Hydraulic Pumps vs. Pneumatic Pumps: What You Should Know

Pneumatic and hydraulic pumps have many similarities. They both use fluid power for their operation, feature valves that control them and have a pump that’s used as an actuator.

However, there are some key differences to be aware of as you select the best pump type to use for your particular application. For example, pneumatics use compressible gas, while hydraulics use incompressible liquids.

Let’s investigate the differences between hydraulics and pneumatics to help you determine the type of system that will be best to use for your purposes.

About hydraulics

Hydraulic systems are used for generating, controlling and transmitting power via pressurized liquid. All hydraulic systems need a pump and a series of valves that control the force of the actuators.

Hydraulic systems tend to be larger and more complex than their pneumatic counterparts. This means the system will require more room, because the container must hold the liquid that will pass through the system. The larger size and the incompressibility of the fluids used in the system allow hydraulics to lift and move larger items.

While the initial costs associated with hydraulic systems are higher than with pneumatic systems, their ability to lift and move more thanks to the higher pressures of operation makes them the right fit in certain applications that require a higher force.

You will therefore be most likely to find hydraulic applications in large moving systems such as elevators, dams, turbines, wheelchair lifts, dump truck lifts, hydraulic braking systems, machine tools and various amusement park rides.

Hydraulic systems cannot be used in any application involving food or beverages because of the risk of hydraulic oil leaks. These leaks can result in serious problems, so it is appropriate for facilities using hydraulic systems to have the proper materials on hand as well as the know-how to make repairs.

About pneumatics

Pneumatic systems use pressurized air or gas to deliver mechanical motions. While traditionally pneumatic devices tended to be small, handheld systems, there has been an increasing number of large machines relying on pneumatics to perform various functions.

These systems use compressed air or inert gases that run through parts such as a compressor, air tanks, hoses, transition lines and cylinders. The compressor delivers the compressed air through the hoses, and the airflow is regulated by automatic or manual valves. The pneumatic system then turns the energy created by the compressed gas into mechanical energy.

Compared to hydraulic systems, pneumatic systems are generally cheaper, safer and more versatile. Because they do not use the oil that hydraulic systems do, they can be used in areas around food, pharmaceutical products, dental products or biotech laboratories, as there is little risk of contamination.

Pneumatic systems also feature a simple design that cuts down on maintenance and prevents the system from clogging up. Their typically small nature makes them highly portable and easy to install, which helps to keep their initial costs low.

You’ve probably seen pneumatic systems used for vacuum pumps, air compressors, HVAC systems, nail guns, tubes at banks, precision drills at dentist offices and various types of conveyor systems.

For more information about hydraulics and pneumatics, contact the team at Hydraulic Power Sales Inc. today.