Motivated by the ever-stricter demands by lawmakers to lower emissions of mobile machinery and increasing fuel prices, mobile machinery has gone through a paradigm shift. Fuel efficiency has become a major selling point of machine producers. Even the heavy machinery branch, which is mainly dominated by reliability, productivity and serviceability, has started to feel this change. Hydraulic systems of large scale, as can be found in mining excavators, have typically been based on simplicity and durability. Typical architectures are open-center hydraulic systems, which were designed with robustness and productivity in mind; however they lack competiveness with other hydraulic systems in terms of energy efficiency.

Displacement control has shown promising potential especially in multi-actuator machines such as excavators. The technology has so far been demonstrated in closed circuit applications on small-scale machines (below 30 t). Large scale excavators however should in general be more suitable for displacement control due to their relatively small hydraulic component cost compared to the machine and operating cost, larger energy recovery potential due to larger mass movement, more flexibility in space management and greater hydraulic power installed. Large machines feature already several smaller pumps instead of a single large pump, which is important with respect to the fact that displacement control is based on one pump per actuator. A challenge for displacement control on large-scale machinery is handling their high volumetric flow-demands on the system. Today many large excavators feature a float valve, which short-circuits the cylinder chambers and ensures rapid lowering of the attachment under aiding load. Float valves ensure fast cycle times and are essential for high productivity, however incorporating this feature in displacement control is a challenge, especially in closed circuit systems.

Open circuit displacement control systems have greater flexibility than closed circuit solutions in working with float-valves and dealing with the high volumetric flows. Additionally the open circuit architecture is ideal for pump-flow-sharing, the strategy to connect two or more pumps with one actuator, which can be practiced when not all actuators move at the same time.

This paper compares displacement control in open circuit form with valve-controlled actuation in a mining excavator and shows several fuel saving potentials. The Open Center system was simulated and results were validated with measurements. The proposed open circuit displacement control solutions are implemented virtually and replace the valve-controlled system. Components and system-architecture were carefully chosen in order to ensure reliability, minimal component changes and redundancy that compare to the robustness of today’s system.

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