Hydraulic equipment has been steadily growing in popularity in many industries worldwide and is used in everything from water propulsion to engine power.
Today's hydraulic systems use positive displacement pumps. After each pump rotation around the shaft, a fixed amount of fluid is fired into a pump. These high-pressure pumps are among the most common due to their high-pressure capacities, small size, and greater efficiency over time.
Hydraulic brakes are among the most common hydraulics applications globally and exist in nearly every engine-powered wheeled vehicle. Construction and earthworks equipment like diggers and backhoes also use hydraulics. Hydraulics are also found in every automatic transmission system in modern-day cars.
Although a much better option than many other propulsion systems, hydraulic manufacturers often face difficult choices when designing hydraulic systems. This is often a choice between performance and smoother operation or streamlined design with better functionality and more options for the end-users of their systems.
Typically, these designs are fixed and cannot be changed once implemented into the hardware of the hydraulic device. However, with new technology emerging, the ability to digitize, access, and change certain aspects of hydraulics and their applications is becoming a greater reality.
Typically, standard hydraulic systems feature pumps designed specifically, offering limited versatility for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). However, the advent of digital controls and the digitization of hydraulic system control modules have ushered in a new era of flexibility. OEMs and end-users can exercise much greater control over the operations of their hydraulic systems.
The importance of selecting the right hydraulic components provider in this evolving landscape cannot be overstated. A dependable provider ensures that essential components, such as valves, pumps, hoses, adhere to the highest quality and durability standards. This consideration becomes critical as digitization enables more precise control and streamlining of hydraulic systems. Each component's performance plays a relevant role in the system's overall efficiency and minimizing maintenance requirements.
Opting for strategic partnerships with reputable providers is critical to advancing hydraulic systems into more efficient, streamlined, cost-effective solutions. For instance, hoses are a crucial link in any hydraulic system, demanding careful selection to ensure system integrity and longevity. Choosing the right hose shop that offers a wide range of high-quality options and knowledgeable guidance is essential for making informed decisions that align with the specific needs of your hydraulic system.
Digitization also revolutionizes hydraulic machinery by allowing fine-tuned operational control, benefiting manufacturers and end-users through cost reductions. This technological advancement enables OEMs to simplify machinery by removing redundant parts, streamlining maintenance protocols, and enhancing the system's efficiency.
Following digitization, development initiatives that include reducing the number of parts in a hydraulic engine or other hydraulic systems also allow companies that produce hydraulic systems to create smaller devices that can be applied to a broader range of smaller equipment.
One of the key messages coming out of development initiatives is the introduction of software over hardware. Software that allows OEMs and end-users to control devices remotely and even gather information from the systems themselves. These types of information include speed, temperature, and pressure sensors.
Having these numbers at a glance allows OEMs and end-users to understand better how their systems function and where they could be optimized. It also allows OEMs to use this information to create more energy-efficient systems.
While hydraulic systems aren’t often thought of as energy-efficient due to how they operate, some energy-efficient and eco-friendly solutions are hitting the market.
These pumps use a spinning impeller, a rotating blade-like part, to add kinetic energy to a system to move the fluid through it. Centrifugal pumps are commonly used to transfer water, light fuels, or chemicals through a system. These can work hand-in-hand with biodegradable hydraulic fuels.
Three different types of biodegradable hydraulic fluids exist. Hydraulic environmental triglycerides (HETGs) include vegetable and other plant oils. Using these oils within hydraulic systems allows for more accessible, more straightforward disposal of hydraulic fluids.
Another type of hydraulic fluid is a synthetic ester base fluid; an ester is a fluid derivative of carbolic acid. Synthetic esters offer a similar chemical structure to triglycerides and are ultimately biodegradable.
The third kind of biodegradable hydraulic fluid is Polyalykelene Glycol. These are synthesized from hydrocarbon oxides and are mainly used when there are fire hazards and the pump construction may require sealants.
There are many applications and uses for various types of hydraulic equipment, including manufacturing, construction, and agriculture. Actuators are the system that converts hydraulic power back to mechanical energy and is used in everyday mechanical systems. There are two different actuators: linear actuators convert pressure and flow into linear force. At the same time, rotary actuators convert pressure and flow into torque.
The construction industry uses hydraulic power in cranes and other manually impossible tasks. These include pushing, pulling, lifting and digging, and pumping things like concrete and push molds together to make bricks. Hydraulics are also used in raising bridges and improving the efficiency of highrise skyscrapers.
Other hydraulic equipment is often used in mining and tunneling, along with applying mechanical force to break, crush, dig, and transport aggregate rocks. The main application of hydraulics in an agricultural context is the humble tractor. Tractors are used in most aspects of farming, and almost all tractors use hydraulic motors.
For hydraulic systems, the future is geared towards smaller motors, smaller overall systems, and a more comprehensive range of applications. Designing smaller hydraulic systems will ultimately lower the amount of oil required to run the system, in conjunction with using biodegradable oils to operate the hydraulics themselves.
The challenges facing hydraulic-based systems in the future will be building and maintaining pan-industrial relationships between oil manufacturers, machinists that build hydraulics, and technologists that create the software that machinists are increasingly reliant upon to make finer adjustments to increase productivity and reliability for operators.
Luke Fitzpatrick has been published in Forbes, Yahoo! News and Influencive. He is also a guest lecturer at the University of Sydney, lecturing in Cross-Cultural Management and the Pre-MBA Program. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.