A method for significantly reducing the losses associated with an on/off controlled hydraulic system is proposed. There has been a growing interest in the use of on/off valves to control hydraulic systems as a means of improving system efficiency. While on/off valves are efficient when they are fully open or fully closed, a significant amount of energy can be lost in throttling as the valve transitions between the two states. A soft switching approach is proposed as a method of eliminating the majority of these transition losses. The operating principle of soft switching is that fluid can temporarily flow through a check valve or into a small chamber while valve orifices are partially closed. The fluid can then flow out of the chamber once the valve has fully transitioned. Thus, fluid flows through the valve only when it is in its most efficient fully open state. A model of the system is derived and simulated, with results indicating that the soft switching approach can reduce transition and compressibility losses by 79%, and total system losses by 66%. Design equations are also derived. The soft switching approach has the potential to improve the efficiency of on/off controlled systems and is particularly important as switching frequencies are increased. The soft switching approach will also facilitate the use of slower on/off valves for effective on/off control; in simulation, a valve with soft switching matched the efficiency an on/off valve that was 5 times faster.

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