Once I came across a mechanic in a garage spelling out the word “liquid fluid power” to one of his colleagues. They were probably laymen who were expressing their astonishment at the fact that how the power of fluid can drive the mighty hydraulic equipment like excavators, tractors; robots, and even amusement rides like rollercoasters!
They may not know how it works, but they certainly understand how significant it is! In simple words, they realize this is a part of science that helped humans achieve something which was once considered impossible. And that too with the help of liquid fluid power!
Being machine lovers, we want to dig a bit further into the advantages of fluid power systems and find out more about their applications (definitely, in easy terms)!
What is Fluid Power
What comes to your mind when you hear the word “Hydraulic power?” Probably an excavator? Or a piece of huge construction machinery? Like those big cranes? Yeah, you’re going right.
Hydraulic power is the practical term used for fluid power. It’s at work behind the scenes in just about everything in our lives, starting from vehicles to manufacturing machinery.
But what it really is? Find the answer to this equation that includes three key phrases — power transmission + controlled circulation + and pressurized fluid (usually oil) =? You’ve probably guessed the right answer. It’s the fluid power or liquid fluid power or hydraulic power. All are correct.
The system comes out so good when it’s effectively combined with different technologies such as transducers, sensors, and microprocessors, or other advanced electronics. As a result, you have a system with more flexibility and control.
Basics of Fluid Power System
Don’t worry, we know it’s not a science class, we won’t be too technical! But we feel there are a few basic things you should know about a fluid power system or hydraulic system.
Let’s put it this way,
- The system works based on the core concept of power transmission using pressurized fluid — “Pressure exerted by a confined fluid acts undiminished equally in all directions” (All about Physics and Pascal’s Law in particular)
- It uses a pump to push the fluid through the system to generate liquid fluid power.
- The fluid moves through the valves and flows to the cylinder.
- A motor in the system converts it into mechanical energy enabling the system to work on a load
- The highest power density (compared to other technologies) of the system helps the cause
- The system is effectively combined with other technologies to create different applications
- It contributes to the overall energy efficiency of different applications including Actuators with or without Electro Hydrostatic Actuation, Hydraulic Pump with Electric Drives, Intelligence-embedded Valves, and more
What is the System Made of
We’ll take a look at the components a hydraulic system is made of and not get into its functional details ( keeping it simple and easy for our readers).
The system generally comprises the following components —
- Hydraulic Fluid
- Hydraulic Reservoir
- Hydraulic Pump
- Hydraulic Valve
- Hydraulic Actuators
- Hydraulic Seals
- Hydraulic Hoses
- Tubing & Pipings
Hydraulic Fluid: The Thing Matters the Most
The hydraulic fluid is the core part of any hydraulic system and it’s something the whole system is based on. They not only make the system function properly but also serve other purposes.
While the major function of hydraulic fluids is power transmission, they are also responsible for lubrication, controlling contamination, preventing wear and corrosion, and heat transfer.
We get different queries from our readers about different aspects of hydraulic fluid. Here are some of the key notes to take a look at:
- Hydraulic fluid is the medium used by the system to transfer power in the hydraulic machinery
- Apart from power transfer, the hydraulic fluid also serves other purposes including lubrication and wear resistance
- The type of hydraulic fluid determines the purpose it’s used for
- Hydraulic Fluid is classified based on the material it is made of; based on that there are 3 types of hydraulic fluids
- The most common hydraulic fluids available are petroleum or mineral-based, water-based, and synthetic or man-made ones; learn more about each of these here
- Hydraulic fluid characteristics that need to be considered are viscosity (fluid’s resistance to flow), viscosity index (the response of fluid viscosity to temperature change), oxidation stability, and wear resistance
- Hydraulic oil is the term interchangeably used for hydraulic fluid, however, hydraulic oil is preferably used as a coolant or lubricant rather than for power transmission
- The most popular hydraulic fluid is Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF) used for self-shifting, cooling, and lubrication
- Another popular hydraulic fluid is Power Steering Fluid that allows one to steer and turn a vehicle with almost no effort
- While using PSF, take appropriate cautions like regularly checking out for any power steering fluid leaks or being careful with too much power steering fluid being filled up
- The answer to the question “Is power steering fluid the same as transmission fluid?” is no because both of these are made for different purposes, however, they can be used interchangeably based on the make and model of a hydraulic equipment
Why Should Fluid Power System be Used
Definitely for the immense benefits that it provides to different industries. It comes with the following advantages:
Convenient, Accurate, Versatile
- The hydraulic components generally come with a compact footprint and lightweight design. The weight and size of a 5 HP hydraulic motor are so convenient that you can even hold it in the palm of your hand.
- You can achieve accuracy by adjusting a large force using different control options such as acceleration, deceleration, start, stop, reversal, and positioning. With the analog and automatic digital control, you have both options to find the desired convenience.
- From a fraction of an ounce to hundreds of tons of output, yeah, this is how you can play with the energy and force to multiply it in a varying amount.
- This is something interesting about a hydraulic motor (unlike the electric motor). It is good to produce a huge amount of torque or twisting force while operating at a lower speed. Some of these fluid power systems can even maintain a good torque at almost zero speed without overheating.
- When it comes to maintaining a constant torque, you find it a unique attribute to the liquid fluid power.
- When combined with different machine functions, it can provide immense power and superior control.
Safety & Standards
- The hydraulic system is probably the safest technology to use in a hazardous environment. The properties of being spark-free and tolerating to high-temperatures help the cause. You can use the fluid power in chemical plants, mines, paint applications, near explosives, and other such situations.
- The fluid power industry is well established with design and performance standards for all kinds of hydraulic products through different international organizations. Some of these include NFPA (National Fluid Power Association), ANSI, and ISO. Check out more here.
A Few Issues Though…
Nevertheless, there are some disadvantages associate with the hydraulic systems, like —
- Hydraulic system is an expensive option to consider
- Hydraulic equipment demands a power-pack arrangement for installation
- Hydraulic system requires complex assembly and repairing procedure
- Hydraulics is suitable for only high-pressure applications
What Are Some Great Fluid Power Applications
Before getting into the specific fluid power applications, how about checking out the industries that use hydraulics the most. From the National Fluid Power Association (NFPA), we came to know the following stats:
|Automotive Industry (except heavier trucks)||9%|
|Heavier trucks (Class 4-8 trucks )||6%|
|Material Handling Industry (including conveying)||6%|
|Oil & Gas Sector||4%|
|Lawn & Garden Sector||4%|
After checking out the stats above, you can easily guess the applications hydraulics is used for. Surprisingly, most of the mobile or stationary you use today is an application of the fluid power system. So it’s not really possible to name each piece of example.
However, we’ll try to group them into different categories (from users’ perspectives) and briefly mention some of the most important applications here.
- Build & Constriction equipment — excavators, forklift, backhoes, cranes, graders, spreaders, earth moving equipment, etc
- Transport — tractors, trailers, rail equipment, truck brakes, suspensions, etc
- Industrial & Manufacturing — metalworking equipment, material handling equipment, hydraulic lifts, production machinery, presses, loaders, crushers, etc
- Automobiles — power steering, hydraulic jack, brake, windshields, two/four post lifts, shock absorber, etc
- Aerospace — aircraft, spacecraft, military aircraft, rockets, spaceships, supporting equipment including flight controls, landing gear, cargo loading equipment, etc
- Marine — steering gear, engine room equipment, bow & stern thrusters, deck machinery including winches, cranes, mooring drums, etc
- Mining — hydraulic fracturing (the most advanced technology to extract natural resources)
What is Our Take on Liquid Fluid Power System
The more you become acquainted with this technology, the more you become a fan of it! We guess you’re already involved in a profession related to hydraulics and looking to make it big.
It’s the biggest industry out there and you should jump on the hydraulic bandwagon. Because the profession isn’t going anywhere, any sooner!
If you’re a hydraulic tech, you always have the chance to gain more experience and start your own business. If you go right, the money you can earn will always be above average.
Moreover, you get to make innovative things while also learn troubleshooting and satellite skills in this amazing industry. So let’s take the time to cheer this liquid fluid power system that has such huge potential!
You’re amidst hydraulics, in one way or the other. Yet you might not be thinking about it. But when it comes to considering it as a profession, you need to get more acquainted with the liquid fluid power. Regardless of the industry that you’re involved in, you’re probably set to buy hydraulic equipment sooner or later!
The article was intended to make hydraulics more exciting (it already is) to the readers. Because we believe it’s the future. So stay tuned!