Hydraulics is the art of using contained fluid to translate a small push into a big one. Through dissipating the force provided by a smaller ‘push’ cylinder through a pipe and reservoir network, trapped kinetic energy is transferred through oil or water to a larger one.
This motion can be used to power lift booms, arms, pistons, blockers, and much more. Traditionally powered by a hand pump, today’s hydraulics use a complex network of valves, actuators, and electric motors to provide high-pressure liquid at incredible forces of up to 150,000 PSI. Hydraulics are extremely useful in a huge variety of fields. They can be found in our homes, our factories, our workshops, and on our farms. Here are a few common places in the modern world that you’ll find hydraulic machinery hard at work.
Hydraulic braking offers serious improvements over traditional guy line brakes. By pushing down on a peddle, hydraulic fluid greatly intensifies the force placed on the wheel clamp. This results in better handling and a safer ride. Similar mechanisms can be found on commercial airliners powering the retraction and extension of the landing gear.
Hydraulic lifts can be found in retail units, offices, car workshops, docks, and construction sites. As the fluid retains its pressure even when unpowered, lifts can be easily used to suspend heavy loads for extended periods. Two-floor hydraulic passenger lifts are also considered safer and more reliable than winch cable devices as they can be lowered and raised with a greater degree of precision and safety.
Closed hydraulic systems can divert immense amounts of pressure into rams and blocks, allowing for a level of compaction equivalent to deep-sea pressurisation. Hydraulic presses are frequently used in material fabrication, rubbish disposal, and metal forming to save space, prepare materials for recycling, or to provide a mathematically flat finish to sheets and panes.
Did you know that dishwashers use hydraulics? Pumps inside pressurise the water and direct it through small openings to better clean dirty dishware. Water pistols are another common household toy where the principle of hydraulics is harnessed to create a pressurised jet of water. Office chairs also use hydraulics in their base to allow for easy height, angle, and pitch adjustment of the main seat.
Hydraulics aren’t just found in the world of industry. Amusement park rides are often powered by spinning, high-capacity arms that rely on hydraulic motors for strength and precision. Likewise, vital safety mechanisms such as seat arms and emergency stop brakes are controlled by hydraulic locks that can be quickly triggered in an emergency. Indoor flight simulators also rely on computer-controlled hydraulic rams to provide motion simulation.
More sedate entertainment also uses pressurised hydraulic machinery. Large theatres often employ hydraulic stage lifts to move scenery and actors on and off stage and to provide the trapdoor mechanisms behind simple, real-time special effects.
Hydraulic systems are extremely adaptable and can be applied to a wide variety of applications in engineering, construction and manufacturing. To speak with an engineer about hydraulic design, or to source parts for a hydraulic system, please call 01353 721704.