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Hydraulics in Construction, Construction Machinery and Equipment, and the Cement and Asphalt Industries

Hydraulic cylinders and motors are used in specialized construction machinery above and beyond those normally found on bulldozers, excavators, and dump trucks.  Excavator buckets are swapped out by task-specific hydraulic tools such as vibrating compactors, auger drills for foundation piers, rock breakers and concrete crushers.

The unique advantage of hydraulic cylinders and motors is that the pressure applied increases in response to the resistance offered, until a preset level is reached. At which time, excess fluid is by-passed, in contrast to electric motors which would have burned out, or engines that would have either sheared a pin, burned a clutch or stalled. 

The newer practice of building and erecting sub-assemblies on- ground as opposed to incremental build in situ has increased the use of lifting and positioning applications of hydraulic cylinders in construction.  Entire roof sections weighing hundreds of tons can be hoisted into position and micro-positioned by multiple push-pull cylinders in the rigging. Using video cameras, operators on the ground can level and align the sections using joy-stick controls.  Compact, high pressure cylinders are also used increasingly to supply temporary support for bridge sections during repairs and upgrading. These cylinders can lift up to 1,000 tons each with 300mm stroke. One unique application is placed in the ground between the original Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain and the new concrete underground addition.  Ground movement around this large addition could affect the foundations of the old museum and other surrounding buildings. A system of load cells senses any ground movement and counteracts it by a line of 500 ton locking cylinders that push out the addition’s walls.

During concrete construction reinforcing rods and cables are stressed by hydraulic power. Cylinders grab and tighten cables, or motors turn nuts on threaded rods. Built-in strain gauges form feedback loops to insure accurate tensioning.

Allied to construction, is the use of hydraulic power in Demolition.  Giant crushing jaws put in place of excavator buckets again, bite into building walls, purloins and all, and rip them apart.  Hydraulic powered rock crushers reduce rubble to uniform size.   Rock drilling heads, called breakers, on the end of excavator arms put short work to concrete roadbeds and foundations.

On the other end of the scale, hydraulic power on the construction site puts unbelievable amounts of power in workers’ hands.  Portable power units provide pressurized fluid to tighten and remove large diameter nuts during bridge repair or construction, shear through reinforcing bar, drill into rock and compact the ground around foundations.  .

Hydraulic motors, with low speed and extremely high torque turn concrete kilns and asphalt mixers.   The same type of motors are used to propel roadbed machines at slow speed and hydraulic screw augers distribute the material along the width of the bed as it is dumped from hydraulic powered tilt-bed trucks.