Hydraulics is the use of liquid to generate force. The liquid may be water, oil, esters and even blood – our heart is like a basic hydraulic system, pumping blood to blood vessels which in turn enable the body to function. In modern applications, hydraulics plays a big role as the systems to which they’re applied are more light weight, easily maneuverable and capable of handling sudden and rapid changing speeds.
Almost every major application relies on hydraulic systems. The relatively easy maintenance compared to electrical and mechanical systems has made them indispensable in today’s high demand world.
Large machinery such as earthmovers and cranes uses hydraulic systems to lift and move weighty materials. These machines are tasked with shifting very heavy weight and though mechanical and electrical systems also work, the time and effort taken to move booms, for example, would be considerably longer. Hydraulic systems produce uniform force to actuators and motors so work is accomplished faster and with less room for error.
Aside from heavy machinery, hydraulic systems are applied to tools such as saws, impact wrenches and post pullers. The noise generated is reduced and so is exhaust.
The aviation industry utilizes hydraulic systems on an extensive scale. Large aircraft uses two or more systems to power components like wheel brakes, windshield wipers, flaps and cargo doors among many others.
Since the proper working of a hydraulic system depends on precise temperatures, heat and zero fluid contamination, stringent checks are made to ensure that all requirements are met and maintained. Consider the checks conducted prior to takeoff. Technicians and engineers examine and test all vital components – not only hydraulic but electric and mechanical – so that aircraft don’t stall, fly with no issues and land smoothly.
In manufacturing plants
Industries and factories produce massive volumes of products. You can well imagine how much power is needed to operate the machines. Hydraulic systems deliver power to motors, valves and actuators to enable machinery to operate. The consistency they provide means that processes that carry on with fewer errors and productivity is maintained.
Perhaps the most well-known use of hydraulics is in the automotive industry. Many automobile manufacturers have made hydraulic brakes standard as they have better braking power and modulation and handle heat well. Of course, they’re more expensive and must be maintained well as fluid contamination can hamper performance but the overall benefits outweigh the drawbacks.
Another example is dump trucks which use a movable bed to dispose trash. This movement is made possible due to one or a pair of hydraulic cylinders.
In transport equipment
Transport equipment like lifts and escalators make wide use of hydraulics. They don’t need large motors to generate required force and speed is still maintained if there’s a leak or power shuts down. The lifts do come with their shortcomings in that leaks can develop but safety measures like installing PVC casings around cylinders have made them much safer than before.
These are only a few examples of what hydraulic systems are used for. There are numerous other applications which deserve mention but listing all would fill a booklet. The bottom line is that they’re able to generate more force, enhance maneuverability and are lightweight compared to other types of systems. The flaws they possess are in the process of being smoothed and judging from how many applications rely on hydraulics, it isn’t likely to be phased out anytime soon.