What’s the Difference Between Pneumatic and Hydraulic Concrete Plants?

Most concrete batch plants use one or methods of “energy” to facilitate their operation.  One common element among concrete plants is the use of electricity. Plants may use multiple types of electricity including three 480/240 3 phase, 120 single phase and sometimes even 12V DC.  The power your concrete plant requires likely depending on your concrete plants design and what was specifically requested at the time of purchase. The electricity likely acts as a signal from the control panel to the functions of the plant and may even drive some of the functions on your concrete plant like the conveyor belt.

It is less common for a concrete plant to be 100% electrically operated.  If every cement valve and aggregate gate were controlled by electricity; an electric motor would be required on every gate making the cost of the concrete plant very expensive and it would probably be difficult to maintain. Cement butterfly valves, aggregate gates, vibrators and many other plant functions are operated using either pneumatic or hydraulic operation.

Pneumatic operation is a fancy way of saying compressed air.  A pneumatically operated plant uses compressed air to open, close and operate many functions.  Compressed air is very reliable and affordable. It can however present some challenges if not properly conditioned for the plant and environment. Humid areas may require an airline dryer and the use of air line oilers is helpful to prolong the life of the mechanical devices in the airline.

Hydraulically operated concrete plants use a hydraulic system like you would find on your front end loader for operation of many of the functions.  Hydraulic operation eliminates the moisture issues with a pneumatic system; however they can be considerably more expensive.  As with the hydraulic system on your front end loader or skid steer; hydraulic operation requires a pump, reserve tank, and fluid in addition to the other operation devices.  While a properly designed hydraulically operated concrete plant can offer owners solid control on plant operation speed a poorly designed system can be susceptible to leaks, overheating and other challenges not found with pneumatically operated systems.

Which is better?  That depends on who you ask.  You can find people who swear by hydraulic and other who have nothing good to say about hydraulic.  The same rings true with Pneumatic concrete plants also, but you will find the majority of concrete plant manufacturers are working with the pneumatic systems because of their ease of use and reliability.