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The fluid power industry is in a period of innovation that will help to bring improvements to hydraulic components and systems.

A Time for Innovation in Fluid Power

Aug. 23, 2023
Major industry trends are bringing opportunities for innovation in the hydraulics and pneumatics industry.

Once again the fluid power industry came together to discuss the latest market and economic trends impacting hydraulics and pneumatics at the National Fluid Power Association's (NFPA) Industry & Economic Outlook Conference (IEOC).  

From the high level of registrants for the event — over 275, the strongest yet according to Eric Lanke, President and CEO of NFPA — it was clear many in the industry were eager to hear how the economy will fair in the coming year and how it may impact their business. 

In general, 2024 is expected to be a year of slower growth for fluid power and its customer markets (stay tuned for more in-depth details on this in the near future) before picking up again in 2025. As such, many of the speakers at the IEOC said it will be a good time for the industry to invest in itself and prepare for the uptick in growth expected for the remainder of the decade. 

With these investments can come those in technology developments. As we continue to hear over and over again, it's an exciting time for the fluid power industry full of innovation due in part to electrification, automation, and other major trends bringing about new design needs. This time of, and need for, innovation in hydraulics and pneumatics was also a key topic of discussion during the IEOC.  

Lanke said during his opening remarks at the conference that the pace of innovation continues in the industry, and that it is a highly hybridized environment for fluid power. Given this, NFPA is establishing new technology task forces, similar to the electrification task force it created in 2022, to explore trends impacting hydraulics and pneumatics as well as how the industry can evolve to meet the new requirements brought about by these trends. In addition to electrification, the association plans to create task forces focused on connectivity and automation.   

Technology Roadmap Looks to Guide Innovation

During the conference, NFPA announced the completion of its 2023 Technology Roadmap. Once every 2 years NFPA works with the industry to update the roadmap, a document overviewing the technology needs within the fluid power industry. 

The Technology Roadmap outlines key customer objectives, ways hydraulics and pneumatics technologies could meet these objectives, and R&D needs to do so. A committee of industry members work together to identify the various elements of the document, with the hope the broader fluid power industry will utilize it to help guide their current and future development efforts. 

READ MORE: NFPA Sets Customer Drivers and Strategies for 2023 Technology Roadmap

Eight key capability improvements were identified in the 2023 Technology Roadmap that would enable fluid power systems to better meet customer strategies such as energy efficiency, connectivity, compactness and reduced noise: 

  • Data 
  • Ease of Use 
  • Energy Efficiency 
  • Environmental Impact 
  • Noise 
  • Power Density 
  • Reliability and Durability
  • Safety.

Of these, it was stated at the IEOC by Steve Meislahn of Sun Hydraulics/Helios Technologies — vice chair of the NFPA Roadmap Committee — that ease of use is the most critical. Making it easy to understand how the various technologies now available in the market work and how to utilize them will help to ensure fully optimized systems. 

Scott Meldeau of Norgren, a company which also participated on the committee, sees data as a critical area given the increasing amount of connectivity between components and systems. He noted there is a large gap yet in the industry regarding collecting data and knowing what to do with all of it which needs to be determined. 

To help achieve these capability improvements, the Technology Roadmap points to various research areas which include development of new fluid power components, materials, seals, improving controllability as well as implementing new manufacturing techniques. 

Besides providing a guide for technology developments, Lanke said the roadmap document demonstrates there is a lot of opportunity for innovation and partnerships in the fluid power industry. 

READ MORE about the Technology Roadmap and what industry needs were outlined in the 2021 edition

We want to hear from you!

What areas of innovation do you see as most critical for the fluid power industry? What are customers telling you they want from hydraulic and pneumatic systems? Are there any major trends you see impacting the industry in 2024? 

Let us know by reaching out to us directly via email [email protected] or on social media.

Twitter: @TechnlgyEditor or @PowerMotionTech

LinkedIn: @PowerMotionTech 

About the Author

Sara Jensen | Executive Editor, Power & Motion

Sara Jensen is executive editor of Power & Motion, directing expanded coverage into the modern fluid power space, as well as mechatronic and smart technologies. She has over 15 years of publishing experience. Prior to Power & Motion she spent 11 years with a trade publication for engineers of heavy-duty equipment, the last 3 of which were as the editor and brand lead. Over the course of her time in the B2B industry, Sara has gained an extensive knowledge of various heavy-duty equipment industries — including construction, agriculture, mining and on-road trucks —along with the systems and market trends which impact them such as fluid power and electronic motion control technologies. 

You can follow Sara and Power & Motion via the following social media handles:

X (formerly Twitter): @TechnlgyEditor and @PowerMotionTech

LinkedIn: @SaraJensen and @Power&Motion

Facebook: @PowerMotionTech

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