Unleashing the Force: Exploring the Key Components of Hydraulic Systems

Hydraulic systems work through the use of pressurized liquids. Solids like pens and wood won’t squish when you put pressure on them, but liquids can.

A hydraulic actuator takes this energy and converts it into mechanical force and motion. There are two types of actuators, linear and rotary. A hydraulic system usually has multiple pressure sources including engine driven pumps, electric and manual pumps.


The heart of any hydraulic system is the pump that provides the energy to move fluids from a lower to higher pressure environment. This is a significant function since liquids cannot generate energy on their own and require external power to move from one place to another. Pumps provide this energy and convert mechanical power into fluid power that propels commercial machines like elevators.

Pumps are also responsible for creating the low pressure or suction that enables fluids to be moved by the pump. They do this by employing a variety of mechanisms to create a negative pressure level that draws in and moves fluids through the system. There are many different kinds of pumps and they all differ in how they work to create the low pressure or suction.

A gear pump for example, uses meshing gears to rotate in opposite directions to push and pull on the vanes of the impeller generating flow and pressure. This type of pump is typically used in applications where fluid contamination is a concern. A vane pump on the other hand is designed with a number of flat or shallow faced vanes that are inserted into a rotor to draw in and compress the fluid, creating flow and pressure. This type of pump is often used in applications that need high operating speeds and efficiency.

The pump’s impact on the environment is also important to consider. For example, the material used to make the pump can have a significant impact on how long it lasts and how sustainable it is. Using recycled materials and lessening the amount of waste is an excellent way to increase sustainability in a hydraulic system.


A vital element of a hydraulic system, valves are the control points for opening and closing flow. They’re also essential for regulating fluid pressure and preventing leaks.

Valves are made up of a metal or ceramic insert with an internal mechanism that allows or blocks access to the flow path. Many different types of valves exist, but they all function in a similar way. A butterfly valve, for example, has an internal plate attached to a turning mechanism that either opens or closes the plate to allow or block passage of liquid. Needle valves, on the other hand, have an adjustable needle that obstructs or allows flow to varying degrees.

The key function of a hydraulic valve is to block sudden spikes in pressure within the system. Without this capability, a hydraulic system can overflow and cause a dangerous situation or runaway reaction that could lead to costly damage and environmental pollution. Directional control valves can be closed to block flow and deadhead the pump when necessary. This allows the hydraulic system to continue operating but prevents pressurized fluid from returning to the pump and damaging it.

When it comes to the environment, hydraulic valves play a vital role in helping to reduce harmful gases that pollute the air. By regulating the flow of oil, chemical and petroleum products into and out of refineries, chemical plants, pipelines and wastewater treatment facilities, these devices are crucial in meeting strict emissions requirements to improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) production.


Cylinders are the powerhouses of hydraulic systems, generating the mechanical force that raises and lowers equipment and materials. They use pressurized hydraulic fluid and directional strokes to move and manipulate machinery and materials across a wide variety of industries. Cylinders come in a variety of sizes, designs and configurations to accommodate different industrial applications. Despite this flexibility, they all operate under the same basic principles.

Cylinder construction differs significantly depending on the type of hydraulic system they are used for. The most common variations include single-acting and double-acting designs. Single-acting cylinders work with the hydraulic fluid only acting on one side of the piston, while double-acting cylinders alternate between action on both sides. In order to properly function, cylinders need to have proper seals that are capable of withstanding high pressure spikes and rapid repetitions. These are generally fabricated of specialized materials such as Zurcon and PTFE to ensure they are not affected by the high temperatures that often accompany these types of systems.

Another common use for hydraulic cylinders is in waste management and recycling. These applications require large cylinders to lift and compress heavy, bulky materials into dense blocks for transporting. In addition to providing the force needed to transport and handle these materials, cylinders are also able to generate the force required for generating electrical energy in hydraulic power generators.


Whether it’s an air brake in your car or the power that makes your favorite piece of construction equipment work, hydraulic systems work through a simple concept. In fact, it can be stated even more simply: hydraulic systems function and perform tasks through the use of a fluid that’s pressurized.

The hydraulic system itself can be made of a lot of different things, from pipes and tubes to hoses, tanks, and pumps. But the main thing is that hydraulics have a great concentration of power, which we call “power density.” That’s because they can transfer a huge amount of force over a small distance.

A hydraulic control system is needed to coordinate all the components in a machine and make sure they do exactly what you want them to do. It also helps to make the machine safer and easier to use by reducing the risk of accidents.

Some controls are mechanical, using levers or pedals that directly manipulate the hydraulic cylinders and valves. Other systems use an electronic controller to process inputs from the user, like a joystick or operator panel, and then turn those inputs into operating instructions for the hydraulic valving. The controller may also have the ability to receive feedback inputs from machine sensors and attenuate or increase the operating voltage signals it produces based on that information.

Hydraulic systems are also used in some types of heavy equipment, such as earthmovers and mining machines. And they’re an essential part of construction, forestry and industrial machinery. Whether you’re an engineer, a mechanic or just curious about the technology behind these powerful machines, a basic understanding of how hydraulic systems work is very helpful.

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