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Some companies run a lot of different hydraulic equipment. Firefighters are one example of a workplace that uses a range of hydraulic equipment, each with its own specification of the type of hydraulic fluid that is indicated for use. Construction, healthcare and agriculture also use a range of different hydraulically powered equipment, from hospital beds to hay balers and everything in between. Being in charge of maintaining all this equipment is a large undertaking, and a common theme for those tasked with keeping everything running is staying on top of the sheer number of different types of hydraulic fluids that are stored and used routinely.
There may be very good reasons why a piece of equipment uses a certain type of hydraulic fluid, but sometimes the choice is determined by the past – “we've always used that type of oil so we will continue to do so” – is a common reason behind why different types of oil are used. That, coupled with the fact that some engineers have their own favourite types, can mean that after a few years the stock of hydraulic fluids is running into tens of bottles, all half empty (or full, depending on how you look at things) and taking up valuable storage space. There are some ways you can reduce the number of containers and types of oil you use.
Firstly, identify which bottle correlates to which piece of equipment. There may be more than one for very complex equipment. Mark the bottles so you know what hydraulic fluid goes with what. Anything that is unmarked can be discarded, as it is probably not in use anymore. Any bottles that are old or have been open for a long time may have degraded past the point at which they are still useable – the more contact there is between a hydraulic fluid and the air the more degradation will have occurred, so to avoid accidentally using hydraulic fluids that have gone off it is a good idea to regularly discard old containers.
The next stage is to identify where the same, or very similar fluids are being used on more than one type of hydraulic equipment. All hydraulic fluids have a viscosity rating, but these are a guideline of the viscosity under normal operating conditions. There is a 10 per cent variation on the viscosity grade, so where there are fluids of, say, 38, 40 and 42 grade then one grade should fulfil the requirements of the three varying grades. Consolidating the same types of fluid into one viscosity grade for all pieces of hydraulic equipment could reduce the number of bottles considerably, and make it much easier for anyone replacing or topping up the fluid levels.
It is important when consolidating fluid choices in this way that one refers to the specification of each piece of machinery, to ensure that there are no special reasons why a particular grade of hydraulic fluid is used. Pieces of machinery that experience a lot of fluctuation in operating temperature may require a certain type of hydraulic oil to ensure premium performance throughout operation.
When choosing new hydraulic equipment, it is worth considering whether the fluid types indicated by the manufacturer matches what you already have, and whether you are able to use one of the hydraulic fluids you already own if they are a close enough match. By keeping things very simple and reducing the number of hydraulic fluids kept on site you can save money, time and avoid unnecessary cross contamination of fluids within the machinery.
Firefighters use hydraulic equipment on a daily basis when they put out blazes and rescue people from burning buildings or crashed vehicles. The ladder on top of a fire engine is raised and lowered by a hydraulic piston, that is controlled by the ground crew, with another set of hydraulic hoses controlling the extension of each section of the ladder independently, allowing the correct length of ladder to be deployed for each situation. The ladder position is also controlled by a hydraulic motor, that turns the ladder left and right, making it easy to get the ladder in exactly the right place by using all three hydraulic components.
It is not just the firefighters ladder that uses hydraulic power, but the rescue and cutting tools, as well. Fire crews are often called upon to rescue people from crushed vehicles and getting them free is often a time sensitive operation, so the large forces exerted by hydraulic cutters, rams and spreading equipment are vital in terms of getting people free as quickly as possible. These tools operate at 720 bar, which is a large enough force to cut through steel rods and easily bend the structure of a car or lorry cab. Often referred to as the Jaws of Life, some hydraulic rescue equipment combines cutting and spreading capabilities into one tool, as both these functions are usually needed in rescue situations. Hydraulic jacks are carried on some fire trucks that are called to the scene of a heavy vehicle crash, as lifting a crashed train carriage or petrol tanker requires some serious force to be applied quickly, especially if there are people trapped underneath or inside the vehicle.
The choice of hydraulic fluid is very important in fire engines, as by nature they are used in situations where high temperatures are present. The fluid used in hydraulic rescue equipment is usually a phosphate-ester fluid, that does not conduct electrical charge and is fire resistant. It is vital that the hydraulic fluid used is fire resistant and capable of operating at high temperatures. Hydraulic fluid does heat up under pressure, so adding this factor to the issues of prolonged exposure to high heat at fire scenes means that there are limited choices of hydraulic fluids for fire engines. If oil based hydraulic fluids are used there is a high risk of fire if a line breaks or there is a leak, so for safety reasons any fluids used on a fire truck must be non-flammable.
Regular checks and maintenance of hydraulic fluid levels should be performed with any equipment that uses hydraulic fluids, but in the case of fire trucks it can make the difference between life and death. Fluid reservoir levels should be checked under the same conditions each time, which is best done when the fluid is cold and the fire engine has not been recently used. Keeping the reservoir topped up reduces the risk of air entering the system through the pump, which can lead to faulty operation and lasting damage to the components. This is a job that firefighters can carry out at their station, but for testing the hydraulic fluid a professional service should be used. The hydraulic fluid should be replaced regularly to keep the equipment in good working order.
Each type of hydraulic equipment may use a different type of fluid, and it is important that these are not mixed up during routine maintenance. Most fire departments display the information clearly at the point of topping up on the inside of cap covers or nearby. It is also good practice to label the fluid containers so they are not accidentally used on the wrong engine or the wrong piece of equipment, as each fire department may favour a particular type of oil for each application, and when fire trucks are loaned out to other departments there is a serious risk of hydraulic fluid mix up.
Hydraulics has been around for a very long time. But are you aware of how far it has actually come? You wouldn’t be alone if you responded with no. It is a very technical subject that can be quite difficult to understand, but in this article we want to tell you the story of hydraulics! We want to share with you who discovered hydraulics, what it was originally used for and how hydraulic power got to where it is today.
So why don’t we start at the beginning! Where does the word hydraulic come from?
The word hydraulic originates from the Greek word ‘Hydros’ which means water. Why water? Well, this is because water was the first liquid to be used in the hydraulic system. Today, hydraulics includes the physical behaviour of all liquids, not just water.
In this article we want to explain the ins and outs of hydraulic powerpacks. A vital piece of equipment that is used with so many machines we see every day.
In a nutshell, hydraulic powerpacks are self contained units that are used instead of a built in power supply for hydraulic machinery. Hydraulic power uses fluid to transmit power from one location to another in order to run a machine. It really is as simple as that.
So what do they look like?
In order to recognise and better understand hydraulic powerpacks, it is a good idea to get to know the key components. Hydraulic powerpacks come in many different shapes and sizes, some are very large and stationary whereas others are much smaller and more compact. In fact, some hydraulic powerpacks are so compact that they can easily be transported in a small van or even an estate car.
The only real way to identify hydraulic powerpacks is through its main components. No matter the size of the unit, all power packs will have the following; a hydraulic reservoir, regulators, a pump, motor, pressure supply lines and relief lines.
What do these components do?
It may be obvious to some but in this post we wanted to explain every hydraulic power pack component as simply as possible. So here goes.
First up is the hydraulic reservoir which quite simply holds the fluid. Reservoirs will come in different sizes.
Then we have the regulators. Regulators are vital as they control and maintain the amount of pressure that the hydraulic powerpack delivers.
Thirdly we have the pressure supply lines and relief lines. The supply line simply supplies fluid under pressure to the pump and the relief lines relieve pressure between the pump and the valves. The relief lines also control the direction of flow through the system.
Finally we have the pump and a motor. We will begin with the simpler component of the two, the motor. The motor is simply there to power the pump. Easy as that. Now the pump generally performs two actions. Firstly, it operates as a vacuum at the pump inlet and through atmospheric pressure forces fluid from the reservoir into the inlet line and then to the pump. It then delivers the fluid to the pump outlet and pumps it into the hydraulic system. We did warn you that the second part would be slightly more confusing.
So what is the function of hydraulic powerpacks?
Hydraulic powerpacks deliver power through a control valve which in turn runs the machine it is connected to. Hydraulic powerpacks come with a variety of valve connections. This means that you can power a variety of machines by using the appropriate valves.
Hydraulic powerpacks are relied upon by a range of different machines that use hydraulic power to do its work. If a machine is required to carry out heavy or systematic lifting then its likely it would need help from a hydraulic powerpack.
To make it easier for you to understand, we have included a list of trades that regularly rely on our powerpacks. On a building site you will see machines like bulldozers and excavators, which both need hydraulic powerpacks. But, it is not just on building sites that you will find these types of machines. Fishermen and mechanics both need hydraulic powerpacks too. If we did not have them then how would fishermen lift their nets or how would mechanics lift our cars?
When picking a hydraulic powerpack there are a variety of pumps and options to pick from and it is important to pick the right pack to meet your machines needs. It is also important to consider a pack that will help maximise productivity and minimise cost.
Many people will overlook the necessity of hydraulic powerpacks, but they really are vital to ensuring our society runs efficiently.
Do you need to maintain hydraulic powerpacks?
Yes you do and this is hugely important! Hydraulic powerpacks require regular maintenance to ensure they are working properly and safely and to help extend their life. Maintaining hydraulic powerpacks is relatively simple and includes checking the tubing, this can be for any noticeable problems such as dents or cracks. It is also vital to regularly change the hydraulic fluid and look at the reservoir to check for any corrosion or rust in hydraulic power packs.
What hydraulic powerpacks do we provide?
Generally we provide four different types of hydraulic powerpacks. You can pick from a standard powerpack, a mini powerpack, a micro powerpack or a bespoke powerpack.
The standard hydraulic powerpack uses a standard range of modular components and is ideal for the most demanding industrial applications. The mini powerpack is ideal for applications requiring up to 5.5kW. The micro hydraulic powerpacks were originally produced for mobility applications, so are great for when space is limited. Finally, if none of these seem to fit your needs then we offer bespoke hydraulic powerpacks ensuring your application gets the hydraulic powerpack it requires.
Finally, who is the genius behind hydraulic powerpacks?
The man behind hydraulics was Laissez Pascal. A French mathematician, physicist and religious philosopher who lived in the mid seventeenth century. Pascal made observations about fluid and pressure which led to Pascal’s law. Pascal's law states that when there is an increase in pressure at any point in a confined fluid, there is an equal increase at every other point in the container. Hydraulic powerpacks have been designed based on Pascal's law of physics, drawing their power from ratios of area and pressure.
So, interested in our Power Packs? Come on over to the main website and see what we can do for your Hydraulic Power Pack Needs .
Eco-friendly hydraulic fluids are in demand for use on environmentally sensitive projects, such as work on nature reserves, as well as sub-sea applications. The requirement for a biodegradable fluid is often specified by the landowner or project owner, as they cannot risk a fluid leak contaminating the land and getting into the water systems in the area. There are biodegradable hydraulic fluids available on the market, and these typically use canola, sunflower or soybean oil as the base rather than the more traditional mineral oil. Under certain conditions these bio-based fluids achieve a similar performance to mineral oil based fluids, but these have not been tested extensively and for this reason it is recommended that the equipment be run at a 20% deficit compared to the usual pressure (so, at 80% of the maximum permissible operating load).
As the use of biodegradable hydraulic fluids is usually determined by the project owners as a condition of the work being undertaken, there is no room for compromise here. Instead, the compromises must be made with the machinery and how it is set up. If time constraints are an issue as well as the eco-friendly credentials of the materials used, it is wise to select bigger and faster versions of the machinery that was intended to be used, as even running at 80% the job will get done in the same amount of time, as the intended equipment would at full capacity.
There are also costs associated with the draining and flushing of unsuitable hydraulic fluid; some clients may insist on testing the fluid in the machinery to ensure it passes their tests for biodegradability. The oil itself is more expensive than the cheaper mineral oil based fluids, so the whole job becomes more expensive immediately biodegradable oils are used. Often, when a job has been priced without these considerations it becomes unprofitable unless the client is accommodating of over-runs due to the changes required in the machinery or the rental of bigger equipment.
With time and the growing popularity of renewable energy and the general shift towards the use of more sustainable materials there will be developments in the production and testing of biodegradable hydraulic fluids. The costs associated with the purchase and use of bio-based fluids will come down, and the concerns around the maximum performance pressure will be assuaged, meaning that biodegradable hydraulic fluids will be able to compete at the same level as traditional mineral oil based ones.
When it comes to getting the best from hydraulic tools, their performance and longevity rely heavily on the quality of hydraulic fluid. Fluid that is both pure and of the right consistency will make the difference between a fully productive business and a sorry looking turnover.
In this blog post we look what will deliver best results from your choice of hydraulic oils.
It’s a fact that hydraulic systems work by transmitting force using an incompressible fluid. However, the type of application that is being used will have different needs for speed, pressure and in some cases electrical properties.
A key benefit of using fluid over the air used in pneumatics is the lubrication offered by it. A thicker oil may produce better results than perhaps a thinner oil that may develop a foaming behaviour when used under high pressure or speed.
Another key area to consider is the temperature that oil will used at. Fluids have the ability to dissipate heat whilst working as a deliverer of power. The negative of this is that when fluid builds up too much heat it can lead to the development of vapour in the hydraulics system. This can lead to system failure – not something that is wanted with a braking system for example. This is the reason that large trucks and other heavy vehicles use air braking.
Although water was used for the early hydraulic systems, most hydraulic fluid is now oil as it offers better lubricant properties in addition to being able to operate at higher temperatures. Other fluids in use include esters or glycols. More recently many manufacturers have been making fluids that are far more environmentally friendly and biodegradable. For example, vegetable oils. This is particularly popular in industries such as agriculture and around water tables that could threaten the safety of human consumption products.
A few blog posts ago we mentioned the “Jaws of Life” which are used by first response medical responders to cut away road crash vehicles to release victims. In this type of application, phosphate-ester fluid is used. Not only is it non-flammable but it has a high resistance to electricity.
If you work in an industry that needs a different solution than what’s available, it’s possible to mix fluids, however this is an area that needs experience and deep knowledge. Knowing how these mixtures will react and how they will perform under certain situations is essential.
Whatever your hydraulic system is, be careful about using the right fluid. It will make all the difference with the performance of your tool, but it could also affect health and safety considerations.
Performance and reliability don’t have to be sacrificed in order to use green and clean hydraulic fluids.
Industrial equipment needs continuous lubrication to keep it operating reliably, efficiently and for long periods of time. The offshore industry relies on hydraulic fluids with high performance, more so because some equipment can be located over 100 miles from shore. Replacement parts and spare components can be days away, so all machinery being fully functional is integral to full operations.
Sourcing hydraulic fluids that are more compatible with the environment is something that many operators are struggling with. The current environmental climate demands that companies deliver a maximum output of oil whilst not crossing any boundaries of the increasing legislation that is environment related and adding to the complexity of oil and gas extraction in areas such as the North Sea. This is a trend that we predict to continue and spread to other parts of the oil-producing world.
Marine environments are protected by a number of international bodies and therefore offshore production is particularly challenging. Fluids that are less likely to impact delicate eco systems are catching the attention of offshore operators.
Fluids that could spill or leak into the sea need to be selected with the consideration of what effect they could have on the environment. There needs to be a balance between choosing a fluid that might be considered better for the environment, but that offers less in terms of performance results than one that provides improved performance. This is because the lesser fluid may need to be more frequently replenished and that carries a risk of spillage in itself. There could also be an associated increase in packaging, shipping, storage and of course disposal. All affecting the environment in a negative way.
Hydraulics is an area that can greatly impact the environment due to high pressures, flexible hoses and high flow rates. They can all make it possible for there to be a significant spill.
When selecting your fluid, stay sensitive to the environment and recognise what impact it could have from all angles including bioaccumulation, toxicity and biodegradation.
Watch this space for further information about what’s possible with environmentally responsible hydraulic fluids.
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