Assessing the Pros and Cons of Pneumatic and Hydraulic Systems

Compressed air and hydraulic fluid are mostly used as working mediums for power transmission in fluid power circuits. Although similar in their principle of operation, the two systems have their respective advantages and disadvantages:

AdvantagesDisadvantages
Pneumatic Systems
  • Flexible temperature
  • Safe, explosion proof
  • Clean
  • Easy to store, utilize and maintain
  • Available in very small sizes
  • Works in wide temperature range
  • Requires installation of expensive air-producing equipment
  • Easy to leak
  • Potential noise
  • Easily produces condensation or moisture
  • Does not work underwater or in extreme temperatures
  • More costly in terms of energy usage
Hydraulic Systems
  • Ease and accuracy of control
  • High force potential
  • Simple, safe and economical
  • Can be operated manually
  • Operates very well in a very hot working environment
  • Risk of hydraulic oil leaks
  • Risk of lines bursting that can result in serious human injuries
  • Susceptible to contamination and foreign object damage

The figures below show the layout and order of components used to make a working pneumatic circuit and an open center hydraulic circuit:

Pneumatic systems are typically utilized in factories focusing on compressed air and inert gasses while hydraulic systems can be found in assembly processes and integrated steel and paper mill applications. When deciding whether to use a hydraulic system or a pneumatic system, you must evaluate the nature of the task, the force required to complete it, the level of flexibility needed, and many others. The needs of your business are completely different from those of another.

Experts at Gulf Coast Air & Hydraulics can help you decide on the specific products and systems you may require. They design hydraulic systems of various types of boat and fleet and produce pneumatic and hydraulic components such as valves, cylinders and pumps. Call them now and find out what’s best for your organization.

By Dez Duran-Lamanilao