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Why Choose a Hydraulic Winch over An Electric One?

Industrial workers, tugboat operators, and other heavy-equipment operators frequently find themselves asking, “Should I look into a hydraulic winch or an electric one?” The answer depends on a lot of factors, but we find that the answer is hydraulic more often than not. Here’s why:

Hydraulics Generate More Power
An electric winch can’t keep up with the direct power provided by a hydraulic pump. Proponents of electric winches point out (correctly) that electric winches are more efficient, but that efficiency comes at the cost of raw power.

Greater Manual Control
Electric winches, from the perspective of user interaction, are simple. You move the lever, the winch moves in the appropriate direction. It’s simple, but ask anyone who has ever switched from a Mac to a PC: simplicity comes with a price, and that price is control. Hydraulics allow you not only greater control from the control panel itself, but they also allow you to get inside the machine and make changes that can dramatically affect the way the machine performs — something that an electric winch offers none of.

Hydraulic Winches Don’t Overheat
One of the biggest problems with an electric winch is in repeated, long pulls — the winch will get hotter and hotter as it keeps pulling. Over a surprisingly short period of time, an electric motor regularly subjected to that kind of strain can break down or become incredibly inefficient, draining it’s battery (or sucking a large amount of power out of an engine through it’s alternator). Hydraulic winches don’t overheat, so for applications where repeated, long pulls are necessary, hydraulic winches are far superior.

Ease of Repair
When an electric winch breaks down, you have to have an electrician, an array of supplies, and a stable environment to fix it. When a hydraulic winch breaks, it’s almost always at one of a half-dozen valves or switches, each of which can be easily replaced by hand by almost anyone with the ability to use some basic hand tools. Hydraulic winches can even be repaired on rough water.

There are plenty of other reasons to pick a hydraulic winch over an electric one — but these fundamentals should be enough to show you which choice will be best for you.

Pneumatic Air Regulators: The Basics

Pneumatic air regulators are a vital part of any pneumatic system, from a simple sandblaster to a jackhammer to some very delicate barostatic systems used for neurogastroenterology. It’s always important to get the right one for your needs, which means understanding what they are and how they work.

An air regulator is a pneumatic device that’s designed to reduce (or ‘regulate’) the pressure of the air that escapes the valve. They’re vital because, for many actuators (also known as “pneumatic cylinders“), the air supplied to the cylinder must be supplied at a constant pressure, or the cylinder will move jerkily or bounce. The pressure supplied by an air compressor varies dramatically as the compressor cycles, so an air regulator is critical to the smooth movement of the actuator.

The simplest kind of air regulator uses a spring to hold a poppet in place, preventing any air from flowing further down the line. As air pressure builds within the regulator, the pressure pushes against the strength of the spring, eventually moving the poppet and allowing airflow to continue past the poppet. A balance is struck between incoming air pressure and the strength of the spring, and the pressure that makes it past the poppet is constant until the flow is shut off.

Controls
There are three fundamental methods of controlling an air regulator — they can be static, pilot-operated, or electronically controlled. All three variations use the same basic concept of balancing the strength of one or more springs against air pressure. In static regulators, once the unit is assembled, it only ever does the precise job it was built to do — it’s input parameters and output parameters never change.

In pilot-operated regulators, there’s a manual screw on the unit that allows a user to adjust how strongly the spring pushes on the poppet, thus increasing (or decreasing) the amount of force the air has to use to open the valve and the pressure of the air that continues down the line.

Electronically-operated regulators use small electronic motors to turn the screws, and are themselves remotely operated either in real-time via switches, or they can be attached to a computer and preprogrammed to adjust the spring tension at certain times or under certain conditions without needing human attention to do so.