Operational environments and application demands for hydraulic hoses are vast and varied. From snowplows in cold Canadian winters to the hot interior workings of industrial machinery, hydraulic hoses perform a great number of functions the modern world depends on.
Each of these hose applications has one thing in common: Failure is not an option. Unreliable hoses can cost companies millions of dollars in downtime on critical equipment. A failed hose on a transit bus can strand dozens of commuters for hours. Worse, a hose failure can seriously injure operators and workers. For these reasons, hydraulic hoses are far from a commodity. They are responsible for the safe operation of countless applications around the world, and given how different all these applications are, not every hose should be made the same.
Hose performance highly depends on what the rubber is made of, the standards under which that rubber was formulated and that formulation’s ability to deliver the performance needed for a specific application. Rubber formulation may be the most important factor in hose performance, but there are others.
Demands on Hoses
While different applications have different demands, the general performance characteristics of a given hose typically fall into several categories: temperature, flexibility, weather resistance, abrasion resistance and durability.
Temperature. Hydraulic hoses can face a range of temperatures in their operating environments. In many hydraulic systems, increased demand for more power, speed and flow have driven up system temperatures. Higher flow rates increase friction, leading to higher fluid temperatures. Today’s hoses must withstand these hotter temperatures.
Flexibility. This is a measure of how much force is needed to bend a hose and is important for several reasons. First, the hoses must be flexible enough to meet the OEM’s design criteria and be able to bend and fit into compact spaces. Second, flexibility is important for ergonomic concerns. An assembly technician routing hoses through the frame of a vehicle, for example, could become fatigued if hoses are exceedingly difficult to bend. Finally, if a piece of equipment requires a hose to move during operation, that hose must have the right flexibility while maintaining durability.
Weathering resistance. Hydraulic hoses are often exposed to direct sunlight or ozone. Continuous exposure to these conditions degrades rubber compounds, potentially leading to cracks in hoses that have not been formulated with weathering protection in mind.