CMOS ASIC Hydraulic Valve
Technologies used

    Mixed Signal ASIC

Industrial sector (PRODCOM code)
    29 Machinery Sector, Hydraulic Valves
    34 Motor Vehicles
    35 Transportation Products

During 1995 Ultra Hydraulics Ltd formed a new division (Ultronics) to design and develop the next generation of hydraulic valves to replace the existing precision mechanical hydraulic valves designed, manufactured and marketed by the company. These products are applied in the hydraulic control systems of off-road and agricultural vehicles such as mechanical diggers, and in other mobile plant applications.

The current hydraulic servo valves are electro-mechanical components, and are therefore, strictly limited in their functionality. The products also require high precision manufacture tooling and expensive assembly processes to produce the final product. They are essentially dumb isolated valves for high precision applications, and are suitable only for flow control and not pressure control. The use of these devices in more systems requiring additional functionality require additional external and electrical control components with consequential cost implications for the customer.

The aim of this application experiment was to embed an intelligent electronic controller into a hydraulic valve so as to overcome these disadvantages associated with the use of an electromechanical product, and to produce a hydraulic control valve with a much improved performance. The improved product would provide the company with an unique, significant market advantage over the traditional electro-mechanical products on the market.

The improved controller incorporated mixed signal ASIC and microcontroller device to realise this performance improvement. The final prototype unit incorporated two ASIC devices, a mixed signal BICMOS power ASIC required to interface to the proprietary CAN interface system with a 28 volt capability, and a mixed signal CMOS ASIC. This application experiment was concerned with the development of the mixed signal CMOS ASIC, and Ultronics funded the power ASIC as part of the product industrialisation process.

The product improvement objectives of the experiment included the following product feature improvements:

  • Flow Control - independent of pressure drop and the ability to control cylinders where the load is over-running (load moving under gravity).
  • Pressure Control - control of the pressures in each side of a hydraulic cylinder thereby controlling the load output from the cylinder.
  • Flow Limit - control of maximum available flow to the hydraulic system.
  • Pressure Limit - to provide the ability to limit the load output from a hydraulic actuator. This will allow the unprecedented facility to prevent damage to buried cables or pipes.
  • Compaction - Controlled oscillation of a cylinder.

These product enhancement features were achieved whilst enhancing the product's long term reliability, and reducing the manufacturing costs of the improved product to approximately 50% of that for the existing electro-mechanical products. The duration of the ASIC development application experiment was 16 months. However, further system industrialisation evaluations are required prior to full product launch.

To protect its innovative product concepts realised by the use of ASIC technology, the principles used in the new product have been patented by the company in the U.K., Europe and in the Pacific Rim.

The total cost of the FUSE application experiment was 168 kECU. The payback period for the application experiment costs is projected as 18 months, including a 9 month industrialisation programme. The return on investment will exceed 1000% over a 10-year product life.

The application experiment identified the need to maintain contact with a plurality of ASIC design vendors during the development of the functional specification. These relationships should be maintained until the vendors are able to provide firm commitments as to design costs, non recurring engineering costs, unit costs and time-scales. The company's experience indicates the additional management effort involved in this process brings major benefits in arriving at acceptable commercial agreements.


    Battledown Industrial Estate
    Athelney Way
    Gloucester GL52 6RT
    United Kingdom.

Detailed information

You can also benefit from microelectronics

Mixed Signal ASIC technology provided ULTRONICS LIMITED with the means of improving its products and enhancing its market position. You can also achieve significant benefits by acquiring the right microelectronics technology and utilising it in your product or manufacturing process. You can get help from FUSE to realise this.

FUSE is a technology transfer programme, funded by the European Commission to stimulate the wider use of microelectronics technologies by European enterprises to increase their competitiveness and enhance their economic growth. The demonstrator described here is one of many examples in the public FUSE portfolio covering the whole spectrum of microelectronics technologies and spanning a wide range of applications and industry sectors.

FUSE provides you with:

  • Best practice in acquiring specific microelectronics technologies and conducting full development projects through the FUSE portfolio of real life demonstrator documents.
  • Local training and expert support to plan your innovation realistically and help you conduct your project successfully.

Further information and support relating to this and other demonstrators can be obtained from the addresses below.

Further information   Guiding Technology Transfer Node
For further information and support regarding this case study, please contact a Technology Transfer Node (TTN) in your region.
Homepage: http://www.fuse-network.com
Univercity of Glamorgan
Mid Glamorgan
Pontypridd CF37 1DL
United Kingdom