Specification sheets for selecting automated valves list requirements for the valve and actuator but often lump all other devices together as related instrumentation or accessories.
Since the definition of an automated valve is a flow control device that can be remotely operated, a typical selection hierarchy is:
- Select the best valve for the service conditions
- Select a suitable actuator to operate that valve
- Provide enough information on accessories so the valve supplier or end user can just add them as needed.
A comprehensive valve data sheet may enumerate 40 to 50 line items of information that define the scope of the valve assembly. Since performance and safety of that assembly are greatly impacted if any component in the assembly fails, the more forethought put into the specification, the more likely the final assembly will perform as intended. The purpose of a specification is not to exclude any manufacturer but rather to include only those products the specifier perceives as most closely meeting the equipment application requirements.
THE SPEC SHEET
If we look at all system devices as necessities instead of accessories, we can divide the specification sheet into three sections.
- Under Process Components all devices that are in contact with the media would be listed. That would include the valve and instrumentation such as flow meters and other process variable transmitters.
- Under Force all devices that supply the motive power to operate the valve would be listed. This would include the actuator—pneumatic, electric or hydraulic; hand-wheel overrides; linkage kits/mounting brackets; solenoid valves; filter regulators; pressure gauges, etc.
- The third column would be headed Intelligence. This category would include valve position sensors. Intelligent devices interface the operator’s commands and the valve’s response. Without supervision/control, the automated valve will not function; therefore, the process will not function.
Valve position sensors indicate to the plant operator that an automated or control valve is open, closed, or between open and closed. A valve position sensor or switch can take numerous forms: inductive proximity sensor, reed switch or mechanical switch. Sensors can be directly mounted to a rotary pneumatic actuator, bracket-mounted to a linear valve, enclosed inside a switch box or an electrically operated actuator, or inside a valve positioner.
An inductive proximity sensor is a non-contact device, which means the sensor is free from wear. A common metal target is mechanically attached to the actuator stem of a linear or rotary travel valve. When the target comes into range of detecting the sensor, an electronic switch changes state, which confirms the position of the valve. Actuation speed or frequency has no effect on inductive proximity sensors. They are typically used in pairs, one for the valve’s open position and another for the closed position, although sensing other positions can be easily accomplished. Dual sensors directly mounted onto a pneumatic actuator provide valve open and valve closed switching in one compact package. Proximity sensors are available in a variety of configurations and voltages and can be an integral part of a valve assembly, especially when the sensor’s full capabilities are utilized.