When it comes to generating linear motion, custom hydraulic cylinders are the go-to choice for many industrial and mobile operations. Compared to other linear motion systems, hydraulics offer an impressive power density and durability, with enough design flexibility to meet the needs of even the most demanding applications.

While selecting a hydraulic cylinder may seem complex, you can’t just pick one off the shelf and assume that it’s what you need. Only with a custom hydraulic cylinder tailored to meet the needs of your specific application can you ensure that your systems maintain maximum efficiency, performance, and reliability.

Why You Need a Custom Hydraulic Cylinder

If you want a job done correctly, you need the right tool. You wouldn’t pick up a random screwdriver and hope it’ll work for the cabinet you just ordered. When hydraulic cylinders aren’t spec’d correctly, they may underperform, use up too much energy, or fail prematurely.

Even if a hydraulic cylinder worked for one application, that doesn’t mean that it has what it takes to succeed at a different one. Common issues with the cylinder can include:

  • Not having the right seal package
  • Not being powerful enough, or needlessly too powerful
  • Not having the right shaft material

Both under- and over-designing a cylinder can be an issue here. Under-designing a hydraulic cylinder will lead to performance and reliability issues, while an over-designed cylinder will be too costly of an option for the task at hand.

By going with a custom hydraulic cylinder, you can ensure that your device is designed correctly to meet the task at hand.

How to Design Better Custom Hydraulics

If you want the best hydraulic cylinder for your application, you need to balance performance with efficiency. Here are some important factors to consider:


Faster is not always better. When designing a custom hydraulic cylinder, you want to do your best to avoid excessive speed. If needed, high speeds are okay so long as you choose the right seal package and design your cylinder appropriately.

The greater your fluid velocity, the more the fluid will heat up, leading to higher temperatures both in the fluid and the entire system. This can cause seals to break down and lower the integrity of other internal components. Similar to tires, seals can also hydroplane at high speeds if not properly designed.

It’s generally accepted that standard seals can easily handle speeds up to about 3.28 ft/sec (1 m/sec). If you have need for higher speeds, low-friction seals are a good option.


Most industrial hydraulics are rated around 3,000 psi. This would be considered a medium-duty design, and is a good, cost-efficient choice for standard applications.

If you need a higher capacity, heavy-duty hydraulics can handle pressures as high as 4,000 psi. These are more common in advanced systems such as hydraulic presses and automotive applications.


You need to design your hydraulic cylinders not just for the systems they’ll be powering, but also for the environments they’ll be operating in. Environment and temperature are often overlooked when choosing an “off the shelf” option or assigning a used cylinder to a new task.

Temperature extremes, dusty environments, chemical washdowns – all of these things can cause your cylinder to break down and fail rather quickly when you don’t take them into account. For example, if you’re working in a particularly cold environment like Greenland or Alaska, the seals and metal components in your cylinder will contract and break if weather-resistant materials weren’t selected.

These are just some of the factors to consider when specifying a custom hydraulic cylinder. Other considerations could include:

  • Mounting style
  • Force
  • Cylinder and piston size
  • Stop tubing

Getting Your Custom Hydraulics Fast

With the fast-paced nature of modern industry, timing is often of the essence. While speed should never come at the cost of performance, getting your hydraulics sooner rather than later is always better.

In order to speed up the process of getting your next custom hydraulic cylinder, it’s important to partner with the right hydraulics expert. Suppliers that listen and analyze your unique situation will be able to find a better solution faster. Prior hydraulics experience, especially in your industry/application, will be critical here.

With Columbus Hydraulics’ technical expertise and custom hydraulics experience, our team can “own the design” of your cylinder. Our experts can design your cylinder for you, customizing it to your unique needs with minimal effort needed from you and your team. That way, you can spend more time doing what matters most – running your business