Hydraulic power has been known for a very long time, and it has been put to use almost since the beginnings of civilization. While the ancients made very effective use of hydraulics, it was left to modern innovators to develop machinery capable of accomplishing some of the most difficult tasks requiring tremendous power. Below you’ll learn about the origins of hydraulic power, and how its usage progressed through the centuries.
History of Hydraulic Technology
Using fluids to generate power started millennia ago with water wheels being used in ancient China during the sixth century BC, and in the Persian Empire during the fourth century BC. There are numerous examples of fluids being used to generate power throughout the ancient Greco-Roman world, including the first known hydraulic wheel, which was developed in the third century BC, and is known as the Perachora Wheel.
Under Greco-Roman influence, Egyptian engineers constructed the first hydraulic automata, which was built in 270 BC, and which continued to undergo refinement until approximately 80 A.D. A number of working hydraulic machines are described by Hero of Alexandria, for instance, the force pump which was used in fire engines throughout the region.
Hydraulics were used in the ancient Muslim world, during the Golden age of Islam which occurred between the eighth and 13th centuries. At that time, engineers constructed various machines that made use of hydropower and tidal power in hydraulic factory facilities which were extremely large. A number of different mills were used for various purposes, with hydropower being the driving force behind them, and by the 11th century, virtually every province in the Islamic world was using hydropower.
In modern times, Benedetto Castelli served as a prime consultant to the Pope on all projects involving hydraulics in the early 1620’s. The great Blaise Pascal studied the principles behind hydraulic fluids, and his work led to the discovery of the hydraulic press, which incorporated principles of pressure and fluid motion.
In the 19th century, pioneers Joseph Bramah and William Armstrong perfected a machine for delivering power on an industrial scale which made use of hydropower. 19th century London saw the rise of the London Hydraulic Power Company, which became a major supplier of hydraulic power serving the city, the dock areas, and the entire west side of London.
How Do Hydraulic Systems Work?
The main principle behind any hydraulic system is that the force applied at one point is automatically transmitted to a different point via an incompressible fluid. This incompressible fluid is generally some type of oil, and the force being applied gets multiplied in the process. The simplest type of hydraulic system would consist of two pistons and a pipe connecting them which is filled with oil.
The two pistons will be encased in glass cylinders filled with oil and connected to each other via the oil-filled pipe. When applying a downward force to one piston, that force is transmitted to the other piston via the oil contained in the pipe. Given the fact that oil cannot be compressed, this allows for excellent efficiency, with most of the applied force reappearing at the second piston.
The pipe connecting the hydraulic system can be of virtually any shape or length, which makes it convenient for traveling through all kinds of different spaces and media. One of the great things about a hydraulic system is that it’s extremely easy to multiply the force involved or to subtract the force in a given hydraulic system. To do this, all you have to do is change the size of one of the piston/cylinder combinations as they relate to the other one.
Which Industries Benefit the Most From Hydraulics?
Virtually any industry which uses heavy equipment to accomplish work will make use of hydraulic systems in order to complete necessary tasks. When you think about industries that use heavy equipment, you can be sure that hydraulic systems are involved for many of those pieces of machinery. In the construction industry and landscaping, many pieces of heavy equipment run on hydraulics, because so much power is required to accomplish specific tasks.
In a similar manner, the same kind of heavy machinery is often necessary for use in the automotive, aerospace, water treatment, and agricultural industries. A great many mining and well-drilling applications also require the use of heavy machinery to accomplish tasks that can only be done with very powerful equipment powered by hydraulics.
What Types of Equipment & Machinery Have Evolved Thanks to Hydraulics?
One of the biggest advances in the area of hydraulic systems in the 21st-century is the much greater use of electronics. Because Tier 4 emission standards forced manufacturers to reconsider the design of construction machinery, a great many more functions are now being controlled electronically. For instance, hydraulic joysticks have been replaced by electronic controls, cabs are now fitted with LCD digital displays, maintenance intervals for all machinery is monitored electronically, and electronics are pervasive throughout the hydraulics industry.
Heavy machinery now has programmable performance modes such as eco-mode and high-power mode. Modern construction machinery now makes far greater use of hybrid drive systems, traction control, and automatic grade compensation, thanks to electronics being used to greater advantage.
One of the most impressive new machines which have been developed is the crawler dozer, which has individually controlled hydrostatic drives that control both the left and the right tracks. Electronics help the operator accommodate for any changes in load, traction, or turning angle. Machines like this can be aligned with an operator’s preferences, such as a feather-touch high-response setting, or one which is slower and more attenuated. All user profiles can be saved on the machine, and when an individual logs on, those specific settings will be used.
What’s In Store for the Future of Hydraulics?
As mentioned above, it is very likely that electronics will become a bigger part of the hydraulics industry in the coming years. Electronics will help provide better control and better coordination, and when electronics are coupled with the power of hydraulics, smarter and more efficient power systems are inevitable. It’s likely that hydraulic machines of the future will be much quieter during operation, and computers will be part of the hydraulic machinery itself.
Motors, valves, pumps, and cylinders will all be operated by electronics, and a brand-new field called electrohydraulic is likely to emerge. It will be necessary to devote more time to train operators of this equipment because it now is becoming much more sophisticated. It’s also likely that the size of hydraulic equipment will shrink somewhat because more efficient ways of generating power will be developed. This will allow machinery to have a smaller footprint, generating less noise, and still accomplishing all those same tasks requiring enormous power.
Are You Having Issues With the Performance of Your Hydraulics
If you are having trouble with your hydraulic systems, or need help replacing any of the parts that your equipment relies upon, you need to be able to hire a hydraulic repair company that will not only be able to be onsite quickly but also provide you with quality service that will meet your specific needs. Contact Sapphire Hydraulics today to have our technicians onsite.