Large machine press

How Does a Hydraulic Press Work?

A hydraulic press is one of the most commonly used machines in manufacturing and other industries. While its applications and advantages are relatively well-known, not many understand the concept behind its functionality. to answer the question how does a hydraulic press work, we are going to look at exactly what a hydraulic press is and how one works the way it does based on physics.

A hydraulic press works by leveraging force from pressurized liquid to push two objects together. The fluid is forced through a small opening, creating high pressure on the other side of the object. The pressure is then transmitted through the object until it’s released at the other end.

Read on to learn how hydraulic presses work, the physics behind their functionality, how to use one, and more.

What Is a Hydraulic Press?

A hydraulic press is a machine that uses pressurized liquid to create the force required to compress materials together. It consists of a pump, two endplates, and a piston.



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The machine uses hydraulics to press objects. Its main component is the hydraulic pump that pumps oil into a cylinder at high pressure. The oil is then forced into an opposing cylinder, pushing against a metal ram or piston. This applies an immense force to whatever is being pressed down on the machine’s platen, completing the pressing process.

How Are Hydraulic Presses Powered?

Hydraulic presses are powered by hydraulic pumps. When the pump is activated, the oil is pumped into the system, which begins to pressurize. This pressurized oil gets distributed into a series of valves and pistons to create up to 20 times more pressure applied by the user.

This pressure is then applied to the workpiece (the object being pressed) through a ram or piston. The press machine uses levers and other mechanical devices to amplify the power of the user’s force to make pressing much more effortless.

Note: Pneumatics and electrical power sources can also power hydraulic presses.

First Rule of Hydraulics

The basic rule of hydraulics is based on Pascal’s law, which holds that pressure throughout an enclosed fluid remains constant regardless of the container size. 

Oil and water are widely accepted as the most ideal liquids for a hydraulic press for several reasons, here are a few of them:

  • Both liquids are incompressible, meaning they can be forced through openings without losing volume.
  • Oil has a high resistance to shear, which indicates its ability to transfer force.
  • Oil’s viscosity allows it to distribute pressure evenly and smoothly across a surface.

Oil is generally preferred over water because it has a higher boiling point. The lower boiling point of water may cause it to boil inside the cylinders compromising one of its main selling points as hydraulic fluid (being incompressible). Having water boil inside the cylinders can also corrode them. 

Sam D. Wilbur, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Pascal’s Law

Pascal’s Law states that pressure applied to an enclosed fluid (such as oil) is constant at every point in the container, no matter its shape. 

According to Pascal’s principle, pressure is the force exerted per unit area. Since this pressure is constant throughout the hydraulic fluid, the force increases or decreases with the area it has to pass through. So if the area increases by 10 square units, the force also increases tenfold to keep the pressure constant.

Here are the four main points that summarize this law:

  • Pressure is transmitted equally in all directions through a static, incompressible fluid.
  • The difference in pressure measured between two points always depends on the path taken between the two points.
  • The pressure in a liquid is transmitted undiminished throughout its volume.
  • Any change within a confined fluid at rest produces changes throughout the gas or liquid.

How Does Pascal’s Law Work in Hydraulics?

In hydraulics, Pascal’s Law means that if one applies more pressure at one point on a hydraulic press, this same amount of force will be applied everywhere else. On a smaller scale, less energy is required when using the machine since it doesn’t lose any power.

This effect of Pascal’s principle also helps with precision pressing because it increases the accuracy of the user input by minimizing how much force they need to use. The user only needs to apply a certain amount of energy, and the machine will distribute it without wasting any pressure.

If you’re still curious about Pascal’s Law, check out this YouTube video, which covers what it is and its application in hydraulics in greater detail:  

YouTube video

Components and Parts of a Hydraulic Press Machine

It helps to know the various components and parts of a hydraulic press before learning how to use it. To help with that, here’s an overview of the major components of a hydraulic press and their functions:

  • Safety door: The safety door’s primary function is to ensure safety by allowing easy access for maintenance or repair work.
  • Hydraulic cylinder: A hydraulic cylinder is the cylindrical machine that provides pressure to the workpieces during the pressing process. It’s metallic and consists of two parts; an outer metal shell and a piston rod. The cylinder’s primary function is to apply pressure to the material being pressed by converting fluid power from the hydraulic system into mechanical energy.
  • Limit switch: The limit switch helps adjust the height and width (thickness) of the material pressed between two plates. It also controls the pressure applied on the workpiece by maintaining a predetermined gap between press plates.
  • Oil tank: The oil tank stores and delivers oil to the hydraulic cylinder. It consists of a tube connected to the cylinder’s piston rod. The tube delivers oil from the tank to the rod, helping generate pressure on the press plates.
  • Motor: The motor drives the oil pump, which generates the pressure required to produce mechanical power.
  • Pressure gauge: The pressure gauge is an instrument for measuring hydraulic pressure inside the tank of a hydraulic press.
  • Relief valve: It relieves excess pressure you may have applied to the material being pressed or to one of the parts of the hydraulic press machine.
  • Electrical control box: The electrical control box provides various control options to system components by providing electrical signals. It comprises several switches and levers connected via wiring and circuits. 
  • Manual control valve: The manual control valve regulates the pressure on workpieces. It does that by blocking or diverting oil flow to adjust the force applied by press plates.
  • Bailing compartment: The bailing compartment helps change the size and shape of the material being pressed through it by applying the pressure supplied by the hydraulic cylinder.
  • Pressing plate: The pressing plate provides pressure to the material being pressed according to size requirements. Since its contact area with the material being pressed is small, you can only apply little pressure at a time. If you aren’t satisfied with the result, you can always repeat as many times as necessary.

How To Use a Hydraulic Press

Now that you know the components of a hydraulic press, let’s learn how to use it. As far as the essentials go, you’ll need a working hydraulic press.

Once you’re ready with that, follow these steps:

Green industrial Hydraulic press
Eugenio Cosolo, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

1. Choose the Material To Press

You can compress various materials with a hydraulic press, from soft rubber sheets to rigid metal plates. Each material demands a specific amount of pressure, so be sure to strike a perfect match in that regard.

Also, make sure that whatever you’re looking to press is of a manageable size. You don’t want to press something too big or too heavy, as it could damage the hydraulic press machine or cause injury.

2. Place the Material Between the Two Pressing Plates

After choosing your material, place it in between the two pressing plates, ensuring that its edges remain intact without tears or breaks. If there’s a tear at either side of the pressing plate, it might get pressed into your material and spoil its shape or form.

Note: It doesn’t matter if the material begins at the top of one plate and extends out towards the other. That’s perfectly fine as long as its length remains parallel with both pressing plates.

3. Adjust the Limit Switch

You’ll want to ensure that the limit switch is appropriately adjusted before turning on the hydraulic press machine. Doing this helps avoid applying excess pressure on your material, machine malfunction, and safety hazards.

The procedure for adjusting the limit switch varies from one hydraulic press machine to another. Consult your manual for more details. If you can’t find the manual, reach out to the manufacturer一 they’ll be happy to help.

4. Close the Safety Door and Press the Material

With hydraulics all set up, your material appropriately placed between the pressing plates, and the limit switch adjusted accordingly, you can proceed to press the material. 

The first thing you’ll want to do is close the safety door and start the hydraulic press machine. Next, start applying pressure by increasing or decreasing the hydraulic pump oil supply. Again, be sure to apply the ideal amount of pressure depending on your material’s size and nature.

5. Inspect the Pressed Material

After completing the entire process, inspect your workpiece to see if everything went on as planned. If there’s a problem, repeat steps 1 to 5, this time making the necessary adjustments to ensure that the right amount of pressure is applied evenly on the material with no tears or breaks.

For the best results, I recommend using a quality hydraulic press machine. If you’re in the market for one, this Dulytek Hydraulic Heat Press Machine (available on may come in handy. Some of its impressive features include:

  • Provides a pressing force of up to 7 tons (6,350.29 kg).
  • Reinforced jack handle for added stability.
  • Ergonomic handle for easy, quick operation.

Caution: To be on the safe side, here are a few safety tips you should keep in mind when using a hydraulic press:

  • Make sure that the power supply is turned off when the machine isn’t in use.
  • Never touch any moving parts while the press is powered on. This could cause injury or malfunctioning of the device.
  • Ensure that all wires and valves are securely attached to the hydraulic press control box and outlet, respectively, before turning it on.
  • Check the safety door to ensure that it’s closed tightly before turning on the hydraulic press machine.
  • Always follow the guidelines on your machine’s user manual.


So how does a hydraulic press work? To recap, a hydraulic press’ operation is based on Pascal’s principle. The pressure you exert on one piston is transmitted to the other pistons. If the subsequent pistons are bigger, the force generated is amplified, helping users press materials with less force. 

While the concept behind a hydraulic press’ operation may be a bit complicated, using these machines isn’t that difficult. You, too, can do it provided you stick to the recommended usage and safety guidelines. Best of luck!


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