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When you start a hydraulic project, one of the first things you have to decide is whether or not to use a custom manifold or build a solution with off-the-shelf parts.
Many people are skeptical about the word “custom” in the fluid power hydraulics industry. Understandably! Custom usually implies a significant upfront investment, higher maintenance costs (because replacement parts aren’t off-the-shelf), and headaches if you need to modify your solution. But after over 30 years of solving our customers’ fluid power headaches, we’re here to tell you that custom hydraulic manifolds aren’t as complicated as they sound and may actually save you time and money. Here are four reasons why.
1. Save Space and Reduce Leak Points
One of the advantages of a custom hydraulic manifold is saving physical space and reducing potential leak points.
Think of a custom manifold like a custom printed circuit board. You can buy individual resistors, LEDs, and computer chips and wire everything together, but you’ll end up with a rat’s nest of electronics. It will do the job, but the design won’t be simple or efficient. That’s why you don’t see many companies going that route. A custom hydraulic manifold (like a custom circuit board) contains all the components for your specific application, is more condensed, and reduces the number of connections.
2. It’s Not As Expensive As You Might Think
It’s understandable to want to use standard parts. After all, if something breaks, you can grab another one from the shelf. But what most people don’t realize is not customizing a solution will mean more standard parts and more labor.
Let’s say you decide to buy five manifolds off-the-shelf. You’ll need five separate cartridge valves (since each manifold can only hold one), fittings, and tubing. After bending all the tubing to connect everything, you’ll end up with a somewhat customized solution—but not one that saves space or works as efficiently as it could have. At that point, designing and machining a single manifold to house everything is probably more cost competitive!
3. With MFP, You Don’t Have to Worry Over Future Modifications
An obvious downside to a custom manifold is that once they’re machined they’re “set in steel.” Going back to make modifications isn’t easy. Thankfully, that’s something we help you plan around.
Our engineering team designs with the long term in mind, saving you future frustrations. We do this by thinking through the entire system and how you’ll use it. We start at the beginning of the process and don’t just come in at the end when it’s time for the manifold. And if you ever need to make modifications, we can always find ways to rework the manifold or reproduce it to a different circuit.
4. We Design and Build Under One Roof
In the hydraulics industry, design and fabrication don’t typically happen in one place. Some companies design custom solutions. Others make custom manifolds. They usually aren’t the same people, meaning you have to work with two different sets of engineers.
We do things differently. If a customer calls with a unique problem we can work with them to come up with a hydraulic circuit for their application. From that circuit, we select part numbers for every valve and then talk about if a custom manifold makes sense in the long run. We can usually have something custom done in a similar timeframe and price range. And because our engineers have been involved from the start, we can do quality checks and troubleshoot the design before building it, meaning you get a solution that works right the first time.
Our Team Loves a Challenge!
We don’t shy away from the word “custom.” It’s what we’ve been doing for our customers for over three decades. Our engineers thrive on projects that seem impossible at first. It’s what they call fun!
Recently, we completed a power unit using a custom manifold for an automotive customer. They came with a big request: Could we make the unit one-quarter of its current size? That had all of our engineers scratching their heads and chatting around the coffee pot that morning. We worked with them on a unique design for a custom manifold to house all the valves and condense the unit as much as possible (and yes, we got it down to one-quarter of the original size!). The customer was thrilled and that system is currently running in quite a few of their automotive production facilities.
Have a challenge we can tackle? Send it our way! Call 616.538.5700 or fill out this quick form to request a quote.