The Evolution of Hydraulic Machinery in the Twentieth Century

Evolution of Hydraulic Machinery

Hydraulics has made a long way to reach this far and the story of its evolution certainly needs to be discussed. Wondering why? Well, it would be unfair to this far-reaching technology if its evolution is left unnoticed. The use of hydraulics has brought revolutionary transformation in machine technology. Its discovery has made a massive difference in the way the control and power of various machines are dealt with across industries. When it comes to handling industry-scale jobs like moving, lifting, pressing, and splitting heavier loads; hydraulic machinery remains unparalleled throughout history. They have allowed civilization to achieve results that once seemed impossible. In this article, we’ll be taking you on the journey of hydraulic machinery to talk about its evolution across centuries.

Evolution of Hydraulic Machinery 1
Alan’s Meccano pages

Hydraulic Machinery in the Twentieth Century
Construction Equipment

What is Hydraulic Machinery & Why It IS So Powerful

The power of fluid has been discovered in ancient times that has led people to always drift towards fluid power throughout history. The hydraulic machinery is the one that uses fluid power or hydraulic systems to provide a mechanical advantage for the lifting or moving of heavier objects. The working principle of such a system allows the fluid to pass through valves and flow to the cylinder where the hydraulic energy is converted into mechanical energy. The uses of hydraulics in machinery are nothing new and have been there for quite a while now. It’s the courtesy of some great minds who brought hydraulics this far and made excellent contributions to its applications. Some of the legends to remember in the field of hydraulics are Blaise Pascal, Galileo Galilei, Joseph Bramah, Leonardo da Vinci, and more.

Hydraulic Excavator Machine
Hitachi Construction Machinery

Hydraulics has proved to be immensely powerful as it utilizes the maximum power density for any available mechanical transmission system. Hydraulic machinery can create the highest force and power even from the littlest possible actuator. Alongside the power, other benefits of using hydraulic systems include efficiency, accuracy, and ease of maintenance. Due to its excellent advantages, hydraulic pieces of machinery have become somewhat lifeblood for us. The use of hydraulic machinery is now in every sphere that includes construction equipment, amusement park rides, automobiles, aircraft, vehicle repair and maintenance equipment, elevators, and whatnot!

Moving Across Centuries

The practice of hydraulics is much older than its recorded history. The irrigation of canals or the diversion of the rivers bears witness to how water had been used for the benefits of mankind in ancient times. But it got a push in the early 17th century with the discovery of Galileo’s Observations on Gravity and Simon’s Hydrostatic Paradox. The study of gravitational acceleration allowed the knowledge to be applied to liquid barometers and liquid jets. The next milestone in hydraulics was achieved when Blaise Pascal came up with his revolutionary law in 1648 which states that the pressure applied to a fluid inside a closed system is equally transmitted in every direction, and it also stays constant. This is the principle that laid the main groundwork for the innovation of future hydraulic machinery. 

Convergence Training

The development of hydraulic systems continued to the next century. In this case, Bernoulli and Euler have been the key contributors in the field of hydraulics with their hydraulic equations and hydraulic turbine system. But the most notable advancement in hydraulic systems came with the invention of the Hydraulic Press in 1795, patented by Joseph Bramah. Based on Pascal’s theory, he discovered the way of multiplying a small amount of pressure to create a large amount of pressure that is capable of empowering machinery to lift, push, or pull heavy objects. 

The 19th century was remarkable for the development of hydraulics as it saw many advancements in the field. These types of machinery have breakthrough came up with Hagen’s findings that determined the impacts of temperature on pipe flow that led to the development of the Hagen-Poiseuille equation. This equation was an excellent marker to find the factors the flow rate is dependent on. William Armstrong is another impactful contributor of hydraulics who came to light with his invention of a rotary engine in 1838. He continued with his contributions in this field with the Armstrong Effect and intervention of hydraulic-powered Crane. His invention of the Hydraulic Accumulator is another milestone in this field. All these contributions earned William Armstrong the title—The Grandfather of the Model Hydraulic Power. Later, the inclusion of hydraulic mining in the 1840s has enriched the hydraulics system even further. This kind of mining enabled high-pressure water jets to excavate heavy loads like rocks or metal deposits. Hydraulic mining has been a milestone in human civilization, however, it went through proper regulation to stop any misuse.

Modern Day Hydraulic Machinery: Evolutions in the 20th and 21st century

From the early 20th century, hydraulic systems started to become immensely popular. The reason being its excellent adaptability, flexible hoses, different types of actuators, and small tubing. The uses of hydraulic systems went beyond industrial and vehicle usage. The power of water wheels has made the way for hydroelectric power plants. Hydroelectricity, a renewable source of energy is another application of fluid power where water movement helps generating power. It’s not only about water power though, but the hydraulic fluid also includes mineral oil, natural oils, and other synthetic compounds to generate equally effective power and mechanical advantage. Hydraulic fluids are used for their different characteristics including optical density, viscosity, weight, cost, and environmental impact. These hydraulic fluids are widely used in different industrial machinery and military applications. 

Modern Day Hydraulic Machinery
Manuli | Hydraulics

With the growing development in computer technologies, fluid movement is thoroughly studied to achieve better precision and depth. In modern-day machinery, the combination of hydraulics and electronics started to boom like never before. The scientists, researchers, and contributors discovered more and more ways in the latter part of the century to utilize and control hydraulic systems to the utmost. With electronic controls, the actions with the hydraulic machinery have started to become more detailed and accurate. 

The Evolution of Hydraulic Machinery
Interesting Engineering

Futuristic Approach in Hydraulic Machinery

We already talked about some great achievements in hydraulic machinery to date. The futuristic trends can also be noticed for the development of hydraulic products. The power density and electronic control in this machinery have been the center of the focus. Mobile hydraulic machinery is gaining increased demand such as forklifts, cranes, telescoping handles, and so on. Researchers are looking to achieve better mobility in terms of control and remote monitoring of the performance and maintenance of the hydraulic equipment in different industrial sectors. The technological advancement also looks to add robots in the industry to perform the human-less hydraulic operation. The size of hydraulic machinery is also getting smaller and lighter while achieving better productivity. 

The digital control is now replacing the manual joysticks while the digital displays are helping machine maintenance and monitoring. The electrification process started to replace the traditional engines with battery-powered prime movers. Machinery like excavators and graders have started to become completely autonomous to match the required specifications.

Futuristic Approach
Hydraulics & Pneumatics

The inclusion of digital actuators to enhance the production of hydraulic machinery is underway. This kind of machinery can cut carbon emissions to a great extent while improving fuel efficiency as well. The multi-chamber digital actuators are also downsizing the engine capacity while consuming less energy. With these technologies in hydraulic systems, the world is now witnessing smart cylinders and the rise of highly-capacity hydraulic equipment such as 30-ton excavators and above. Load Sensing Technology is another trend to follow in hydraulic products. This technology allows the hydraulic pump to automatically supply the optimal flow and pressure required by the actuators.

Futuristic Hydraulic Machinery

The hydraulic machinery is enriched with more and more digital features. Using hydraulic equipment has become pretty similar to using other digital devices. The programmable modes, GPS Navigation, Traction Control. Automatic Grade Compensation, etc. are some of the most anticipated digital features added to the hydraulic equipment. The use of technologies like Self-controlled Hydrostatic Drives, Built-in Software Programs, Real-Time Data Logging is helping the hydraulic power density to the next level. The smaller and lighter hydraulic equipment seems to achieve around 7,000 PSI and even higher torque or maximum efficiency.

The Pieces of Hydraulic Machinery We Can’t Live Without

We’ve learned that hydraulic systems have an extensive range of applications. Its popularity is immense and is utilized in machinery related to virtually all kinds of industries. The hydraulic machinery is generally responsible for lifting and transporting heavy stuff. As a result, you see them all around you. You might not realize its presence, but it’s there even in the most ordinary of things. 

One place that includes a massive amount of hydraulic machinery is the construction industry. This is one of the earliest sectors to use hydraulic systems and achieve the industrial revolution with an improved capacity for building infrastructures. From light and moderate to heavy and intense jobs in construction, all became possible with the use of hydraulic machinery in the shortest time. Hydraulic excavators were introduced long back in the construction sites to achieve maximum results, though they might not be as modern as today. The inclusion of cranes, bulldozers, forklifts, pumps, and jacks have given a new dimension to the infrastructure building technologies. Therefore, the construction equipment hydraulics have been one of the key players in the construction of civilizations.

hydraulic machine work

Besides the construction sector, the manufacturing sector also relies heavily on the use of hydraulic machinery such as forklifts. It’s because the factory equipment and kinds of stuff need to be lifted, transported, and turned over during production. There’s another sector that’s been blessed significantly with the use of hydraulic machinery. It’s the agriculture industry. The harvesting machinery like tractors, seeders, planters, field cultivators, plow, are some of the gifts of hydraulic systems to the farming industry. They allow the farmers to utilize them for more robust applications.

The transportation industry including automobiles and airplanes has also been benefited from hydraulic systems. The use of hydraulic brakes, horns, and repairing equipment has helped the automobile sector immensely. The airplanes utilize the hydraulic systems in the control panel operation while also using hydraulic systems to enable the aircraft’s landing gears & flaps to work properly. You will surely witness the hydraulic machinery in the recreation sectors as well. The amusement park rides are powered by hydraulic systems to help people enjoy their time. Other hydraulic machineries used in our day-to-day lives include elevators, office chairs, repairing equipment, and so on. 


The hydraulic machinery has been one of the most amazing gifts humankind is blessed with. Its blessings were not achieved in one day, rather it took centuries to reach this far! The evolution of hydraulic systems is an ongoing process and it should and will never end for the benefit of people. Hydraulic machinery is a kind of machine that allows you to achieve even the most impossible of tasks. Therefore, the research and development efforts in this technology should be highly encouraged.

These independent machines have made our life embodied into them, although they are considered a blessing as they can make complex systems much simpler. These pieces of machinery are complementary to human lives. When utilized well, the machine can provide great benefits to human lives because of its consistent characteristics such as independence, predictability, distinctions, and interdisciplinary setup; ones that you don’t find in humans consistently.

Feature Image Source: YouTube

Read More:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *