What is a Hydraulic Press?
A hydraulic press is a mechanical device that uses the static pressure of a liquid, as
defined by Pascal‘s principle, to shape, deform, and configure various types of metals,
plastics, rubber, and wood. The mechanism of a hydraulic press consists of a mainframe,
power system, and controls.
Pascal‘s principle states that when pressure is applied to a confined liquid, a
pressure change occurs in the liquid. For a hydraulic press, the pressure in a liquid is
applied by a piston that works like a pump to create mechanical force.
Chapter Two: How a Hydraulic Press Machine Works
The process of a hydraulic press begins when a hydraulic fluid is forced into a double
acting piston. The compressive force inside the small hydraulic cylinder pushes the fluid
into a larger cylinder where more force and pressure are applied. The movement of the
larger piston forces the fluid back into the smaller piston cylinder.
The passage of the fluids between the two pistons creates increased pressure that
produces mechanical force to drive the anvil on a hydraulic press downward onto a workpiece
that is deformed to produce a desired shape. Once the movement is complete, the pressure is
released and the anvil returns to its original position.
How a Hydraulic Press Works
The components of a hydraulic press include two cylinders, two pipes, and two pistons.
One of the cylinders is the ram and the other is the plunger; they are connected by a
chamber that is filled with hydraulic fluid.
In many hydraulic systems, several rams are used, the number of which depends on the
working load. Multiple small rams are preferred over a single larger one to allow for
better control over the thrust force. Fluid is supplied to the ram by a pump and hydraulic
accumulator that works between the rams and the pump.
The accumulator stores hydraulic pressure as a fluid, which is released when required.
The configuration of a hydraulic accumulator is a cylinder with a piston that is spring
loaded or pneumatically pressurized. The pump continuously pumps hydraulic fluid into the
accumulator to keep the pressure in it constant. The inlet of the accumulator is attached
to the pump, while the outlet is attached to the machine.
Without the accumulator, the pump would have to be continually running. The accumulator
helps avoid this by serving as a storage container for the energy needed to operate the
The three types of hydraulic pumps are vane, gear, and piston with piston pumps being
the most commonly used. The pumps for a hydraulic press are a positive displacement pump,
which means they deliver a constant amount of fluid with each pumping cycle. The positive
displacement pump can be fixed or variable with a fixed pump working at a constant speed
while a variable pump changes speeds and can be reversed.
The reason that piston pumps are best suited for hydraulic presses is their ability to
perform in high pressure hydraulic systems. The pump operates at large volumetric levels
due to its low fluid leakage. The types of piston pumps include axial, bent axis, and
The number of cylinders in a single column hydraulic press varies
according to its design. The function of the cylinders is to generate the compressive force
that drives the anvil and die. In a two cylinder design, the diameter of the cylinder that
carries the ram is larger, while the diameter of the second cylinder that carries the
plunger is smaller. Cylinders are metal pipes with two ports for the input and output of
The cylinders are connected by a pipe containing hydraulic fluid. When the plunger in
the small cylinder applies pressure to the hydraulic fluid through a downward action, the
created pressure is applied to the ram. The action in the smaller cylinder by the downward
movement of the plunger is that of a mechanical actuator used to produce unidirectional
force by a unidirectional stroke.
Hydraulic Press Process
The mechanical results of the pressure created in the hydraulic system can be seen in
the animation below where a plane slug is placed under the anvil, and pressure created by
the cylinders drives the ram that drives the anvil down into the slug and forces it into
Types of Hydraulic Presses
Hydraulic presses play a major role in the fabrication, assembly, and production of
components for machinery and parts for commercial and industrial products. The differences
between the types of hydraulic presses are determined by several factors, which include
their frame and the metals used to manufacture them.
The popular use of hydraulic presses in manufacturing is due to their ability to apply
substantial compressive force to billets to flatten, shape, straighten, stamp, and bend the
billets into designs and various forms. The process of hydraulic presses, with the use of a
variety of dies, can be changed and customized to fit a wide range of manufacturing
Types of Hydraulic Presses
H Frame Hydraulic Press
With an H frame (two column) hydraulic press, the frame, press cylinder, pump, and
bolster are in the shape of an "H." The uses for H
frame hydraulic presses machine include work in repair shops,
maintenance buildings, and production assembly lines. They have a hand pump for low volume
applications or air and electrical pumps where consistent operation is required. The amount
of available force in an H frame depends on the size of its cylinder.
C Frame Hydraulic Press
Single column (C frame) hydraulic presses have a body frame in the shape of the letter
"C" with a single arm structure. They have excellent rigidity, guide performance,
speed, and exceptional precision. They are ideal for small operations and require limited
Four Column Hydraulic Press
Four column hydraulic presses can apply substantial force to any size work piece. They
can have a single or two cylinder design depending on the requirements of the manufacturing
process. Four column presses have a central control system with semi-automatic cycling and
adjustable pressure and compression speed. The punching and working pressure are adjusted
in accordance with the needs of the stroke range.
There are operations where it is difficult to shape a component or part using a
conventional vertical press because the part is too long or short to load vertically. Those
types of workpieces are shaped by a horizontal press where pressure is applied
With a horizontal press, there are two platens with one being fixed while the other is
movable. Pressure is applied horizontally between the platens. This type of press has a
protective mechanism on the hydraulic system to avoid overload, and it can have different
Hydraulic Wheel Press
A horizontal wheel hydraulic press is used for mounting and unmounting wheels,
bearings, gears, and sheaves onto and off of shafts, axles, rolls, or armatures. They are
used for the correction of shaft parts and pressing of shaft sleeve parts. A wide range of
industries use hydraulic horizontal wheel presses as part of their production process.
Examples include the automotive, motor, electronics, mining, and home appliance industries
where precision press mounting is necessary.
Straightening Hydraulic Press
When large, long shafts from oil rigs, cars, trucks, and aircraft need to be
straightened, the ideal method is a hydraulic straightening press that slowly controls the
straightening process, resulting in accurate and fully functional parts. Hydraulic
straightening presses can be used to straighten shafts, plates, and large weldments.
Straightening hydraulic presses for weldments straighten the workpiece prior to it
being welded. The process for working with shafts is a little more difficult since they
come in different diameters and lengths.
Straightening hydraulic presses can have a fixed head or moving gantry. When large
diameter shafts are being straightened, gantry type presses are used where the press moves
along the X axis while the main cylinder provides Z axis downward movement to engage the
Uses for Hydraulic Presses
The hydraulic press is a major part of a variety of manufacturing and production
processes. From the shaping and creation of machine components to crushing and compacting
waste and refuse, hydraulic presses are an essential part of modern industrial operations.
The use of hydraulic presses is based on the concept of compressive force created by
pistons that produce mechanical force through the use of pressure from an incompressible
liquid. The amount of force can range from a few tons for a manual hydraulic press to
thousands of tons for motor driven ones.
Uses for Hydraulic Presses
Part production and fabrication are the most common uses for hydraulic presses. The
speed at which hydraulic presses can configure and shape automobile parts from wiper blades
to gear housings has made it an essential part of product manufacturing. The number of
industries that depend on hydraulic presses range from steel production and assembly to
precise and complex electronics components.
A powder compacting press compresses different powdered materials into shapes, designs,
and densities by applying an exact amount of pressure to the material placed in a mold. Any
of the various hydraulic presses can be used for the process, from the two column version
to four column version.
To complete the compacting process, the powder mixture is loaded into a steel die where
it is pressurized to the shape and form of the die. The three stages of the compressing
process deform the particles of the powder and significantly increase its density.
An image of hydraulic presses that has become popular in entertainment is the scrap
baling press that crushes cars, equipment, and machines. This type of hydraulic press has
gained popularity as a method for recycling and repurposing the raw materials from products
that are no longer of use.
A hydraulic scrap baler is a cold pressing method for compacting various types of
metals for convenient storage, reprocessing, and transport. There are a wide range of scrap
balers, with each type designed to crush and compact a particular type of material.
The traditional method for shaping and forming ceramics uses a heated kiln at a
temperature exceeding 1800° F. The heated method is slowly being replaced by hydraulic
presses that work at room temperature. Using minimum pressure and significantly less time,
hydraulic presses compress ceramic material into shapes and forms such as bathroom tiles,
bricks, and cement.