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You’ll often see a large debate between hydraulics and pneumatics when discussing the best options for fluid power with each one possessing their own unique benefits. Although they are similar in a few ways, the main aspect that links the two is that they both utilise a fluid in order to funnel mechanical energy. Neither hydraulics or pneumatics are more preferred, as they are typically used in different environments and applications.

Because of this, the ways in which they vary may help you to prioritise one particular system more than the other based upon your needs. The team at Hydraulic Solutions and Sales will be walking you through these differences and why hydraulics can be more optimal than pneumatics products

 How are hydraulics and pneumatics different?

Pneumatics use a form of pressurised air or gas which help to create mechanical motions as a result of the fluid dynamics and pressure principles. Due to the fact that these gases can be compressed, there’s some form of delay in the movement.  The world of pneumatics has evolved from little devices that were used individually by workers to now encompass huge machinery. 

Where pneumatic systems are most often powered by inert gases or compressed air, hydraulics use pressurised liquids. These hydraulic systems tend to be more of a larger scale than pneumatic systems, as they do need the area to hold the fluid that’s needed for the system. 

Due to these differences in what is being used to channel energy, hydraulics can use 1000-5000 psi in industrial applications. However, this can move beyond 10000 psi in several specialised applications. On the other hand, pneumatic systems used pressured around 80-100 psi for industrial applications.

What are the advantages of hydraulics? 

  • Thanks to their size and oil or other liquids being incompressible, hydraulic systems are capable of moving and lifting much larger objects and materials. 
  • It can be quite easy to identify any leaks in a hydraulic system.
  • Thanks to the fact they do not create sparks, hydraulic systems can be safely used in mines and chemical plants.
  • They can also work at higher pressure levels, completing all actions simultaneously, such as cooling, lubrication and the transmission of power. 
  • Although the initial costs of hydraulic systems are generally higher than pneumatic systems, you can end up saving money in the long run. 
  • Components of hydraulic systems also provide for micrometric variations in speed.
  • Gear pumps, motors and hydraulic valves do tend to be simple to repair.
  • Their low operating costs combined with their higher efficiency make hydraulic systems a sustainable long term investment. 

Different applications

Pneumatics are often utilised in medical settings, factory style setups or construction, thanks to their simplicity of design. Some of the typical items you may find them in include: 

  • Nail guns
  • Manufacturing lines 
  • Pneumatic motor 
  • Air compressors 
  • Precision dentistry drills
  • Vacuum pumps

You’ll find hydraulic systems more beneficial for applications that require heavy lifting, such as in mining, agricultural and marine environments. Here are a few of the everyday machines that you could expect to see hydraulic components in:

  • Turbines
  • Hydraulic braking in vehicles 
  • Jaws of life 
  • Elevators 
  • Machine tools such as hydraulic cylinders

Disadvantages of pneumatics 

Unfortunately one of the biggest downsides for pneumatic systems is that their operating costs can begin to add up quickly over time. 

Another one of the major disadvantages of pneumatic systems is the large amount of noise that they create. Thus, when being used in environments where workers may be close by, you’ll need to ensure appropriate hearing protection is provided, otherwise, you risk damaging the hearing of the workers. 

As a result of compressed air experiencing some fluctuations in the air pressure, movements can be a little jerky sometimes when the pneumatic systems are being used to move or lift loads.

Contact the hydraulic specialists 

Hydraulic systems have a wide range of applications and if you are in need of these systems or specific parts, get in contact with the hydraulic specialists at Hydraulic Solutions and Sales. We also specialise in the repair and maintenance of hydraulic systems, as well as being capable of delivering custom parts for your systems.