Pneumatics Versus Hydraulics in Industry Applications

The items that drive our world were in turn made by machines driven by, well, what exactly are they driven by? It turns out that most industrially-used machines tend to make use of either pneumatic or hydraulic power. Pneumatic power refers to anything that operates via compressed gasses, while hydraulic power refers to anything that operates via compressed liquids. Naturally, this begs the question: Why should one be chosen over another? What differences do they have? Is one clearly superior to the other?

To explore these thoughts more completely, here are some pros and cons concerning how industrial machines get their “oomph”:

Benefits of Pneumatic Power Over Hydraulic Power

The first huge benefit of pneumatic power over hydraulic power is that pneumatic equipment tends to be much cheaper than hydraulic equipment, usually about half of the price. Next, pneumatic equipment tends to be easier to install and maintain compared to hydraulic equipment. Many manufacturers, such as SMC USA, give full-time support that further alleviates the burden of choosing pneumatic. If a certain facility is already plumbed for compressed air, pneumatic-powered equipment is also much easier to get set up and running than having an entirely new regime set up for hydraulics. Those worried about long-term corrosion also tend toward pneumatic equipment, since the air used in pneumatic systems is completely dry and without moisture. Make sure you take care of pump issues with Industrial Pump Repair Services before they turn into big problems. 

Downsides of Pneumatic Power Over Hydraulic Power

One of the disadvantages of pneumatic power can be noticed immediately: These machines tend to be very loud. In some cases, ear protection is required in areas with large amounts of pneumatic equipment. Next, precision can be challenging to achieve with specific pneumatic setups. For instance, to work at a particular speed, other additions or adjustments might need to be made to the system that wouldn’t be necessary for a hydraulic piece of equipment of similar function. Pneumatic systems are also much more prone to leakage than hydraulics because the compressed air within the system is doing everything in its power to move from an area of high concentration (the pneumatic tubes), to an area of low concentration (everywhere else). The final downside of pneumatic power is that some places will need to be fit with more efficient compressed air delivery systems than they currently have. This slightly inflates the total cost of installation.


It turns out that this debate isn’t one of which is outright better than the other, but which system fulfills specific needs at any given moment in time. People who wish to keep the cost of their overall operation low and don’t have extremely precise requirements of their machinery look to pneumatic equipment each and every day. People who want precise, low-noise equipment, and are willing to pay a premium for it will seek out hydraulic equipment – as simple as that. For a wide variety of applications, a properly set up pneumatic system will work just as well as a properly set up hydraulic system. At the end of the day, it’s all about the level of production needed and a few other miscellaneous concerns.

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