Why Use a Hydraulic Actuator?

There are 3 principal ways to power an actuator. There’s electrical, pneumatic, and hydraulic actuators. Generally speaking, the most expensive set up is going to be a hydraulic system. A single hydraulic actuator can cost ten times what a pneumatic or electrical one would. This begs the question, why would you buy something with such a premium?

 

Basics of Hydraulics

This all starts with the simple fact that fluids don’t compress. You can put water in a sealed piston and push down on it, but all it will do is distribute that force to the walls of the piston. Maybe it’ll squeeze in by 1/1,000,000,000th of its volume, but in large part, one liter of fluid is going to always take up that volume. This is amazingly useful. It means we can use fluids as an almost universal connection.

Think about it, to connect a powerful motor to anything, you need linkages, gears, chains, and bulky hardware. It’s noisy and takes up a ton of space. If you want to connect multiple devices to that motor, they all need to either run at the same time and speed or require complex gearboxes to connect or disconnect them. This would take up a ton of space and make our modern lives suck in innumerable ways.

With a hydraulic system however, we can get around all this bulk. There can be one or two large motors, powered by anything that fits the set up. It can be a diesel motor or it can be an electric motor. That motor setup pressurized fluids. That pressure is then relayed through hoses and valves to actuators. That can deliver tens of thousands of pounds of force anywhere. Lock off a line and it’ll hold the pressure, preventing the load from slipping backwards.

 

Beating the Competition

Against Electric and Pneumatic systems, this had a lot of advantages. Consider:

Vs. Electric

  • One large motor can power several large applications instead of several smaller motors
  • Combustion-Motors can directly drive the system without need of a generator
  • The motor is isolated from the load, reducing the necessary starting torque
  • Massive amounts of torque can be created
    • Hydraulic Jacks are used to lift entire buildings
  • Less high-voltage wiring improves overall installation safety
  • Slower to move and respond to control inputs
  • Requires more maintenance
  • Costs more
  • Can be significantly messier on hardware failure

 

Against a Pneumatic system, the playing field is much more level. Pneumatics and Hydraulics share the same basic principal. You have a centralized source of power, relayed through an intermediary, to move an end-object. Things change up in that gasses can be compressed.

  • More precise than pneumatic
  • Higher output torque
  • Pneumatic systems can lose power to compression, hydraulics don’t
  • Slower than pneumatic systems
  • Requires more maintenance
  • Costs more
  • Can be significantly messier on hardware failure

 

High-Power Applications

At the end of the day, hydraulic systems are all about power. They can chain multiple motors together to achieve what would otherwise be absurd outputs. They can operate entire complexes from a single motor. They can make just about anything move. These advantages have made hydraulics the go-to power source for high output systems on trucks, carnival rides, factories, and construction sites across the world, to name just a few.

The hardware we encounter most at Procure is used in factory settings, to operate high pressure valves and process controls. These are settings where ten body builders would struggle to budge a valve, but these actuators make short work of it. They’re settings where assembly lines are picking up and moving heavy components. They’re heavy duty heating and cooling systems. There’s even hardware in our warehouse for handling automatic water mains for cities and waste treatment plants.

When you have an unmovable object, use the unstoppable power of hydraulic  actuators.

 

 

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