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Hartford Technologies Blog

Precision Balls Used in Regulators

Posted: May 7, 2020 1:59:24 PM

Pressure regulators are essential in hydraulic systems like those providing lubrication and fuel delivery. Designs vary widely, but many types rely on a precision ball.

The Role of Pressure Regulators

Pumps that push liquid through pipes and galleries are specified to meet peak demand, but much of the time they provide more pressure than needed. Excess pressure can lead to seal failure and even damage the pump, which is why regulators are incorporated. A regulator can open a bypass passage or restrict the liquid's opening.

Bypass systems, like those used in automotive oil pumps, often use a precision ball mounted on a spring. As pressure increases the ball is pushed back to open up a passage and let fluid flow.

Many regulators feature a ball and socket design where fluid flows through the center of the socket. Depending on pressure, the ball can settle into the socket to shut off fluid flow or move out to provide an opening.

Where Regulators are Used

Lubrication systems are a prime example, especially where the oil pump is mechanically driven. As pump speed increases it may deliver oil with too much pressure: the regulator prevents this problem.

Fuel injection systems are another automotive example of pressure regulators. Here the regulator ensures there's enough pressure to squirt fuel into the cylinders when needed while returning excess fuel to the tank to avoid overpressure.

Similar applications are seen in aerospace, in medical devices, food and beverage manufacturing and even in oil and gas extraction. Wherever liquids are moved under pressure, regulators with precision balls help ensure safe and reliable operation.

Manufacturing Precision Balls for Regulators

The balls used in regulators are essentially the same as those in ball bearing races, and they are manufactured by the same processes. However, requirements for roundness and sphericity are less demanding. Balls for regulators are typically manufactured to a grade of 100; sometimes even 300 is sufficient. ("Grade" refers to roundness in parts per millionth of an inch. A high-precision bearing assembly will use balls of 25 or 50 grade.)

As with ball bearings, precision balls for regulators are manufactured from various materials. Key factors in the material selection are resistance to the liquid being regulated, temperature limits, hardness, and impact resistance.

Chrome and stainless steel are used extensively. Stainless balls are available in several grades to suit the particular application. Other options are tungsten carbide, glass, brass, and even various types of plastic.

About Hartford Technologies

Hartford manufactures ball, roller and needle bearings, bearing assemblies and precision balls for friction reduction, motion control and other applications. Hartford is certified to the ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and IATF 16949 standards and strives to delight customers through a combination of high-precision, high-quality products and rapid delivery. To learn more, contact us today.