Fluid Power Cylinders and Actuators

SIC 3593

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This classification covers establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing hydraulic and pneumatic cylinders and actuators for use in fluid power systems.

Companies in the fluid power cylinders and actuators industry, which was valued at $5.3 billion in the late 2000s, manufacture hydraulic and pneumatic cylinders used in various devices, such as jacks, lifters, and machine tools. These devices are used to exert massive amounts of force in a controlled manner. One of the simplest machines utilizing a fluid power cylinder is the hydraulic press, which presses plastics into forms. Important markets for this industry included the aerospace and defense industries.

The three primary types of modern hydraulic cylinders are single-acting, double-acting, and differential. Single-acting devices consist of a large plunger, or piston, into which oil (or air in a pneumatic cylinder) is pumped. A valve keeps the oil from backing up into the pump and allows a controlled release of the pressure. Double-acting cylinders work similarly, but oil is pushed against one side of the cylinder, thus allowing a push or pull motion; these cylinders are used in construction machinery such as cranes and earth-moving machines. A differential cylinder has a large piston that requires a greater amount of oil to displace the cylinder, thus allowing greater uniformity of force than a typical single-acting cylinder.

The industry is divided into four segments: non-aerospace type hydraulic, non-aerospace type pneumatic, parts for non-aerospace type hydraulic and pneumatic, and aerospace type both hydraulic and pneumatic. In 2005 the leading category was non-aerospace type hydraulic, with $1.5 billion in shipment values, followed by aerospace type both hydraulic and pneumatic with $1.1 billion in shipment values. California led in 2002 with 35 establishments; however, New York surpassed all other states with shipment values of $549 million, some 3,000 employees, and only 14 establishments.

Although hydraulic pumps for powering hydraulic cylinders were developed in the nineteenth century, it was not until the twentieth century that fluid power devices became a widespread means of energy transmission. By 1987, the first year in which this industry was classified separately by the federal government, fluid power cylinder manufacturers were generating sales of about $1.9 billion. Although receipts rose to more than $2.2 billion by 1989, a recession in the late 1980s and early 1990s reduced demand from industrial sectors such that sales slipped below $2 billion annually during the early 1990s.

Industry participants in the mid-1990s benefited from a gradual U.S. economic recovery. The total value of product shipments in the industry was $2.56 billion in 1995, up 42 percent from 1992. Although growth was flat in the aerospace industry in the early 1990s, there was steady recovery for this market through the end of the decade. However, continued slack demand from the defense industry and a slumping commercial airline industry boded poorly for overall industry growth. As domestic market growth was uncertain, manufacturers looked to exports and advanced technology to boost sales.

However, in 2000, the industry's shipment values spiked to nearly $3.7 billion, an increase of about 31 percent from 1995 totals. The industry maintained this level, achieving values of over $4.0 billion in 2005. For the larger category of "other general purpose manufacturing machinery," the output totals also were favorable, showing small annual increases which were expected to continue into the mid-2010s.

The Annual Survey of Manufacturers reported shipment values reached $4.8 billion in 2007 and $5.3 billion in 2008. The non-aerospace type hydraulic category continued to outperform, with shipments totaling $1.6 billion in 2008, compared to $1.4 billion in shipments for the aerospace type both hydraulic and pneumatic category. Parts for non-aerospace type hydraulic and pneumatic fluid power cylinders, actuators, and related items totaled $700,366 in 2008, up from $584,867 in 2007.

Following a 30 to 45 percent decline in 2008 shipments, the fluid power market was beginning to notice a slight economic turnaround in the later part of 2009. Fluid power manufacturers expected a seven to 15 percent increase in shipments for 2010.

ITT Corp. of White Plains, New York, surpassed Cleveland-based Parker Hannifin Corp. to become the industry leader in 2009 with revenues of $10.9 billion and 40,200 employees. ITT derives roughly two-thirds of its sales within the U.S. Parker Hannifin Corp.'s sales figures were $10.3 billion in 2009, and the company employed 51,600. The company had operations scattered throughout 40 states and another 50 foreign operations. Irving, Texas-based Flowserve Corp. had sales of $4.3 billion in 2009 and 15,000 employees.

While the number of employees in the industry peaked in 1999 with 24,801 positions, that figure dropped drastically--by about 28 percent--to 17,872 jobs in 2005. The broader category of "other general purpose manufacturing machinery" also experienced losses of 67,000 jobs from 1994 to 2004, with projected losses of 36,000 from 2004 to 2014.

Elsewhere, the Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power was the first step towards new technological research toopen new markets for the industry in the area of energy efficiency. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy's Industrial Program may partner with the National Fluid Power Association (NFPA)in an effort to "fund efficiency research projects that encourage more efficient practices among industrial users of fluid power," according to Hydraulics & Pneumatics December 2009 issue.

U.S. pneumatic cylinder manufacturers were not exempt when it came to energy saving development in the area of "green" technology. One company, Lehigh Fluid Power Inc. of Lambertville, New Jersey introduced its JHDG Green cylinder. This unique cylinder provides a "dual-pressure regulator" operating at full pressure only when needed. Thus, the JHDG Green cylinder promised to trim energy costs as much as 21 percent and increase the life of the cylinder itself.

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