By Scott Sardina, PE, CFPAI, CFPHS, CFPECS, 2023 IFPS Board President and Chairperson.
The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence.
– Albert Einstein
A customer recently asked me: if 10,000 psi is high pressure, why is it considered high pressure, and what is so magical about that number?
My first thought was, how do you not understand that 10,000 psi is high pressure? I knew I couldn’t say that, but I think many people in hydraulics would have a similar gut reaction. After thinking for a while, I understood that this concept could be difficult, and the numbers may not make sense to someone unfamiliar with the industry or without hands-on experience. After all, 10,000 psi is high pressure compared to a standard 3,000 psi system. It is all relative, and I explained that most “standard” systems are under 6,000 psi. Pressure is application specific, but most people in the industry consider anything above 6,000 psi high pressure. This explanation made sense to the customer, but I wondered how many people work with hydraulics without full understanding.
The example I just gave clearly shows the need for education in the industry. Not only for the people designing components and systems, but also for those assembling, servicing, and using the equipment. Engineers need hands-on experience so they sense the power and capabilities of what they design. Do you have a good sense of what 60 psi feels like? What about 1,000 psi? Is the hydraulic oil too hot, too cold, or where it needs to be?
I was once on a service call with an experienced field person who went into the call with a simple pressure gauge. He could put his hand against the tank and tell you if the oil was at the right temperature. It is important to build these instincts and understand the intent of the design. Fluid power requires cross-discipline education to understand theory, application, and reality.
I am in a coffee shop writing this. The road in front is under reconstruction, and a couple excavators sit across the street. They are driven by hydraulics, and I notice that kids from the neighborhood point at the machines and say, “Wow!” and “That’s cool!” I agree – they are pretty cool!
Many cool and interesting things happen with fluid power. Each of you in this industry should be proud. Fluid power is all around us, and some things could not happen without it. My wife can attest that if hydraulics or pneumatics are nearby, I’ll talk about it ad nauseam. Let’s keep that childlike curiosity and excitement for what we do.
I don’t typically ponder the past too much. But there are a few lessons to point out before looking to the future. The International Fluid Power Society has been through a lot over the past few years. It has increased educational opportunities, improved certifications, and updated the industry’s reference manual. IFPS continues to adapt and grow. We extend our reach so that everyone has the opportunity to understand fluid power. I am excited for this year and where we are going. The fluid power industry is a tight-knit community, and so is IFPS. I have been with IFPS for seven years, and it feels like my second family. I encourage you to join the family, share your input, participate in a meeting, and learn that 10,000 psi is a decent amount of pressure.