Pneumatics or Hydraulics – Which is Best?

Pneumatics or Hydraulics – Which is Best?

Many industrial facilities today use either pneumatics or hydraulics for some of their processes. In some situations, air power (like a pneumatic control valve and system) makes sense, especially in the food processing industry where hydraulic fluid could cause major contamination issues if there were leaks. However, in some cases, either hydraulic or pneumatic power may be possible and choosing the right one is vital to a business’s success. Here is important information on both systems to help you decide.


A pneumatic system is driven by the power of air pressure that comes from compressors. For example, when you use the drive-up window at the bank, you place your banking papers in a little tube and set it in an enclosure that sucks it into the bank building. This is an example of the power of pneumatics.

Good Things about Pneumatics

Air power is clean and can move things at a high rate of speed. A pneumatic system is efficient because air pressure has very little resistance. It needs less energy or power than fluid systems. Venting is easy as a cylinder or pneumatic control valve can exhaust to the atmosphere. This is not possible with an enclosed fluid system.

Bad Things about Pneumatics

Pneumatics is best for light loads. It’s not as efficient as hydraulics because a great deal of energy goes into creating the compressed air.

Hydraulics – Good and Bad

Hydraulics is all about the power of compressed fluid. A hydraulic system is capable of lifting very heavy loads and supplying a lot of power when needed. A hydraulic control valve is more efficient than a pneumatic control valve. However, an air leak is not much of an environmental issue with pneumatics, yet hydraulic fluid leaks can cause problems with the environment. Yet, both systems have their place in modern industry today.

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