What’s Old is New Again: The Future of Hydraulics

In an article published in the online journal Hydraulics and Pneumatics, Steffen Haack makes a series of observations about the unrecognized potential for hydraulic technology.

In the article, Haack says that while many people may view hydraulics as a  “dinosaur,” hydraulic technology only seems antiquated because it hasn’t yet reached its full potential. When it does, it will “metamorphose” into a new high-tech experience – what he calls a “golden unicorn.”

An example of a way that hydraulics can metamorphose into a new evolution is its integration with new technologies, especially electronic control and electro-mechanical power transmission.

Hydraulics’ integration into electronic technologies will also allow for its transition into the “IT consumer world.” According to Haack’s article, users will perceive hidden hydraulics as elegant, simple installations.

A Changing Picture in the Industrial Market

In a constantly changing industrial environment, there is room for more hydraulic adoption.

For one, an increasing demand for energy efficiency caused by a scarcity of resources will fuel a demand for streamlined drive systems. This is already underway in Europe, where regulations apply all the way down to the component level.

This is a positive thing for hydraulics, says Haack, as they offer distinct advantages, such as having high power density, making the technology a good enhancement for most modern machinery.

Overcoming Environmental Hurdles

Although hydraulics may have bright futures in store, there are some green concerns that must be addressed, Haack says. This complicates matters where regulations mandate recycling, and since the mineral-based oils used most often in the equipment are considered detrimental to the environment.

To address this issue, Haack argues for reducing the environmental impact of the oils used with hydraulics and improvement of the liquids from an environmental standpoint will be necessary. He predicts that hydraulic manufacturers will probably form alliances for the shared goal of improving compatibility.

The Many Facets of Hydraulics

In addition to the points above, Haack’s article delves into the numerous other factors that will affect the future of hydraulics, offering up many interesting possibilities and challenges, including:

  • Training and experience. The number of potential employees with specialized hydraulic knowledge is diminishing; this trend will need to be reversed with up-to-date training.
  • Development trends. New demands are emerging for industrial hydraulics, which the industry must stay on the forefront of.
  • Applications in sensitive environments. Development of technology, fluids, and digitization will transform many industries, affecting their utilization of hydraulics.
  • Production applications. The “factory of the future,” will be data driven; future generations of hydraulic products will reflect that.

Our Take

In this debate, we believe in hydraulics’ existence as a “unicorn,”  not a “dinosaur.” While the market may continue to lean toward electronic technology, there are simply too many unique benefits of hydraulics, with too much potential regarding future applications for a winner-take-all situation to occur.

We anticipate that many new scenarios predicted by Dr. Haack will become a reality in the near future. Companies that can act as early adopters and innovators will gain the most from hydraulics in the long-term.