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How Does a Hydraulic Piston Pump Work?

Hydraulic piston pumps move fluids throughout professional equipment and industrial machinery. They’re known for their high efficiency and are commonly used in high-pressure applications. 

There are also two major types of hydraulic piston pumps: axial and radial; both can have fixed or variable displacement; fixed displacement means that the pump is delivering the same amount of liquid or gas each time, while variable means that the amount of gas or liquid delivered may be different each time. Although both are considered piston pumps, each one operates differently.

Let’s look at how each type of hydraulic piston pump works.

How Axial Piston Pumps Work

An animated image of an axial piston pump with a swashplate design

An axial piston pump features four major components: a shaft, swashplate or bent axis, cylinder block, and valve plate. The cylinder block houses the piston pumps, which are laid out cyclically around the drive shaft’s axis (thus why it is named an axial piston pump). 

The pistons in the cylinder block pump up and down as the drive shaft rotates. The piston’s stroke will vary depending on how it is angled in the swashplate or bent axis. As the pistons move in one direction, they are connected to a suction line, and when they move in the opposite direction, they connect to a discharge channel, allowing a continuous flow of fluid.

How Radial Piston Pumps Work

A black-and-white drawing of a radial engine

The design of a radial piston pump is significantly different from an axial pump. The radial piston pump consists of a cylinder block, rotating camshaft, and pistons. The pistons are arranged around the cylinder block in a radial pattern and diverge from the camshaft like rays. The rotation of the cam causes the pistons to change from suction to discharge and vice versa. 

Choosing Between an Axial & Radial Piston Pump

In general, choosing a hydraulic pump requires an application evaluation. You’ll need to know pressure requirements, desired flow rate, speed, horsepower, and the type of fluid the pump will be dispersing. 

Radial piston pumps can usually handle all fluids, including mineral oil and water-glycol hydraulic fluid, while axial piston pumps are preferred for extremely high-pressure applications.

Remanufactured Pumps Versus OEM Pumps

Although piston pumps are highly efficient and reliable, contamination, over-pressurization, and inlet blockages can cause the pump to fail. If and when this happens, you’ll need to replace your pump as soon as possible.

When choosing a replacement pump, you’ll have to choose between a direct OEM replacement and a remanufactured pump. Unfortunately, direct OEM replacement pumps and services can be a significant investment. Additionally, if you have outdated equipment, you may not be able to find the pump parts needed to restore your equipment.

So, you need to ask yourself a few questions:

  1. How long are you willing to wait to receive your pump?
  2. Is your pump discontinued?
  3. What is your budget?

If you’re looking for a quick and relatively inexpensive solution, a remanufactured pump is your best choice. However, if time and money aren’t an issue, a direct OEM replacement will most likely be the best option if the manufacturer hasn’t discontinued the pump.

Find Replacement Hydraulic Piston Pumps Today

Do you need help finding the right piston pump? Turn to Panagon Systems. Founded over 25 years ago, we’re an industry-leading manufacturer of aftermarket hydraulic piston pumps and motors. We specialize in manufacturing pumps from brands like Vickers/Eaton, Rexroth, and Caterpillar, and we also carry a wide range of replacement pump parts. All pumps and motors are manufactured in-house in the United States, guaranteed to meet OEM specifications, and are backed by an 18-month warranty. 

Contact us today to learn more about our replacement pump options or to request a quote.


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