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What is the difference between hydraulics and pneumatics?

What is the difference between hydraulics and pneumatics?

Most modern manufacturing applications incorporate hydraulic or pneumatic power. Many industrial applications may also use electrical power too. But for lifting devices and powering actuators, you may prefer to choose hydraulic or pneumatic power. To find out more about the difference between hydraulics and pneumatics, continue reading this helpful guide from Matara.

Features and examples of pneumatics

Pneumatics are widely used in air applications and can be confined within pressurised systems that use moving air or other gases. Due to the fact that gases can be compressed, there is a delay in the movement, but there may not be a need for a compressor with pneumatics.

You can find the use of pneumatic power in objects such as precision drills that are used by dentists and even dentist chairs. You can also find them in nail guns and pneumatic brakes that are used by buses, trucks and trains.

Benefits of pneumatics

Here are the main benefits of using a pneumatic system for your application:

  • Safety – Pneumatic systems are incredibly safe and the fact that they use air as a power source means that engineers are not exposed to anything toxic.
  • Availability – Due to pneumatic systems utilising air, there is an abundance of stock to use. Air is free and unlimited.
  • Cleaning and maintenance – Pneumatic systems require very little cleaning because pressurised air forces dirt out of the system. Also, apart from lubricating a few moving components within the system, not much maintenance needs to be done.
  • Cost – Durable stainless steel doesn’t cost much and not a lot of physical material is required to install pneumatic gear.
  • Power – Pneumatic tools produce a lot of power compared to other technologies and have a great power-to-weight ratio.

Features of hydraulics

Hydraulics are found in confined pressurised systems that use moving liquids. While pneumatics work with gases that can be compressed, the liquids in hydraulic systems are not compressible. This means that there is no delay in movement in applications that use hydraulics.

Hydraulic systems consist of hydraulic fluids, a cylinder (a container holding the liquid), a piston which has a plunger moving inside the cylinder, pumps that move liquids in specific directions, and valves that control the flow of direction.

Hydraulics are commonly used within dump truck lifts and in cars.

Benefits of hydraulics

Here are the main advantages of hydraulic systems:

  • Easy to control – Hydraulic systems are easy to control and are accurate. The operator is able to easily start, stop, accelerate and slow down the operation.
  • Easy maintenance – Hydraulics are easier to maintain because there are fewer moving parts.
  • Large power – Large amounts of power can be transmitted through a hydraulic system with the use of small hoses and tubes.
  • Easy to repair – Due to the lack of moving parts in hydraulic systems they are easy to repair, even in larger machines such as hydraulic rams and motors.

What is the difference between hydraulics and pneumatics?

The main difference between pneumatics and hydraulics is in the medium that they both use to transmit power. Pneumatic systems use compressible gas – often air or pure gas – while hydraulics transmit power using incompressible liquid. The type of liquids found in a hydraulic system include water, high-temperature fire-resistant fluids, mineral oil, and more.

Due to this difference in medium, the amount of pressure both hydraulics and pneumatics can handle differs massively. Industrial applications that utilise hydraulics use between 1,000 and 5,000 PSI, but some specialised applications can handle more than 10,000.

In comparison, pneumatics applications handle pressures ranging from 80 to 100 PSI.

There are differences in the way hydraulics and pneumatics draw their specific medium. For hydraulic systems, a tank to store the oil is required. The system would then draw the medium from the tank in cases of deficit. Meanwhile, pneumatic systems simply draw the air from the atmosphere and purify it through a filter.

Pneumatics at Matara

Here at Matara, we have been supplying the UK market with the latest in pneumatic automation components for the last three decades. As a key partner to Taiwanese manufacturer, Mindman, we have built up a strong reputation as a pneumatic cylinder supplier. We supply a comprehensive core pneumatics range that is designed to suit a range of applications and industrial environments.

To find out more about the pneumatics available at Matara, contact us today on +44(0) 1684 850000 or email us at sales@matarauk.co.uk.

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