There are parallel and series type circuits in fluid power systems. Pneumatic and hydraulic circuits may be parallel type, while only hydraulic circuits are series type. However, in industrial applications, more than 95% of hydraulic circuits are the parallel type. All pneumatic circuits are parallel design because air is compressible it is not practical to use it in series circuits.

In parallel circuits, fluid can be directed to all actuators simultaneously. Hydraulic parallel circuits usually consist of one pump feeding multiple directional valves that operate actuators one at a time or several in unison.

Figure 5-3 shows a typical pneumatic parallel system schematic. All actuators in this circuit can operate at the same time and are capable of full force and speed if they have ample supply. The filter, regulator, and lubricator combination must be sized to handle maximum flow of all actuators in motion at the same time, When the air supply is insufficient, the cylinder with the least resistance will move first.

5-3. Schematic drawing of three cylinders in a typical pneumatic parallel circuit.

Figure 5-4 shows a typical hydraulic parallel system schematic. Any actuator in this circuit can move at any time and is capable of full force and speed when the pump produces sufficient flow. Parallel circuits that have actuators that move at the same time must include flow controls to keep all flow from going to the path of least resistance.

5-4. Schematic drawing of three cylinders in a typical hydraulic parallel circuit.

Flow controls are usually required to keep single cylinder movement from over speeding. The circuit in Figure 5-4 shows a meter-in flow control at each directional control valve's inlet to control speed in both directions. Placing flow controls at the cylinder ports would allow separate speeds for extension and retraction.

Figure 5-5 illustrates cylinders or hydraulic motors in typical series circuits. These synchronizing circuits are the most common use for actuators in series. The schematic drawing at left shows how to control two or more cylinders so they move simultaneously at the same rate. Oil is fed to the cylinder on the left and it starts to extend. Oil trapped in its opposite end transfers to the right cylinder, causing it to extend at the same time and rate. Oil from the right cylinder goes to tank. The platen moves and stays level regardless of load placement. Notice that this circuit uses double-rod end cylinders so the volumes in both ends are the same. (Other variations of this circuit are shown in the chapter on cylinders, which also explains synchronizing circuits in detail.)

5-5. Schematic drawings of two synchronizing hydraulic circuits.

The hydraulic motor circuit on the right in Figure 5-5 shows a simple way to run two or more motors at the same speed. Fluid to the first motor flows into the inlet of the second motor to turn it at the same time and speed. Except for internal leakage in the motors, they will run at exactly the same rpm. As many as ten motors can operate in series -- based on their loads and speeds.