Most agree that developing safe, leak-free, efficient systems tie into the idea of the industry going green. For example, Shellenbarger says Norgren has developed several new products and system programs to reduce leakage, particularly in industries that require strong safety controls, such as oil, gas, and rail. For pneumatics, being green means being efficient and safe, he says.

“I think sustainability is going to be defined by whether the products are safe to use, the materials recyclable, and the types of packaging they come in,” Shellenbarger says. “If we can continue to do a better job of creating efficiency and safety, there’s a great future for the pneumatics industry.”

Horihan adds that the development of more environmentally safe and degradable fluids and efficient systems will be critical. “I think what you’re going to see is the actual operating efficiency will increase because of energy consumption and eliminating waste,” he says.

Continued research and testing of fluid power systems andAdds Van Arsdale, “It won’t be long before the new materials, manufacturing, and sealing technologies, and fluids now under development will make leaks a non-issue and reduce the industry’s contribution to the world’s waste disposal stream to a trickle.”

Most companies are advancing their research into safety-related technologies and products, says Weeber. The company (Gates), like most others, is investing into the science of safety and efficiency. “Certainly, green technology and green responsibility have become a virtual given as fluid power companies progress in their corporate lives,” Weeber says. “Regardless of the outcome, investment in pioneering technology like this is an example of the stake responsible fluid power companies must place in reducing energy consumption and overall carbon footprint.”

Sauer-Danfoss’ Hanson adds that the marriage of hydraulics and electronics will further enhance safety. “Such things as safety, noise, comfort and operating precision will be improved with the use of hydraulics combined with electronics, GPS, and improved human interface devices.”

Finally, says Parker’s Treharn, fluid power must overcome the perception of not being green. “I am convinced that our industry can and will overcome this negative image and then be in a position to leverage our power density advantage as also a green enabler,” he says.

Education key to the future
Industry must continue to partner with educational institutions and research associations to advance technology. Fluid power technology will not progress without young engineers being interested in entering the field.

Shellenbarger notes that programs like the FIRST Robotics competition, the CCEFP, Fluid Power Society, NFPA, and others will be critical in shaping the future of the industry. “It is important to get people interested in our industry and think about fluid power as a career,” he says. “This has to come from both industry and academia and research.”

Gates’ Weeber agrees collaboration is necessary. “One could presume that fiscal pressures being placed on manufacturers will constrain R&D dollars, putting even more importance on the role of education. If I’m an educator, I’m looking for credible and forward thinking fluid power industry participants to test my thinking,” Weeber says. “If I’m in the business of fluid power, I’m looking for an education partner to be additive to my own R&D.”

“With the convergence of electronics and fluid power, we need to ensure we expand our focus on multi-disciplinary resources combining mechanical, electrical, and fluid power skill sets,” says Van Arsdale. “We also need to continuously upgrade the skills of our existing engineers and technicians to support the growth and change we can see coming for the industry. Everyone from the technician in the back room at a distributorship to the Ph.D. in the research and development lab needs to constantly improve their skills and knowledge, and it’s up to Eaton and other fluid power employers to work with our colleges and technical schools to make sure that happens.”