Quickly, which is better: hydraulic or electric? Okay, that’s a vague question, so I’ll narrow it down. Which is more reliable, hydraulic equipment or electrical equipment? My query has gone from vague to cloudy, and typically anyone educated in both fields will respond, “Depends.”
I espouse the importance of maintaining your hydraulic system – especially the fluid – and relay that to others on a daily basis. Hydraulic fluid needs to be kept clean, dry and at a reasonable temperature, and I can think of no circumstance in which this isn’t important.
As important fluid conditioning is to the reliability of hydraulic systems, I come across head-scratching exceptions with complete disregard for my previous paragraph. Everyone seems to know a guy with a twenty year old logsplitter with original (nominal) filter and never-been-changed hydraulic oil. Yet the old relic splits like a neutron in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. What gives?
A logsplitter and the components which constitute its hydraulic system are far from high precision technological marvels. The venerable two-stage logsplitter pump has few components prone to failure, and will continue to pump even when internal clearances are wide and seals are leaky. Anyone charged with maintaining something like a large injection molding machine will agree this is the exception to the rule.
When the evolution of machinery began to include the proliferation of electric actuators to compliment electronic controllers, everyone assumed reliability would increase at a rate inversely proportional to the rate of hydraulic component removal. Fewer seals to blow, no oil to spill out and fewer moving parts had everyone assuming increased reliability would in the bag.
Anyone who has ever owned a German car knows how unreliable electrical components can be, and the machines replacing hydraulics are no different. Electronics are highly reliable. Electrical components with moving parts … not so much. They’re not any less reliable than any given hydraulic component, but the failures tend to happen in different ways, like overheating, friction wear and problems relating to the lack of lubrication.
It’s hard to find an indifferent soul when you ask someone if they prefer hydraulic or electrical machinery, but it boils down to is just that; preference. If it’s not preference that has dictated the number of hydraulic or electrical machines in a plant, we can chalk it up to the quality of machine manufacturer’s sales team. The metaphor, “six of one, half dozen of the other” comes to mind when I compare the merits of both, but if you ask me directly which one is more reliable, I’d say, “Depends.”