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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.
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 .
What do farmers, firemen and fruit pickers all have in common? Well, firstly they all begin with F, they’re all hard grafters but the most important similarity is that they all work with some pretty cool machines on a daily basis. I mean if they didn’t then how would farmers harvest potatoes, firemen rescue people who are stuck at the top of burning buildings and how would fruit pickers pick fruit from the highest trees? Thanks to the machinery they use (which are all powered by a hydraulic power unit), their jobs are made so much easier.
So what is a hydraulic power unit?
In a nutshell, a hydraulic power unit is a mechanism that transforms one form of energy into a fluid form. The hydraulic power unit is capable of moving the fluid, if the fluid reaches obstacles it pressurises and is then capable of mechanical force. The power transported by the fluid is then used to power machinery and it could easily lift a car or a tree.
What affects a hydraulic power unit’s performance?
Some important elements that impact the performance of a hydraulic power unit are the reservoir volume, power capability and pressure limits. Its physical size and pumping strength also play a part in its performance.
Who relies on hydraulic power units?
As we have already mentioned hydraulic power units are used by a variety of industries across the globe. Commonly they can be seen powering machinery in the construction, automotive, manufacturing and entertainment industry and the power supplies vary depending on the machine it needs to work with.
In everyday life you may be surprised at the amount of machines powered by hydraulic power units, that help society function that little bit better. From bin men and their garbage trucks, to fairground rides that we like to enjoy, hydraulics is a big part of our life and most of us don’t even realise. All the drivers among also use the power of hydraulics whenever we brake.
After this article, I'm sure you would agree with us when we say that hydraulics are pretty impressive.
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.
Hi Everyone, here Hydra Products we have decided to start utilising our Blog more to keep you up to date, informed, and hopefully occasionally amused by our ramblings! There’s lot’s more to come but just to make sure we’re all starting on the right page we thought we’d better just give you a very brief history of Hydraulic power...
Water has played a huge part in the advancement of mankind and has been a powerful source for us to harness for thousands of years, right up to present day. Harnessing the power of water has enabled us to carve out a living using water wheels: to produce our food, tools, wood, clothes, paper, iron, marble, cotton and wool. Today, “fluid power” or hydraulic power relies on pressurized fluid in order to produce power. It’s all around us, in everyday objects, but if we look back in time, it was a while before it was used the way it is today.
In Imperial Rome, water was used to power mills to produce flour, saw stone and timber. In Britain, water was used to extract lead from tin ore in a process known as “hushing”. Many years later this was developed into hydraulic mining which was used during the California Gold Rush.
In 1648, a young French mathematician and physicist, Blaise Pascal, made a discovery that was to become known as Pascal’s Law. Through his works he realised that “pressure exerted anywhere in a confined incompressible fluid is transmitted equally in all directions throughout the fluid such that the pressure variations (initial differences) remain the same”. This laid the groundwork for further insights into how fluids could be harnessed for energy and in 1738, Daniel Bernoulli first formulated what was to become known as Bernoulli’s Principle which describes the behaviour of a fluid under different conditions of flow and height. This was later used in the network of high pressured water pipes between various generating stations which used steam driven pumps and mills that required power, allowing power to be transmitted over larger distances. Unfortunately this particular project did not continue for long as the development of electricity was found to be a far more convenient and, at the time, a much more suitable way of powering devices.
It was towards the end of the eighteenth century (1795) when Joseph Bramah, patented the hydraulic press. It was based on Pascal’s Law which formed the groundwork for the science of hydraulics. Not long after, the Americans developed the technique of producing electricity using hydropower and hydraulic power plants began to be built. Once the industrial revolution had firmly established itself, engineers and industrialists across the world realised they could utilise Bernouilli’s principles but on a much bigger scale. In the late 19th century, the first hydropower scheme was pioneered by William George Armstrong whom many see as the grandfather of Hydraulic Power (along with Joseph Bramah). A keen fisherman, after spending the day fishing and looking at the watermill, Armstrong decided that it wasn’t the most efficient way of harnessing energy. Upon returning home, he set about designing a rotary engine that was to be powered by water. When nobody showed any interest in it, he set about a redesign, and ended up with a piston engine. This led to the development of hydraulic power-pipe networks (with hydraulic power pipes being used to carry pressurised liquid to transmit mechanical power from a main power source) which were used to power cranes throughout Britain’s cities and also in Geneva, Switzerland. As time has gone on we have seen the development of different hydraulic parts including seals, control values and accumulators, all of which have lead to further uses of hydraulic power.
Today there are many different forms of hydraulic power and water power that are currently being used or developed. The majority of them generate electricity but there are a few that are mechanical. We see examples of hydraulic power in use all around us today and probably the best place to see it at work would be on a building site: diggers, cranes, bulldozers and all kinds of heavy equipment vehicles rely on power from hydraulic drives to ensure they have the power to get the job done! A hydraulic drive is a device that uses pressurised fluid in order to drive the machinery and it is made up of many components, of which an important one is the hydraulic pump which can have a power density of up to 10 times that of an electric motor. It’s not surprising that we are still harnessing the power of these incredible pieces of engineering more than 200 years after they were first conceived!
Hydraulic power is currently being developed further year after year. It will be extremely interesting to see what the developments will be in the future.
As recently as a decade ago virtual reality experiences were limited to flight and helicopter simulators, with no chance for the average person to try it out. These simulators still exist and have become more and more technically advanced as graphics improve, but the old and new all have one thing in common – hydraulics.
Hydraulic rams move the simulator, in response to the actions of the person “flying”, which creates a very realistic experience for the trainee pilot. Having this level of virtual reality prepares them for the real world and the feelings of actually piloting an aeroplane or a helicopter. Some simulator manufacturers have trialled electric actuators, but these have their limitations on the amount of weight they can effectively move. Hydraulically operated simulators are more responsive and realistic than those which use electrical actuators.
Virtual reality hardware is now available at a price point where many consumers can afford to buy a virtual reality headset, and experience the amazing visual and acoustic landscapes created by games designers. It is only a matter of time before virtual reality computer games become the norm; and to truly experience the fictional reality created by the game designers a player will need to experience not only realistic sound and images, but movement too. Gaming chairs already exist to make the computer game playing all the more realistic, but these are generally limited to vibrating along with explosions or other effects in the game. The next generation of gaming chair could be a hybrid between the flight simulator and comfortable chair.
The weight of the chair and the average person can be easily moved using micro hydraulic power packs which can affect movement in two directions, allowing the chair to rise and fall with input from the game activity defining what moves, when it moves and how much it moves. Reversible micro power packs could be mounted at each corner of the seat base, allowing for tipping forwards, backwards and side to side, as well as recreating rolling sensations that could mimic the action of the sea. Using these tiny hydraulic power packs means they can be easily installed in the chair without it being bulky and obvious, and they pack quite a punch, capable of operating at pressures of up to 200 bar.
These micro power packs are already used for wheelchair lifts, bath lifts and other mobility products, so the efficiency in moving human weight is already tried and tested. The actual programming of the hydraulic system, to recreate the movement happening in the game accurately, will be a big job – there can only be a few pre-set movements at certain points in the game, as each player will make different choices and may not trigger movement at places where others do. It would be quite a challenge to program one hydraulic motor to act on game input, but when you consider that four must be programmed, and each one will be moving in a different direction, it becomes a very complex task. Flight simulator programmers would be the ideal people to lead the way on designing a new generation of computer gaming chairs, as they have experience of multi-directional movement programming already.
It's quite staggering to think that only 25 years ago computer games came on a floppy disk, with very basic graphics and a theme to match them. Nowadays there is a whole generation of people who never experienced floppy disks, or had to wait for the monitor to warm up before playing virtual tennis, which just makes it all the more staggering to think how far we have come in such a short space of time. How long will it be before the hydraulically operated virtual reality gaming chair becomes the next must-have product?
As a manufacturer of high-performance hydraulic equipment, our field may not be something that everybody is familiar with. For the lay person, they’ll find that most domestic power tools are fuelled by electric, with a few pneumatics in the mix, such as nail hammers. It’s uncommon to stumble across hydraulic tools outside of manufacturing or other heavy industrial environments. Although there are some hand held hydraulic tools in circulation, it’s quite rare and they are usually specialised.
In this post, we are going to study the differences between these two types of equipment power.
Overall, both types of tools are based on the same principle. An action is created as a result of a motor compressing a substance whether it is air or liquid. This puts them in the same category in contrast to the rigid transmission that may for example be used in a car.
In addition, what makes these tools more accommodating is the fact that the lines that they use are flexible, so therefore aren’t constrained by needing to be set on a fixed configuration. The gas and liquid can also absorb shock which can result in a longer life of a system compared to those that endure a large amount of vibration and breakages.
The following are areas in which there is a major difference between hydraulic and pneumatic:
· Compression: gas is compressible and liquid isn’t. This means that the pneumatic machine will operate once air pressure drops to a certain level as it can store energy, whereas on a hydraulic system, it’s necessary to continually run a pump.
· Exhaust: as air is a by-product of pneumatic systems, it is not suitable for work such as underwater machinery, whereas hydraulic systems are.
· Lubrication: hydraulic fluid can be its own lubrication, whereas pneumatic air needs to be lubricated with an aerosolised oil. Lubrication is important when it comes to maintaining the longevity of moving parts.
· Filtering: air compressors can capture a huge amount of particles and dust when used in a dirty environment. Hydraulic systems are more likely to produce their own impurities as they are a closed and pressurized system. Quite often anti-corrosion additives need to be added to aid hydraulic systems in protection against erosion.
· Heat: this is why aircraft and other large vehicles depend on air brakes as opposed to brake fluid. Fluids can retain heat, but on the other hand hydraulic systems are less likely to need cooling but when they do they can create vapour pockets and can fail catastrophically. Brake fluid used is more likely to be used on cars when there are not multi-tons involved.
· Smoothness: the incompressible nature of fluid enable hydraulic systems to be far more precise and smooth in control.
· Pressure: There’s a big difference in the amount of pressure that hydraulic and pneumatics operate under. Hydraulics can be in the 1,000s of psi, whereas pneumatic tools are usually more like 90-125 psi.
These are just some of the differences and similarities between hydraulics and pneumatics.
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