What Is The Difference Between Hydraulic And Pneumatic Cylinders?

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Understanding the difference between hydraulic and pneumatic cylinders is important when it comes to making the product selection and the impact on the throughput of your application. In this article, we look at the key differences and similarities between the two and weigh up their pros and cons to show why pneumatic cylinders are the superior choice in most circumstances.

While both have their advantages and disadvantages, as well as mechanical similarities, we believe choosing pneumatic cylinders have the edge when it comes to efficiency, speed and performance reliability. Here are the key differences between hydraulic and pneumatic cylinders that will justify this preference.

How Pneumatic Cylinders Work

Pneumatic cylinders are dependant on an air compressor, which is used to draw atmospheric air through an intake valve that then feeds through to a receiver tank. It is here that this atmospheric air is then compressed, something that cannot be achieved using fluids as you would with hydraulic cylinders, enabling high-pressure density to be achieved through the exertion of force.

The compressed air passes flow through to the pneumatic actuator, where it is transferred into mechanical energy and used to initiate motion. Now, this process does work in much the same way as it does within a hydraulic system with the same end goal in mind. So what is the difference between hydraulic and pneumatic cylinders that make pneumatic the better choice?

Limitations Of Hydraulic Cylinders

When compared to pneumatic cylinders, a hydraulics cylinders biggest drawback is the fact that the hydraulic oil used faces considerable energy losses when flowing through restricted spaces. There is also higher rates of resistance than you would experience with the compressed air used in a pneumatic cylinder.

Furthermore, due to the fact air is released during the use of hydraulic oil, a hydraulic cylinder struggles to deliver the high actuation velocities that a pneumatic cylinder can, thanks largely to its inability to expand at higher speeds and with greater force.

Why Choose Pneumatic Cylinders Over HydrauliC

Of course, there are scenarios where an argument can be made for the use of hydraulic cylinders over pneumatic cylinders. This is largely due to the hydraulic cylinders ability to sustain operation with few energy losses. However, for us, pneumatic cylinders hold the lion share of the advantages between the two.

Some of the key advantages to pneumatic cylinders include the following:

  • Lower upfront costs
  • High levels of durability
  • High mechanical reliability
  • Reduced maintenance

All of the above are important benefits for a plant manager to consider when managing the function of their application. These advantages also mean that pneumatic cylinders are also the cost-effective choice, and this coupled with the fact they are flexible for use across a wide range of industrial-scale applications puts them out ahead of the hydraulic alternative.

To learn more about our pneumatic cylinder offering and to purchase online, visit our Pneumatic Actuators page. Alternatively, if you need further support with your application or wish to carry out a direct purchase you can contact us by email on [email protected] or by calling us on 01254 395 000.