What’s Better for My Rig? Fluid Power, Electrical or Mechanical?
Power transmission, as it relates to heavy-duty applications, is a controlled transfer of energy from the engine to another device where it is applied to perform useful work—often producing torque. Fluid power, mechanical power, and electrical power are three distinct types of technologies that transfer generated energy from the transmission.
Answered simply, fluid power is used to power transmissions using hydraulics or pneumatics technologies. Hydraulics use a fluid, either a liquid or a gas, (usually oil) to transmit power from one location to another. Whereas pneumatics compresses air to transfer power.
Mechanical power transmissions often include gears, chains, belts and other mechanisms like ball screws, chain drive and more to convert the high-speed mechanical power from the engine to a slower speed with higher torque.
This type of power transmission regulates the electrical power needed to power the engine as well as control the speed and torque produced. The biggest downfall? The cost to take the mechanical rotary-to-linear motion device is costly. Many methods simply cannot make the conversion practically.
Power Transmissions Takeaway
Fluid power is more efficient than electrical or mechanical technologies because it has the highest power density of all power transmission technologies.
Transfer of Power?
You may be asking yourself how does the transfer of power work? Using hydraulic or pneumatic cylinders, fluid power systems easily produces linear motion. This is good, why? Great question. Electrical or mechanical technologies usually use a mechanical device to convert rotational motion into linear.
If you’re driving a gasoline and diesel, your engine is rotating at thousands of rpm’s when powering equipment. Thus, some form of power transmission technology is needed to convert the high-speed power from the motor/engine into a slower more useable form that has higher torque.
Generally speaking, fluid power can transmit equivalent power as their electrical or mechanical counterparts, within a much smaller space. Their cylinders and motors are so compact and have high energy potential—this is even more so when high force or torque is required. They can be stalled for extended periods of times, reversible, variable speeds and can often replace mechanical linkages at a much lower cost. Additional, the life cycle of power sources, actuators, even valves can be extended.
Not quite sold on using fluid power? Here’s an interesting fact: fluid power systems offer simple and effective control of power, the speed, and force in which it moves as well as the torque/force needed to complete the job—all which using simple control valves. Lastly, the risk of electrical shock, sparks, fire or explosion significantly decreases since fluid power technology doesn’t require electrical power. But keep your eye on the temps. Overheating can occur when the machine uses less energy than the power unit provides. So, check up on your air circuit, flange fittings, pumps and even O-ring fittings to make sure they are functioning properly.
What machinery uses hydraulics to generate power? Most commonly, it’s off-highway equipment like mining, waste reduction, agriculture, or even waste reduction.
Pneumatic applications are widely found in on-highway trucking. This is especially true when transmitting power using hydraulics or electromechanical drives are less suitable –or less convenient for various vehicle functions.
Wheelco Fluid Power Recommendations
Whether you are retrofitting an existing truck in your fleet or adapting your current wet kit for a new trailer application, the knowledgeable staff at Wheelco will guide you every step of the way. We’re sure to have the part you need with our extensive inventory of consoles and controls, filter systems, hydraulic cylinders, hydraulic couplers, hydraulic fittings, hydraulic hoses, Power Take Off (PTO’s), pumps, motors, reservoirs, valves and wet kits. If we don’t have it on hand, we’d gladly order it for you! We carry premium brands like Muncie, Custom Hoist, Continental and more.
Would you rather us take the lead? No problem. Our expert service technicians run diagnostics, inspections and determine the necessary procedures needed to modify or make a new power transmission wet kit for your rig. At Wheelco, we also build, test and reassemble hydraulic hoses on site.
*Locations services may vary.