Hydraulics and Pneumatics: A Quick Review on Their Differences

Blog | December 9th, 2019

To make equipment and machines work, a certain type of actuator or mechanical systems must be installed. Machines, cars, power tools, and other products that require power benefit from mechanical systems, which can be grouped into two types. Hydraulics and pneumatics are both categorised under mechanical systems.

Hydraulics and pneumatics are both controlled by valves that convert fluid pressure into mechanical motion. The force applied at one point is transferred to another point through an incompressible liquid, a type of oil for hydraulics and air for pneumatics. Even if they share the same process for them to work on machines, both hydraulics and pneumatics differ from one thing to another. 

Key Differences between Hydraulics and Pneumatics

As mentioned, the elements that both hydraulics and pneumatics use are different. Hydraulics use liquids to transfer the force applied from one point to another. They utilise liquid like mineral oil, ethylene glycol, water, synthetic types, or high-temperature fire-resistant fluids to transmit power throughout the machine. These liquids do not compress because of their natural and state.

Pneumatics, on the other hand, use gas to transmit power. The gases used by pneumatics do compress but can still perform the function that hydraulics do. Air and pure gas are the main elements that pneumatics use for their systems. 

Hydraulic systems are bigger in form factor and are slower in terms of the work process. These factors do not affect their overall functionality since hydraulics yield higher precision and can provide more power. Alternatively, pneumatic systems are more suitable for applications that require a quicker overall process. They can also work with more compact systems with lesser force and precision.

When it comes to costing and design, pneumatics can provide low initial costs and simplicity of design since their circuits operate through the air. Components that rely on pneumatics can be made from inexpensive material that can lessen machining costs and overall operations. Hydraulics, on the other hand, require higher initial costs since they require a power unit that is part of the machine. 

In the long run, however, pneumatics can be 5 to 10 times more expensive when it comes to operating costs. Atmospheric air requires a lot of power to keep its normal working pressure. As or hydraulics, the operating cost is cut down since they naturally work at a higher pressure at a smaller form factor.

If the central power units of hydraulic machines are set, the hydraulic machines can produce noise that is lower than pneumatics. The uptime for machines with hydraulics is also increased and that back up pumps are ready to replace any working pump that breaks down. The pneumatic systems shine bright the most with maintenance. Circuits that are air-operated are cleaner. 

Real-World Applications for Hydraulics and Pneumatics

Hydraulics has become the most popular among the two since they can be found in heavy-duty machines or equipment that we have. Hydraulics are used in a car’s braking system, lifting equipment, diggers, hydraulic presses, and others. Heavy equipment mostly benefit from the use of hydraulics.

Pneumatics are used in setting up factories, construction works, mills, buildings, and technologies that utilise compressed air for power. High-powered drill and other medical equipment also utilise the wonders of pneumatics. Any form of transportation also uses pneumatics as its power source. Now that you’ve learned about the differences between hydraulics and pneumatics, it is time for you to do decide which among them is suitable for you. If you have more questions about these two systems, you can contact us at Mobile Hydraulic Specialties.

Mobile Hydraulic Specialties Pty Ltd

Factory 89, 38-40 Popes Road
Keysborough, Victoria, 3173

Phone: (03) 9798-6511

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