Switch-mode hydraulic circuits are a theoretically efficient, compact, fast responding, and inexpensive control option. Despite the many potential benefits of switch-mode hydraulic circuits, the control method suffers from large energy losses during transitions of the high-speed valve due to throttling and fluid compressibility. Rannow and Li previously proposed utilizing soft switching to minimize the throttling energy loss (Rannow and Li, “Soft Switching Approach to Reducing Transition Losses in On/Off Hydraulic Valve,” J. Dyn. Syst., Measure. Control (in press)). A major challenge of this approach is a locking soft switch that releases quickly and with precise timing, while under load. In this paper, a novel soft switch locking mechanism is presented that utilizes the pressure signal in the switched volume to trigger the release. A dynamic model is developed of three unique soft switch circuits and two control circuits that create a virtually variable displacement pump. The model is used to perform a grid search optimization of the soft switch parameters for the three circuits. The three soft switch circuits reduce the throttling and compressibility energy losses between 49% and 66% compared with the control circuit. The simulation results demonstrated that the soft switch circuits perform as expected for duty cycles and pressures below the design conditions. At higher duty cycles and pressures, the short time the circuit is connected to tank prevented the soft switches from resetting between cycles, preventing proper function. This novel lock and release soft switch mechanism enables soft switching in switch-mode hydraulic circuits, which significantly reduces throttling and compressibility energy losses during valve transitions. Lower losses during valve transition allow the use of slower switching valves, lowering energy consumption, and cost.

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