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What are Hydraulics?

Hydraulics is a descriptive term when a fluid, through flow and pressure, provides some type of work or energy. Most products we use today have used hydraulics somewhere during the manufacturing or processing. This can be from a toothbrush (injection molded from plastic) to the vehicle we drive (many components are fabricated using hydraulics) to the food we eat (the harvest and processing count on hydraulic equipment). 

Many years ago, the first use of hydraulics was accomplished using water as the fluid. An old grist mill that used water flow to grind grain is an example. As petroleum based oil was developed that became the fluid of choice due to its lubricating qualities and reliability concerns. The simplest example of an oil based hydraulic system is a bottle jack. In this system the oil is contained in the bottom of the jack and we can pump that fluid by moving the handle up and down. This in turn raises the ram and whatever we are trying to lift. Once we’re done a simple turn of the release valve lowers it back to the original position. 

A slightly more complex system would be a typical log splitter. In this system there is a motor that turns the oil pump to achieve flow, and pressure is set by a relief valve. A lever valve sends fluid to one end of the cylinder to extend it and split the wood. Releasing that lever returns the cylinder to the home position and you’re ready for the next piece. 

Of course, systems can become much more complex with multiple pumps and actuators and often complex valving systems. These can be found on mobile equipment (construction equipment, agricultural equipment, over the road equipment, etc.) as well as industrial equipment (assembly presses, machining centers, die casting equipment, etc.). 

We here at Bailey Hydraulics want to be your trusted source for hydraulic products, system design help, as well as education and general support. After the sale, it’s the service and support that count!