The hydraulic power cylinder: how to turn hydraulic energy into mechanical energy

14 September 2022

The hydraulic power cylinder is used to convert hydraulic energy into linear motion. How does a hydraulic power cylinder work? What are its components and what types are there? We've put it all together in this article.

Hydraulic power cylinders are capable of immense power transfer by converting hydraulic energy into mechanical energy. This creates a very precise and smooth motion. Their principle of operation is based on the compression of hydraulic fluid.

The parts of a hydraulic power cylinder 

There are several types of hydraulic power cylinders, but the basic components are the same, the cylinder head, cylinder tube, piston rod, seals, valves, and hydraulic hoses.

The principle of operation is very simple. The medium, which can be oil or water, is pressurised. This force is utilised to move the piston rod, which starts the linear motion.

Types of hydraulic power cylinders

There are two types on the market: single-acting and double-acting hydraulic power cylinders. Single-acting power cylinders have a single connection through which the hydraulic fluid flows and the working cylinder operates. The return motion happens either because of an external load or spring force. Imagine a car jack that is equipped with a single-acting power cylinder, in which case the weight of the car ensures that the jack can be lowered or returned to its original position.

The essence of a double-acting power cylinder is that the piston surface is larger than the rod side surface, a ratio of two to one. It has favourable dynamic characteristics, thanks to the fact that constant-braking power cylinders absorb a part of the kinetic energy. Thus, since double-acting power cylinders have two piston surfaces, they can produce two directions of motion.

Depending on the design of the hydraulic power cylinders, the following types are distinguished:

  • Telescopic cylinders: these are telescopic cylinders, which are nested and extendable, designed to transmit more power.
  • Piston cylinders: the piston and the piston rod are in one piece; thus these cylinders are very simple in design, versatile in use and cost-effective in operation.
  • Differential cylinder: it has the characteristics of a double-acting cylinder.
  • Synchronous cylinder: it is also a double-acting cylinder, but with the same retraction and extension speed.
  • Tandem cylinder: it is excellent for applying a large force to a small area, due to the combination of forces exerted by multiple pistons.

Advantages of the hydraulic power cylinder

The advantages of a hydraulic power cylinder are numerous. Some of them are presented here:

  • It can produce precise and smooth motion, unlike its alternative, the pneumatic power cylinder, which cannot.
  • The speed and force can be adjusted.
  • It delivers maximum performance immediately after start-up, no pre-running is required.
  • Even with a very small volume, it is capable of exerting high force.

Disadvantages of the hydraulic cylinder

In addition to the advantages, it is also worth mentioning the disadvantages. Let's look at them!

  • The pressure may reduce due to the lack of sealing.
  • Strict requirements need to be considered when handling the fluids. 
  • The result depends on the viscosity of the fluid used.
  • Special characteristics must be kept in mind when compressing the fluid.

What can a hydraulic power cylinder be used for?

Hydraulic power cylinders have a wide range of applications in power transmission. They are used in applications where continuous, smooth, and linear motion is required. This is mainly the case in construction machinery. Power cylinders are also used in car brakes. When the brake is applied, both the fluid in the cylinder and the piston move, creating pressure on the brake shoes and indirectly on the brake discs. This is how a car stops. 

Learn more about hydraulic power cylinders on our website! 

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