Unlike mechanical systems, hydraulics use a fluid as a power source. Because liquid particles are close together, they can’t be compressed. However, they are highly mobile, bumping into one another or the container walls. Despite the liquid’s mobility, it can still generate pressure, and the force applied to a point on the liquid will transfer to all other points. The pressure in a liquid can be calculated using Pascal’s law.
Hydraulic systems are best suited for large lifting applications, such as for moving heavy objects. Because they operate at higher pressures, they can generate higher forces from small actuators. Pneumatic systems, on the other hand, are more efficient for moving and processing products, since they don’t pose contamination risks from broken pipes and oil leaks. For these reasons, a pneumatic system might be the better option in your particular situation.
A pneumatic system can be less costly than a hydraulic system. The components can be made from cheaper materials and can be easily assembled. Moreover, the air-operated circuits operate at low pressure, which helps reduce startup costs. Additionally, air-operated circuit components can be manufactured from low-cost materials, which reduces secondary machining costs. This is another benefit of pneumatic systems. They are highly versatile and are often used in the same application.
Both hydraulic and pneumatic systems require a power source. They also require oil lubrication and require constant running of the compressor. The downside of pneumatics is that compressed air is not recyclable, so they require constant replenishment. A pneumatic system is less durable than its hydraulic counterpart. If moisture builds up in the system, it can freeze up, wasting energy and money. These systems are also louder than their hydraulic counterparts.