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What is the Difference Between Hydraulics and Pneumatics?

Fluid power for actuation has proven indispensable for countless applications, allowing for the standard operations of machinery, automobiles, power tools, and other apparatuses to be carried out with ease. Fluid power is made possible through two ways, those of which are hydraulics and pneumatics. While proving the same force for actuation, hydraulics take advantage of compressed liquids while pneumatics utilize compressed air. As a result, both system types vary in their capabilities and applications. In this blog, we will discuss hydraulics and pneumatics in brief detail, allowing you to understand the functionality and applications of each so that you can find what is best for your needs.

As stated before, hydraulics operate through the use of compressed liquids. These liquids are generally either hydraulic oil or water, and such fluids are beneficial for their incompressible nature that allows for force to be equally transferred through them while under pressure. A general assembly may consist of things such as hydraulic pump parts, hydraulic valves, reservoir tanks, and other such elements. With the bulkiness of many hydraulic components, such systems will generally take up more space in an area and will be heavy. Despite this, the power they generate is very high, average systems operating upward of 5,000 psi while specialized systems can reach as high as 10,000 psi or more.

When compared to pneumatics, hydraulic systems are known for their higher strength, increased precision, and greater efficiency. They are also self-lubricating as a result of their fluids and cost less to operate over time. Despite these benefits, hydraulic systems are generally much more expensive up-front, and they can have the danger of flammability. As such, the choice may be a balance between cost and needs. For applicational use, hydraulic machinery is best when high strength is required, such as for aircraft, heavy equipment, automobiles, large industrial machinery, and more.

Pneumatics are very similar in operation to hydraulics, albeit using gas for operations. As pneumatics have the ability to draw their air supply from the surrounding environment, they can have a nearly limitless supply of power. To protect the system, all drawn-in air is filtered, stripped of moisture, and compressed. As pneumatic systems feature moving parts but use gas as their working medium, they will often need lubrication for their cylinders. In general, the common pneumatic system component types include air reservoirs, valves, actuators, and pipes.

As compared to hydraulics, pneumatic systems are known for their clean operations which is highly beneficial for certain processing applications. Additionally, pneumatics are also much cheaper and are shockproof. Nevertheless, pneumatics cannot reach the same force as hydraulics, generally providing force ranging from 80-100 psi. They are also less precise and durable, though their lower cost and various benefits allows them to be useful for less demanding applications like packaging, hand-tools, food processing, and more.

If you are in the market for pneumatic or hydraulic components for your particular operations, there is no better source for procurement than Industrials 360. Owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, customers can shop for over 2 billion items that are ready for purchase with competitive pricing and rapid lead times. We are fully dedicated to the quality and caliber of our offerings, exploring every possible avenue to ensure the best items for our customers. Get in touch with a representative today and see how Industrials 360 can serve as your strategic sourcing partner for all your operational needs.


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