Okay, so it isn’t certain that the world will come to an end if we happen to discover that every hydraulic system on the planet has suddenly disappeared overnight. It is clear, however, that the order in our everyday lives would be in serious jeopardy without hydraulics there to lift our 2 ton automobiles for oil changes, or power the heavy arms of our excavators or bucket trucks. We think a lot of things would be different (and, in many ways, more difficult) in a world without hydraulics. So, here are some things we are certain the world could not do without – and they are all powered by, you guessed it, hydraulics.
Jacks would require much more time to operate.
Before the invention of the hydraulic jack in 1851, if something big had to be raised or lowered carefully, it had to be done by the trusty screw jack. In case you aren’t clear on what a screw jack is, we’ve provided a picture of one here – if you still aren’t sure, look underneath your car’s spare tire. Nine times out of ten, you’ll be packing a screw jack there. The one advantage of the screw jack is that it’s relatively tiny, and that’s also where the advantages come to a screeching halt. Screw jacks require lots of repetitious effort and physical endurance. So much so that lifting your car to install a new tire takes upwards of fifteen minutes to complete. It shouldn’t be too difficult to imagine, that in a world without the hydraulic jack, maintenance and repair time for automobile care would increase significantly. And we won’t even mention the effect this time increase would have on labor costs; we’ll just let you imagine that.
Counterweight balancing would become the norm.
Hydraulic power makes it possible us to lift large, cumbersome loads without the need for a similar large, cumbersome counterload. The old-fashioned pulley and chain was the most popular industrial option for lifting and carrying large loads before the integration of hydraulic power in the 19th century. The most glaring issue with this go-to option (and largely why hydraulics was devised in the first place) was that it required counterweights equal to that of a fraction of the initial load weight. This proved to be a significant safety hazard and accounted for much of the work involved in lifting large, heavy objects prior to the 19th century. So, in short, if hydraulic systems decided to up and run for the hills, we’d find ourselves in the market for incredibly dense (and incredibly expensive) counterweights once again.
We would all go back to the hand-saw
Electric saws aside (as they are a relatively new invention), all modern mechanical saws are derived from hydraulic systems. Without hydraulics, we wouldn’t only lack the chainsaw and the jackhammer, we would also go without hydraulic lifting equipment (like the bucket truck) and hydraulic lumber-processing equipment (like the log splitter). In fact, in a world without hydraulics, the entire lumber industry would look and feel very different. Chances are, the industry would revert back some 100 years in technological advancement and innovation. Of course, we cannot speculate on what might and might not replace the lumber industry’s dependance on hydraulics, but we can be sure that whatever it is, it’s something we don’t have or have yet to develop today.
The E-brake would be the only way to stop
It definitely isn’t a secret that the automobile industry owes a portion of its success to the availability of hydraulic systems. Most primary braking systems in use today in our automobiles and recreational vehicles require hydraulic mechanisms to function. The secondary braking system (colloquially known as the “emergency brake”) often does not rely on hydraulic displacement – and, as is indicative of its name, is significantly less beneficial to your vehicle’s longevity. However, in the imaginary world without hydraulics, your so-called “emergency brake” would most likely become (simply) your “brake.” That is assuming we wouldn’t just abandon automobiles altogether given how much the internal combustion engine relies on hydraulic assistance, but, we digress.
Does this sound like any kind of world you’d like to live in? It certainly doesn’t to us, but we might be a bit biased. We owe many of our greatest technological advancements to the hydraulic industry, and many of our lives would be that much more difficult without it. We hope this post helped drive that point home.
If you want to learn more about the hydraulic industry, jump on over to our website. We have plenty of other articles we’re sure you’d enjoy.