Get in touch today to discuss your requirements
Call: (+44) 01452 523352
Hydraulics is an engineering subset that has been around for centuries. Early automaton used water pressure and flow to effect movement, and the industrial revolution in England may never have happened without using water power to drive machinery – water mills were used to make flour and also to provide energy to early machinery. Steam was also a popular technology, and although this could be classed technically as pneumatic, it grew from the lessons learned from using water power. Nowadays electrical alternatives are widely available and if hydraulics were invented now, this style of power supply would not be as popular as it is.
Despite the age of the technology and the rise of electronic alternatives, hydraulic power still reigns in a few areas where there is no viable alternative. Underwater operations, potentially explosive environments and places where there is no electricity (or it cannot be used for environmental reasons) are three of the main applications where hydraulics is the go-to technology.
The sturdy construction of hydraulic systems, designed to withstand huge amounts of internal pressure, can also withstand pressure from the outside as well. This means that underwater deep-sea operations, such as drilling and scientific research, make use of hydraulic technology that is reliable and fully functional even under the immense pressures of the deep ocean.
Potentially explosive environments, such as those found in oil and gas plants or industries that use dangerous gases and chemicals, are not suited at all to electrical systems. The explosion risk from just one spark from an electrical system failure is great, so hydraulic systems are used to effect motion rather than those which rely on electrical input. Because it is possible to transfer energy over large distances using hydraulics, any electrical components can be housed far away from the explosive atmosphere.
Lastly, in areas where there is no electrical supply, like the polar regions and other remote places, there is no way of using electrical power as a solution or even as an input power for a system. Hydraulic systems can be used with human power by way of a hand pump, converting human power into a larger force using the principles of hydraulics. This means that machinery that might otherwise be unsuitable for use in these places, can be powered by people and this increases the rate of productivity and development in isolated communities.
When you work with hydraulics every day it is easy to take the technology for granted, especially when you know how it works and for what purposes. However, most hydraulic engineers focus on a specific application of the mechanisms and may not realise that there are other uses for the technology that we use every day. For example, petrol pumps use hydraulics to draw the fuel up from the reservoir and deliver it into your vehicle. When you draw up to the pump you make use of hydraulics to stop the car; most vehicle braking systems use hydraulic action to exert force on the brake discs. Hydraulics then allow you to fill the car up, and drive away, using your brakes several times on the journey home.
If you go to any large shopping centre or office there are lifts, which can make use of hydraulics to raise and lower the elevator car. Some older lifts still use a pulley system, but many newer systems use hydraulics. The sandwiches you have for lunch also rely on hydraulics to exist; the mechanisms in large bakeries use this technology to move conveyor belts and other large scale mixing machines to keep the dough moving along the production line. If you sit at an office chair while eating lunch you are also making use of hydraulics, as the mechanism that allows you to lower and raise the seat is usually a hydraulic one.
Visiting the dentist also involves hydraulics at least once, more if you drive there and fill the car up on the way! Dentist chairs use hydraulic pumps to lower and raise the body of the chair as well as to adjust the angle of the foot rest and head rest. Hospital beds and barbers chairs work on the same principle. Vehicle mechanics use hydraulic lifts to raise vehicles up for inspection and repair work in much the same way.
Hydraulics also make an appearance in entertainment; theatre stages that can be raised and lowered use hydraulic systems to make this happen, and similarly, theme parks rides use them to create and control motion. On arriving home from a day out at the theatre or a theme park you may drive your car into a garage with a hydraulically operated opening mechanism, or through a gate that employs the same technology to open and close at the touch of a button. Once in the house you may have to load the dishwasher and set it to run; even here there are hydraulics at work to improve water pressure for better cleaning. Hydraulics are found in many aspects of everyday life that it is possible to make use of six or seven different applications in a single day.
The development of modern hydraulics arguably echoes the development of modern industry. During the industrial revolution, factories worked largely on brawn with images from the period showing steam-belching machines operated by hard-working labourers. Today, the focus of industry is on working smarter rather than just applying muscle power. Part of the reason for this is that the nature of the products being made has changed. Factories today manufacture technologies that previous generations could barely have imagined. Margins are as thin as silicon wafers and any error can have significant financial consequences. Similar comments apply to other hydraulics strongholds such as construction.
While hydraulics on its own may lack the precision needed for a modern industrial environment, when it is coupled with advanced electronics, industry can have the best of both worlds. One of the reasons why hydraulics has been appreciated for centuries is because its lifting power is smooth. When partnered with digital electronic sensors capable of undertaking thousands of measurements a second, hydraulic systems can be refined to a very high degree of precision. Another reason for the longevity of hydraulics is the fact that the essentially simple mechanics behind the technology makes for a high degree of reliability. Given that reducing variability in manufacturing (and other areas) has been a major preoccupation for industry since the invention of Six Sigma in the mid 1980s any technology noted for its consistency already has a strong point in its favour.
These new enhanced hydraulic systems are moving into unexpected places. The same technology that powers heavy-lifting equipment and automotive systems may soon be finding its way into the human body. Researchers at the University of Minnesota are working on a project to create orthotics using hydraulics. As the body ages (or as the results of sporting activity or accidents), joints are often the places where the effects of wear and tear begins to show first. The idea of using hydraulics to replace knee and ankle joints has obvious benefits given the loads carried by them even during day-to-day activity. As the technology develops, it may well become small enough for tiny joints such as knuckles, worn out by excessive keyboard use. They estimate that the technology will be a reality in anything between 10 and 20 years from now.
Top of the range flight simulators not only provide the pilot in training with realistic controls and visual displays, but with the physical experience of flying an aeroplane as well. Pilots need to adjust to the feelings of descent, turbulence and ascent in order to respond to this feedback in a real life situation and until recently, all professional flight simulators used electrohydraulic actuators to achieve the movements that mimic those flying conditions. In the past two years, the development of all-electric actuators has driven the hydraulic systems out of the market for flight simulation, as the cost of maintenance and replacement was becoming too high when alternative technologies could be cheaper.
Of course, many flight simulators that were built before the general shift in technology still use hydraulics to create the motion, as the systems can handle a range of payloads without adaptations being made to valves. This is not the case with electric actuators, so engineers had to address this problem before hydraulic technology could be replaced efficiently in flight simulators. In solving the payload problems associated with using electric actuators, the engineers developed a system that drew less power than the original electrohydraulic one, while being quieter and more efficient; a bad day for hydraulics, perhaps, but a good day for the progression of technology and the environment.
Earthquake simulators, also known as shaking tables, are another type of simulator that uses hydraulic actuators to mimic the motions of an earthquake. Most of these are in universities and research laboratories and are used to test the seismic performance of buildings and other structures that will be built in earthquake prone areas. There is one at the Natural History Museum in London, should any readers wish to test their mettle when faced with a recreation of the 6.8 strength quake in Kobe, Japan, in 1995. These pieces of equipment use hydraulics to move the surface back and forth violently, and need to be accurate enough in their movements, that through a combination of back and forth or side to side movements at different speeds, the table can be calibrated to accurately reproduce the effects of any magnitude of earthquake.
As shaking tables are found at visitor attractions as well as in test laboratories, they need to be able to handle a large amount of weight, far more than the average flight simulator. For this reason, hydraulics are uniquely suited to the purpose, and fully electric actuators would be susceptible to breaking under the strain of a whole class of children on a school visit, or a prototype building material or method for quake-prone areas.
Another area where hydraulic power still reigns supreme is the bucking bronco bar challenge game, although actually it is the professional level models that still use hydraulics, the cheaper alternatives for a bit of fun are starting to make use of electric actuators, as they are cheaper to buy and maintain.
Rodeo cowboys use the bucking bulls as a training method in preparation for big events as it is much safer than riding the real thing, and this feat of endurance is what has made the challenge so appealing to the public, hence the proliferation of these items in bars and theme parks around the country. Some of the rodeo training bulls found in leisure attractions may use hydraulics still, and they are the power source of choice for the professional market, as electric actuators do not have quite the same force as a hydraulic one, and a faithful representation of the power of a real bull is very important for a rodeo cowboy in training. There is still plenty of room for hydraulics in simulators, even if the fully electric technology is finally catching up.
There are many reasons why you may be experiencing a leaking hydraulic hose. In this post we’re going to cover the process of how to identify it so that you can then replace it in order to continue working with your equipment.
Before we get started, it’s important to know that in these modern times, hydraulics are used to power an incredible number of industrial machinery. From car brakes to subsea pumping stations, the hydraulic and its hose provide a powerful link between industrial output and activity and power.
However, after extended use, the hydraulic hose can be put under stress or even environmental conditions that are not conducive to it having a long life span. Failures can occur that will bring any output to a grinding halt. However, keeping an eye on the condition of hydraulic hoses can be just as challenging as fixing them.
Let’s identify what the problem is with the hydraulic hose
First off, you’ll need to gather some tools. You’ll need a spanner that is the same size as the nuts on your machinery. A pair of goggles, a pair of heat resistant gloves, lubricant and some hydraulic caps: With that, you’re ready to discover what’s holding up your output.
The first task on your hands is to discover where the leak is. This could be very tricky. Many hydraulic hoses are hidden and buried inside machines. Others are located in very tight spaces, or placed close to awkward corners. They can also cross paths, leaving you confused about where they are coming from. The most sensible start in your quest to locate the leak is to dry the machine where the leak is coming from. Then you can put on your safety goggles before pressurising the system to gain an understanding of where the fluid is leaking.
Depressurize the system
Once you have established where the leak is coming from, it’s time to depressurize the machine. You will need to turn off anything in the engine that may move the fluid in the pipes, in addition to discharging the pumps.
Once you have depressurized and confirmed which hose and where the failure has occurred, it’s time to remove it. Start by taking off any hose clamps or any custom fittings and remove the hose. Fit the hydraulic cap into place quickly to prevent any leakage. Do the same at the other end of the hose, and then get ready to add the new one. You’ll need to check it’s in good condition and clean. Blast some compressed air over it, and then attach and pressurize again. You should now have got rid of your leak.
Parking and security bollards are a vital part of estate management for many venues and buildings, allowing for a pedestrianised area that is still accessible to vehicles when necessary. Private parking spaces, especially in big cities and commercial estates, are often protected by a moveable bollard that allows the parking space owner to shut off their space when it is not being used. Some of these parking bollards are of a style that simply fold over at the base, locking into position with a key, but the hydraulic style, that rise and descend flush with the ground are much more secure and are ideal for use outside offices and venues where emergency services or deliveries may need access close to the building, but for the most part it is left as a pedestrian zone.
Hydraulic retractable bollards are becoming popular with domestic users who want to protect their driveways. People who live in areas where sporting events take place can find that visitors park on their driveway or in front of it, blocking their own access. Similarly, people with driveways in big cities can find opportunistic parkers in their spot at weekends and seasonal big shopping days and opt to install a hydraulic bollard to keep their driveways clear. An electro-hydraulic bollard cannot be tampered with, so while a folding style could be broken or unbolted by someone determined to park on a driveway, an electro-hydraulic one will deter,, even the most insistent problem parker.
Hydraulic security bollards can be designed to be much larger, both in height and width, than a folding style, and because many are electro-hydraulic they can be wired into an access system which allows parking space owners, renters or security staff to lower and raise them via remote control, RFID tag, pre-payment meters, keypads or proximity sensors on the vehicle itself. Of course, they do require more installation than a folding style, as they must be dug into the ground and secured that way, rather than being bolted directly to the ground.
Hydraulic bollards typically take between seven and three seconds to descend or raise, but many models are fitted with a pressure relief valve that acts as an emergency lowering system when a quick exit is needed, or perhaps to allow emergency vehicles in quickly and at the last minute, preventing other vehicles from entering the area while waiting.
A hydraulic power pack drives the hydraulic ram, which is fitted within the bollard casing, allowing for raising and lowering of the equipment on demand. For easy maintenance, the hydraulics are usually located centrally within the assembly, rather than right at the bottom of the equipment. Hydraulic bollards are specifically designed for regular use with low maintenance, and as such the oil can be a hardwearing type suitable for use at normal weather temperatures, but of course the oil will need to be changed at some stage and maintenance or repairs may be needed as well. Locating the moving gear at an accessible height means maintenance can be carried out easily when needed. This means that the hydraulic power pack must be capable of effecting motion in both directions, so it can lower and raise from a central position.
Other types of retractable bollard are available, such as electro-mechanical and electro-pneumatic, however, the hydraulic options are stronger and more resistance to impact forces than these other types, making them a much more desirable option where impacts are likely. In busy streets, a bollard may well be reversed into accidentally, but a hydraulic model will withstand that impact without damage. In sensitive areas, or those likely to be the target of a vehicle based attack, a strong hydraulic retractable bollard will provide much more protection to the people and building they are protecting than a mechanical or pneumatic option, so electro-hydraulic retractable bollards are becoming the obvious choice for protecting both property and people.
Like health, the usefulness of hydraulics sometimes only becomes apparent in its absence. Pictures of agricultural workers of centuries past may look attractive on greetings cards, but in reality, it was gruelling and sometimes dangerous work. The adoption of hydraulic technology not only made agriculture physically less demanding on the workers, but also more efficient and with the growth in world population over the 20th century, the point is becoming increasingly important. While it may be too much to expect farmers to be expert engineers as well, it is useful to have at least a foundation in how hydraulic technology benefits agriculture.
Hydraulic technology was initially adopted, quite literally, to replace horses. Great, heavy horses gave way to tractors, which depended on hydraulics both internally (for braking and steering) and externally (for lifting or digging). In many cases some degree of human intervention was still required and in some cases this could be quite significant. Not only did earlier tractors need their actions (such as lifting or ploughing) to be carefully controlled by humans, but even then there was a relatively high degree of imprecision in the process, which meant either a certain level of wastage had to be accepted or humans had to undertake what was essentially clean-up work after the tractor had finished the bulk of it. As the technology developed, however, hydraulics was combined with advanced electronics, to fine-tune pressure and flow way beyond the skill of any human operator. This has resulted in such exciting developments as precision planters, which can not only deliver seed in the optimum way over a changing field, but also deliver fertilizer at the same time. This gives the seed a much better chance of growing to maturity, leading to better yields and reduced costs, which can be passed on to the consumer.
Earlier hydraulic technology had fixed pressure and flow. Depending on the situation it was sometimes possible to change the settings, but this required human intervention. Modern tractors have a vastly greater hydraulic capacity than their predecessors with significantly more remote valves. At the same time, the traditional PTO shaft (complete with chains and drive shaft) has largely given way to hydraulic pipes and hoses which are driven directly by the hydraulic motor, making for simpler operation, meaning high reliability. As mentioned, the use of electronic controls allows for great precision, reducing wastage and therefore costs. In short, the combination of hydraulics and electronics has allowed agriculture to move on from a human worker making their best judgement about what is required to a machine using vast amounts of data from sensors to decide what is required and adjusting itself accordingly.
The coupling of the power of hydraulics with the precision of electronics opens up all kinds of exciting possibilities. At a very basic level, it can simply be used to increase the efficiency with which the tractor operates, thereby reducing the amount of fuel used. At a more complex level, it could be used to increase the range and scope of the tasks tractors can perform, thereby enabling micro-agriculture, a means of farming in which sensors throughout a field provide information on the precise conditions in each part of the field, so that farmers can optimize their processes with the highest possible degree of precision.
Hydraulic Power Pack
Connect with us
Connect with us on social media or eBay