Harnessing the power of fluid in motion is nothing new. It’s been a powerful source of energy for thousands of years, right up to the present day, and an integral part of the advancement of mankind.
Initially, water was used to turn wheels and push levers. Hydraulics have evolved in the last century to what we know as fluid power by today’s terms. But even as hydraulic cylinder technology advances, the basic principles of fluid power still apply today: relying on pressurized fluids to produce powerful forces.
Discovering the Magic of Fluid Power
The use of fluid power goes back thousands of years when ancient Egyptians used hydraulics to irrigate crops. But it wasn’t until much later that the laws of hydrodynamics were discovered and presented to the masses.
1648: French physicist Blaise Pascal realized that pressure on a confined fluid exerted an equal force in all directions, and those forces could be harnessed.
1738: Nearly 100 years later, Daniel Bernoulli put Pascal’s fluid power discovery to use by pressurizing water in pumps and mills using Bernoulli’s principle.
1795: Joseph Bramah patented the first hydraulic press in England, paving the way for the industrial revolution. Hydraulic presses harnessed fluid power to automate all types of manufacturing equipment, ranging from printing presses and cranes to machines for cutting and stamping.
The Evolution of Fluids Used for Hydraulics
Over time, it was discovered that water wasn’t the best material for hydraulic pumps and motors, and oil was deemed a better alternative for hydraulic applications. Unlike water, oil was non-corrosive and lubricated the hydraulic press components. Oil was also denser, could handle higher loads, did not evaporate, and remained cooler under the high pressure of hydraulic forces.
As the use of fluid power evolved, so did the use of hydraulic presses. With each technological development came new materials, applications, mounting configurations, and internal designs.
Hydraulic Cylinders Today
Major advancements in the last 75 years have brought the power of hydraulics to every market imaginable. Hydraulic cylinders are used on cranes, aircraft control surfaces and landing gear, ships and large watercraft, offshore drilling and mining equipment, and various types of machinery. Hydraulics is even used in hydroelectric power and energy production applications.
Hydraulics can provide up to 10 times the power of an electric motor, making it ideal for heavy pushing, pulling, and lifting applications. The precise control also makes it safer to work on or around hydraulic equipment.
What started with Blaise Pascal’s initial fluid power discovery and Joseph Bramah designing the first hydraulic press has evolved to technologically advanced “smart” hydraulic cylinders you can control using a computer.