Hydraulic pumps, cylinders, and other actuators deliver greater power in smaller packages than engines, electric motors, and mechanical actuators. Hydraulic valves easily control direction, speed, torque, and force with anything from simple manual operation to sophisticated electronic controls.
Yet, production methods that create these hydraulic components have not kept pace with the expanding scope of their applications. Enter metal 3D printing—it offers new opportunities to capitalize on the high power density of hydraulic technology by improving the design and production of components such as manifolds, valve blocks, and valve spools.
Three-dimensional printing, which began as rapid prototyping, has progressed beyond its original plastic materials to encompass many metal alloys. Although not practical or cost-effective for high-volume production, 3D printing offers many advantages when producing metal hydraulic components in smaller quantities and special designs.