Understanding the Fundamentals of Hydraulic Systems

Low key photo of hydraulic pipes maintenance on heavy industry machine in a garage.

Hydraulic systems serve almost every industry including construction, industrial, mobile, civil, military, and agricultural applications. These systems can be found in every piece of construction equipment as the main means of powering the mobile parts on them regardless of whether the equipment has a diesel or an electric engine.

Although several manufacturers designed hydraulic excavators in the 19th Century, it wasn’t until the 1960s that hydraulic construction equipment became the standard.

Hydraulics cushions the motions made by a machine (swing, lift, dump, stop), thereby reducing the impact both on the machine and the operator. Hydraulic power, coupled with actuators and a skilled operator, are capable of achieving more complex and precise motions than their cable or winch counterparts. Add GPS and you are then able to achieve near-millimeter accuracy.

Understanding hydraulic systems are important for technicians and mechanics, fleet managers, and even operators and equipment dealers to have an understanding of how hydraulic systems operate and how to communicate about them.

Hydraulic control isn’t part of the accredited engineering curriculum, so there are numerous educated people in construction with large learning gaps when it comes to hydraulics.

Co-located with CONEXPO-CON/AGG, attendees of the International Fluid Power Exposition (IFPE) 2023, which takes place March 14-18, 2023, in Las Vegas, NV, will have access to 170 education sessions and workshops providing Professional Development Hours (PDH) that can be added at time of registration, and more than 375 exhibitors showcasing the latest innovations in fluid power, power transmission, and motion control.

For further industry insights and insider advice on this topic, Dr. Medhat Khalil of the Milwaukee School of Engineering will lead the “Fundamentals of Hydraulic Systems 101" workshop, in which attendees will learn:

  • Common terminologies and symbols used to identify basic hydraulic components
  • The basics of hydraulic circuits
  • The construction and operating principles of pumps, motors, cylinders, valves, and accumulators
  • The physics and quantification of pressure and flow.

With this knowledge, your team will be able to identify and communicate hydraulic issues, thereby reducing downtime and maintenance costs and increasing productivity.

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Dr. Medhat Khalil Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE)About the speaker

Dr. Medhat Khalil, CFPHS, CFPAI, is the Director of Professional Education and Research Development, at the Applied Technology Center, Milwaukee School of Engineering for the last 17 years.

He has also written seven books on the subject (including on the topics of electrohydraulics, contamination, conditioning, and modeling) and has received two industry awards—the Hall of Fame Inductee (2021) by the International Fluid Power Society (IFPS) and the Maha Pioneer of Fluid Power (2012), which is administered by the Maha Fluid Power Research Center—the largest academic hydraulics lab in the USA (located in Lafayette, Indiana, and sponsored by Purdue University); in this lab, top minds in fluid power conduct world-class research.


IFPE’s comprehensive education program is the leading source for executives, engineers, manufacturing plant and operation leads, technicians, mechanics, and other fluid power professionals covering the latest technical topics and trends. Click here for more information.

2023 Education Sessions

Mark your calendar for IFPE, March 14-18, 2023, at the Las Vegas Convention Center, and take advantage of discounted rates available and register for IFPE 2023 today


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