bombers are lifted up on hydraulic jacks - using a digital pressure gauge to keep the weight distributed evenlyWhen you’re working on really big equipment, you’ve got to be careful how you lift it. Even the strongest of materials cannot span too far a distance without suffering damage. Mechanical and aerodynamic systems work under extremely tight tolerances, and even the smallest bend is cause for complete replacement.

So when a maintenance crew has to work on a jumbo jet and or a large truck, they need mobile lift columns that will keep the entire vehicle balanced. Each lift column has to be placed in the right location, and pushing the same weight.

With the weight of the vehicle evenly distributed across the lifts, the maintenance crew can work safely without damaging the frame. An imbalance could result in damage to the vehicle and pose a safety risk for the crew.

Easy Weight Measurement

The simplest way to measure the weight on the lift column is with a pressure gauge. As long as the lift columns are identical, then a consistent PSI measurement will ensure even distribution of weight.

If you were using columns of different sizes, then your PSI measurement would be deceiving. Why? Because of the square inches would be different. A pressure gauge measures the pounds per square inch spread across the inner hydraulic column. Therefore, additional square inches in the column would equate to fewer PSI – all things being equal – and vice versa.

But, if you don’t mix and match industrial lifts, then a pressure gauge is a very easy way to measure your weight and ensure proper distribution of your lifts.

A Digital Pressure Gauge Is Worth It

You can save some money by using dial, or analog, pressure gauges. Some cost as little as a few dollars. But the old adage has never been more correct: you get what you pay for.

In general, there are three distinct disadvantages to a dial pressure gauge:

  1. Dial gauges are hard to read accurately

    Even if your needle is holding still, the combination of visual error and a wide error band create a recipe for disaster. Throw in some vibration and you might as well pull the gauge and put in a plug.

  2. Dial gauges wear out too fast

    The gears that move the needle in a classic analog pressure gauge are susceptible to failure. Rapid changes in pressure, vibration, environmental factors all play into the accelerated degradation of dial gauges. They foul easy, too – under constant threat that process liquids like hydraulic fluid will seep in and ruin the bourdon tube.

  3. They are 100% incapable of automation

    Want an alarm if the pressure rises too high or too low? Would you like to log pressure readings, or control a pump? Sorry. You’re out of luck with an analog pressure gauge. So much for helping your employees do their job.

On the other hand, digital pressure gauge have three very awesome advantages:

  1. Digital pressure gauges are easy to read accurately

    Large digits and good performance specs make reading the gauge easy – even if it’s vibrating. Low light conditions? Add a backlight.

  2. Digital gauges only have one moving part

    A digital pressure gauge works with a flexing diaphragm that alters the resistance of a small circuit. It is the only moving part, and it barely moves. Simply put, there is no bourdon tube getting fouled or any gears wearing out. Digital gauges last much longer and perform to a much higher standard than dial gauges.

  3. They are automation ready

    Get yourself a digital pressure gauge with an output and you can do all sorts of crazy automation tricks – like sounding alarms, logging data, controlling pumps, etc. A good digital gauge can also automate your conversions – such as converting PSI to LBS on the display (do this right for any particular lift and you won’t have to worry about column size differences).

Going digital is certainly worth it for any gauge that is involved in control functions, used as a reference, or needs to perform to any degree of reliability. Sure, you may decide that dial gauges are “good enough” for some of your pressure measurements, but why use something that you just can’t trust?

As for lifting heavy equipment with mobile lift columns, the USAF uses our PG10 digital pressure gauge. The Air Force chose the digital gauge because it is so much easier to read, and so much more reliable than any dial gauge. After all, when you’re lifting a large airplane off the ground, you really can’t be too careful.

If you have any questions about the advantages of digital pressure gauges, gauging hydralic lifts, or taking weight measurements with pressure gauges please give us a call! We'll get down to the nuts and bolts of your application and help you understand your options.


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