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Optimising Hydraulic System Control with Proportional Valves

Hydraulic power packs


Hydraulic systems are the backbone of various industries, powering heavy machinery and providing precise control for a multitude of applications. One critical component that plays a pivotal role in enhancing control and efficiency within hydraulic systems is the proportional valve. In this blog, we will explore the world of proportional valves, understanding their functionality, benefits, applications, and the strategies for optimizing hydraulic systems through their effective integration.

Danfoss Proportional Valves


Understanding Proportional Valves

Overview: Proportional valves are sophisticated hydraulic components that allow for precise control over the flow and pressure of hydraulic fluid within a system. Unlike traditional on/off valves, proportional valves enable variable adjustments, providing proportional and linear control. This capability is essential for applications that require fine-tuned adjustments, improved efficiency, and precise motion control.


How Proportional Valves Work: Proportional valves operate based on the principle of adjusting the flow of hydraulic fluid in proportion to the input signal they receive. The input signal, often electrical or electronic, dictates the valve's position, determining the amount of flow allowed through. This dynamic control mechanism enables proportional valves to regulate the speed, direction, and force of hydraulic actuators with high precision.

Benefits of Proportional Valves

  1. Precision Control:

Fine-Tuned Adjustments: Proportional valves offer the ability to make small and precise adjustments, allowing for optimal control over hydraulic systems. This precision is particularly beneficial in applications where accuracy is crucial.

  1. Energy Efficiency:

Reduced Energy Consumption: The ability to modulate the flow and pressure of hydraulic fluid according to the system's demand contributes to energy efficiency. Proportional valves can match the power output to the load requirements, minimizing energy wastage.

  1. Improved Response Time:

Quick Response: Proportional valves respond rapidly to changes in input signals, ensuring a swift and accurate adjustment of hydraulic parameters. This quick response time is essential in applications that require dynamic and agile system performance.

  1. Enhanced System Performance:

Smooth Operation: The precise control afforded by proportional valves results in smoother and more controlled movements within hydraulic systems. This contributes to improved overall system performance and reduced wear and tear on components.

  1. Versatility:

Adaptability to Varied Applications: Proportional valves are versatile and can be adapted to a wide range of applications. From industrial machinery to mobile equipment, these valves find use in diverse settings, showcasing their flexibility.


Optimizing Hydraulic Systems with Proportional Valves


  1. System Design and Configuration:

Understanding Application Requirements: Before integrating proportional valves, a thorough understanding of the specific application requirements is crucial. Factors such as flow rates, pressure levels, and response times should be considered to determine the appropriate valve specifications.

Selecting the Right Valve: Different proportional valves are designed for specific applications. Choosing the right valve type, whether it's a proportional directional control valve, a proportional pressure control valve, or a proportional flow control valve, is essential to meet the system's needs.

Integration with Existing Systems: When incorporating proportional valves into an existing hydraulic system, compatibility and integration should be carefully considered. Ensuring that the new valves seamlessly work with existing components is vital for optimal performance.


  1. Control Strategies:

Open-Loop Control: In open-loop control, the input signal directly dictates the position of the proportional valve, influencing the flow or pressure of hydraulic fluid. This simple control strategy is suitable for applications where a consistent response is acceptable.

Closed-Loop Control: Closed-loop control involves feedback mechanisms, such as sensors, to monitor the system's actual performance. The input signal is continuously adjusted based on the feedback received, ensuring precise and real-time control. Closed-loop systems are ideal for applications demanding high accuracy and dynamic response.

Proportional-Integral-Derivative (PID) Control: PID control is a popular closed-loop control strategy that combines proportional, integral, and derivative actions. This sophisticated approach allows for quick response, steady-state accuracy, and the elimination of overshooting in the system.


  1. Electronic Control and Automation:

Digital Controllers: Integrating digital controllers with proportional valves allows for advanced control strategies and automation. Digital control systems enable the programming of complex sequences and responses, providing a high degree of customization for specific applications.

Sensor Integration: Utilizing sensors, such as pressure sensors, flow sensors, and position sensors, in conjunction with proportional valves enhances the overall control of hydraulic systems. Sensors provide real-time feedback, enabling the system to adjust and optimize its performance based on actual conditions.

  1. Efficient Power Management:

Load-Sensing Systems: Integrating proportional valves into load-sensing hydraulic systems enhances power management. Load-sensing systems adjust the flow and pressure according to the load requirements, minimizing energy consumption and optimizing power delivery.

Energy Recovery Systems: In certain applications, proportional valves can be incorporated into energy recovery systems. These systems capture and store excess energy generated during deceleration or load lowering, which can then be reused, further improving overall efficiency.


  1. Maintenance and Diagnostics:

Condition Monitoring: Implementing condition monitoring systems, including predictive maintenance technologies, allows for the continuous assessment of the proportional valves' health. Early detection of potential issues enables proactive maintenance, reducing downtime and extending component lifespan.

Diagnostic Tools: Advanced diagnostic tools, such as electronic control units with built-in diagnostics, facilitate troubleshooting and quick identification of problems within the hydraulic system. This aids in efficient maintenance and minimizes the impact of unexpected failures.


  1. Training and Operator Awareness:

Operator Training: Ensuring that operators are well-trained in the use and maintenance of proportional valves is crucial for optimizing system control. Training programs should cover topics such as proper valve operation, troubleshooting, and preventive maintenance.

Documentation and Guidelines: Providing comprehensive documentation and guidelines for proportional valve integration, operation, and maintenance assists both engineers and operators in making informed decisions and effectively managing the hydraulic system.


Applications of Proportional Valves


  1. Mobile Machinery:

Construction Equipment: Proportional valves find extensive use in construction machinery such as excavators, loaders, and cranes. The precise control they offer is essential for accurate movements and efficient operation on construction sites.

Agricultural Machinery: In agriculture, proportional valves are employed in tractors, combines, and other equipment for tasks like planting, harvesting, and material handling. The ability to adjust flow and pressure contributes to optimal performance in various farming applications.


  1. Industrial Automation:

Manufacturing Equipment: Proportional valves play a crucial role in industrial automation, particularly in manufacturing processes. They enable precise control over the movement of robotic arms, conveyor systems, and other automated equipment.

Material Handling Systems: Conveyor belts, lifts, and sorting systems benefit from the precise control provided by proportional valves. This ensures smooth and efficient material handling operations in warehouses and distribution centers.


  1. Marine and Offshore:

Ship Control Systems: Proportional valves are utilized in ship control systems for tasks such as steering and cargo handling. The ability to finely adjust hydraulic parameters is critical for safe and efficient maritime operations.

Offshore Equipment: In offshore applications, such as oil and gas platforms, proportional valves contribute to the control of various hydraulic systems, including cranes, winches, and drilling equipment.


  1. Renewable Energy:

Hydraulic Wind Turbine Systems: Proportional valves are employed in hydraulic systems within wind turbines for pitch control. This ensures that the angle of the turbine blades is adjusted precisely to optimize energy capture.

Hydropower Generation: Proportional valves play a role in controlling the flow of hydraulic fluid in hydropower systems, contributing to efficient power generation in hydroelectric plants.


Neilson Hydraulics is an official sales partner for Danfoss in the UK with a vast experience and technical expertise on all things Danfoss hydraulics. We supply a range of Danfoss Valves, Motors, Pumps, Joysticks,Steering Units and PLUS+1® Mobile Electronics. 



Neilson Hydraulics also offers the renowned Danfoss PVG 32 Proportional Valve complete assemblies and components including:

  • Design, valve build, specification
  • Assemble components and test (including certificate) Danfoss PVG 32 Components Sales
  • Repair of existing Danfoss PVG 32 Valves


Danfoss PVG 32 


Proportional valves are indispensable components in the realm of hydraulic systems, offering a level of precision and control that is essential for diverse applications across industries. By understanding the benefits, applications, and strategies for optimization, engineers and operators can harness the full potential of proportional valves to enhance the efficiency, energy sustainability, and overall performance of hydraulic systems. As technology continues to advance, proportional valves are set to play an increasingly vital role in shaping the future of hydraulic control systems.


At Neilson Hydraulics we can help with all your Danfoss hydraulic power solutions



For help with your hydraulic requirements please contact Neilson Hydraulics on: 01709 821 002 or E: sales@neilson-hydraulics.co.uk or visit our website www.neilson-hydraulics.co.uk