There are few camps as divided as those debating fluid power. For some, hydraulics are the clear answer; for others, there’s no surpassing pneumatics. And though both systems have the same principle mechanisms that empower them in their applications, there are a myriad of differences that allow them to be so debated by engineers and physicists. So, the question persists: air or liquid?
The answer to this largely debated question comes down to the application of fluid power—or, more specifically, which system is going to lend its inherent benefits best to the desired application. Let’s break down the benefits of both hydraulic and pneumatic parts in Minnesota:
Perhaps the largest argument of those in the hydraulic camp is the fact that hydraulic power systems do not siphon supplied energy in their execution and, in fact, are able to operate at much higher compressions than pneumatics due to the incompressibility of fluid. This makes hydraulics suitable for high capacity industrial applications.
Also touted as a major benefit of hydraulics is a hydraulic system’s ability to function dynamically—these systems can provide power transmission while simultaneously self-lubricating and cooling. Pneumatics rely on multi-stage operation to accomplish this same cycle, awarding hydraulics the win for efficiency in this debate.
The biggest positive of pneumatics is their quick, clean operation. Air offers superior agility over liquid when it comes to flow rates, thereby allowing pneumatic cylinders to compress and decompress at a quicker rate than hydraulics. And, with a low oppositional force due to the minimal density of air, less initial energy is required to operate pneumatics.
Pneumatics are also incredibly reactive. When a load changes or lower operational force is required, pneumatics can quickly bleed air to adjust, where hydraulics will need to route fluid back to the reservoir in order to adjust. This also plays into the simplicity of pneumatics—a pneumatic system can easily be operated with a switch or button, since the regulation of the mechanism is built into its design.
The battle rages on
Despite having clear pros and cons, the debate between hydraulic and pneumatic parts in Minnesota will continue to rage on, simply because there are application considerations to be made. For example, in cleanrooms and sterile facilities, pneumatics may be preferred due to their safe, clean and reliable design. Conversely, in a setting like automotive manufacturing, hydraulic applications may be preferred as heavy components are dealt with.
Whatever the application, the system in place needs to be designed with unique needs in mind to achieve optimal results. Whether you value control, capacity, functionality or efficiency, it’s important to consider the needs of your fluid power process to ensure you’re making a choice that’s inclusive of the task at hand.
For more information about hydraulics and pneumatics or to inquire about which is going to be ideal for your application, consult with a professional at M & M Hydraulic Company today. We’re happy to shed light on the ideal solution for your unique needs.