What is the Difference Between Hydraulic and Pneumatic Cylinders?

Published: August 17, 2022 Last Updated: May 25, 2023 Custom Hydraulic Cylinders, Uncategorized

In the agricultural industry, pneumatic and hydraulic cylinders share similar purposes, functions, and components, leading to confusion about the difference between hydraulics and pneumatics. Both pneumatic cylinders and hydraulic cylinders exert force to create a desired effect, such as spinning, moving, pushing, or lifting. But, while they result in comparable outcomes, the cylinders contain many differences and are each suited to specific equipment, applications, and systems.

Pneumatic Cylinders vs. Hydraulic Cylinders

Understanding the advantages, disadvantages, and applications of pneumatic cylinders vs. hydraulic cylinders is the first step to differentiating the two systems and deciding which is best to complete your agricultural job.

Pneumatic Systems

Pneumatic cylinders are a part of a highly pressurized system that uses compressed air to create force. They cost significantly less upfront than hydraulic cylinders, offer a greater rate of flexibility, and raise the safety levels of the full system. They feature long operational lives and require low maintenance as pneumatic equipment is less likely to suffer shock damage. Pneumatic cylinders are often used to power vacuum pumps, manufacturing and assembly lines, and more.

Due to the nature of pneumatic systems, pneumatic cylinders struggle to maintain consistent velocity. They are less controllable than hydraulic cylinders, can handle significantly lower levels of force (not to exceed 100 PSI), and cannot hold loads when equipment is shut down.

Hydraulic Systems

Hydraulic cylinders generate force through pressurized fluids such as oil, glycol, or other flame-resistant liquids. As these fluids move throughout the hydraulic system, force is generated in different places to create the desired movement. Hydraulic cylinders have greater force capacities (1,500 to 10,000 PSI), provide higher strength, and allow for better precision and control during operations than their pneumatic counterparts. Hydraulic cylinders power an extensive range of equipment, including:

  • Elevators
  • Turbines
  • Dump truck lifts
  • Excavation arms
  • Front loaders
  • Tractors

Hydraulic systems can be complicated and require regular maintenance to work as intended. Not adequately inspecting your hydraulic cylinder can lead to system failures and costly downtime. Hydraulic cylinders also tend to be larger and heavier than pneumatic cylinders as they are manufactured to stand up to higher amounts of pressure.

Is Hydraulic or Pneumatic Better for Agricultural Equipment?

While pneumatic systems can deliver upfront cost savings and safe operations, the force capacities and increased precision make hydraulic systems a better option for most agricultural applications. Hydraulic systems, such as those manufactured by Bobcat or Kubota, are particularly suited to uses requiring high PSI levels, heavy-duty capabilities, and robust equipment that withstands rigorous demands and repeated use. While hydraulic systems require regular maintenance, component parts are readily available and easy to install. From harvesters to crop sprayers and beyond, hydraulic agricultural equipment outperforms and outlasts most pneumatic systems.

Choose Hydraulic Cylinders for Outstanding Agricultural Performances

Hydraulics Cylinders, Inc. can help you find the best aftermarket hydraulic cylinder for your machinery. In addition to our built-to-last inventory, we offer expert knowledge on our blog and comprehensive how-to guides to assist you in navigating your hydraulic system.

Want to learn more about how HCI can support your operations through hands-on expertise and quality products? Contact us today. A highly trained representative will be in touch as soon as possible to identify your best hydraulic solution.

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