Those engineers in the know; will be all too familiar with the possibility of bacterial growth within the relatively cozy environment of a hydraulic system. So these thoughts are probably only going to be of interest to the tiny minority of system designers and maintenance engineers who are dealing with a certain type of installation.
Most systems are so active that nothing can live in peace! So generally we don’t need to worry too much about bacterial growth.
There are, however, some types of installation which lend themselves to being adopted as a perfect breeding ground for bacteria; especially if special measures are not taken from the outset of initial commissioning.
Some applications are more prone than others
The types of construction which might be prone to bacterial growth include those which use particular types of fluid and / or which have relatively long runs of pipework and especially those which are inactive for long periods of time.
If bugs are going to grow, they often love to attach themselves to the disturbance caused to the bore of a pipe by a joint, elbow, or some other intersection in the plumbing.
It has been said that…. ‘the fitter’s favorite practice of sawing a piece of pipe to length, cutting a thread and then giving the finished product a good puff of breath to remove any residual swarf or cutting fluid might be one of the prime causes of bacteria entering a system during construction’ – but who wants to pursue those sorts of thoughts!
Many system engineers have known about the phenomena for a very long time. Ships with long runs of piping, normally involving sub-systems which lay unused for eons, were probably one of the first such types of installations to discover that the cylinder; stuck out there in the breeze and refusing to work; was not because the cylinder manufacturer had done a bad job - but was because the bore of the pipework leading to and from the cylinder was completely plugged with bugs.
Don't sweat the small stuff -- even the microscopic kind...
Don’t panic! If you work in an industry – such as the construction or maintenance of Sub-Sea oil and gas rigs - you will be fully aware of the needs for the special measures which have to be taken to keep certain parts of your equipment working in tip-top condition.
However, if you are just embarking on the design of a new piece of equipment and think that any part of the design might fall into one of the categories mentioned; then it might be wise to have a word with your fluid power supplier and seek their advice concerning how to flush the completed system with biocide; just prior to finally filling with their recommended operating fluid. Talk to your cylinder supplier, they should always enjoy solving and avoiding problems; even if they are only peripheral to the main objective of making cylinders go in and out as efficiently as possible!
How might this topic affect your cylinder applications? Leave a comment with your thoughts below...
Image credit: Victor Habbick