A hydraulic pump converts mechanical energy into hydraulic energy. When a hydraulic pump operates, it performs two functions. First, its mechanical action creates a vacuum at the pump inlet which allows atmospheric pressure to force liquid from the reservoir into the inlet line to the pump. Second, its mechanical action delivers this liquid to the pump outlet and forces it into the hydraulic system.
A pump produces liquid movement or flow: it does not generate pressure. It produces the flow necessary for the development of pressure which is a function of resistance to fluid flow in the system. For example, the pressure of the fluid at the pump outlet is zero for a pump not connected to a system (load). Further, for a pump delivering into a system, the pressure will rise only to the level necessary to overcome the resistance of the load.
Classification of pumps
All pumps may be classified as either positive-displacement or non-positive-displacement. Most pumps used in hydraulic systems are positive-displacement.
A non-positive-displacement pump produces a continuous flow. However, because it does not provide a positive internal seal against slippage, its output varies considerably as pressure varies. Centrifugal and propeller pumps are examples of non-positive-displacement pumps.
If the output port of a non-positive-displacement pump were blocked off, the pressure would rise, and output would decrease to zero. Although the pumping element would continue moving, flow would stop because of slippage inside the pump.
In a positive-displacement pump, slippage is negligible compared to the pump’s volumetric output flow. If the output port were plugged, pressure would increase instantaneously to the point that the pump’s pumping element or its case would fail (probably explode, if the drive shaft did not break first), or the pump’s prime mover would stall.
A positive-displacement pump is one that displaces (delivers) the same amount of liquid for each rotating cycle of the pumping element. Constant delivery during each cycle is possible because of the close-tolerance fit between the pumping element and the pump case. That is, the amount of liquid that slips past the pumping element in a positive-displacement pump is minimal and negligible compared to the theoretical maximum possible delivery. The delivery per cycle remains almost constant, regardless of changes in pressure against which the pump is working. Note that if fluid slippage is substantial, the pump is not operating properly and should be repaired or replaced.
Positive-displacement pumps can be of either fixed or variable displacement. The output of a fixed displacement pump remains constant during each pumping cycle and at a given pump speed. The output of a variable displacement pump can be changed by altering the geometry of the displacement chamber.
Other names to describe these pumps are hydrostatic for positive-displacement and hydrodynamic pumps for non-positive-displacement. Hydrostatic means that the pump converts mechanical energy to hydraulic energy with comparatively small quantity and velocity of liquid. In a hydrodynamic pump, liquid velocity and movement are large; output pressure actually depends on the velocity at which the liquid is made to flow.