History of the Hydraulic Press

“A hydraulic press is a mechanical machine used for lifting or compressing large items. The force is generated through the use of hydraulics to increase the power of a standard mechanical level. This type of machine is typically found in a manufacturing environment”


antique press

A good description of “hydraulic systems” and Pascal’s Law which is what hydraulics is based on can be found on NASA’s website I have copied it below:

 Hydraulic systems use a incompressible fluid, such as oil or water, to transmit forces from one location to another within the fluid.  

Pascal’s law states that when there is an increase in pressure at any point in a confined fluid, there is an equal increase at every other point in the container.

So basically a hydraulic press uses liquids as its force. The individual who is credited with inventing the first hydraulic press is Joseph Bramah. He applied and received his patent in 1795 for the Bramah Hydraulic Press. The technology of “hydraulics” and the use of them in a “machine Tool” atmosphere in those times was a science that was almost unheard of. Bramahs principles are used to this day in the machine tool industry concerning hydraulics. Thanks to Bramahs invention a completely new class of machine tools was developed over the next 50 years.

Bramah was a very resourceful individual and worked as a farmer, carpenter, and locksmith. But his love was inventing and improving on the designs of other inventions. He invented a lock called the “Bramah Lock” and was the owner and operator of “the Bramah Lock Company” The lock he developed was the undisputed safest lock at that time and held that record for 67 years. He also improved upon the design of the modern-day toilet and obtained the patent for it in 1778.

It was the success of his lock company and his continuing love of invention that Joseph Bramah began to delve in the building of machine tools. His locks had a lot of precision work and Bramah knew in order to mass produce he would have to invent something to help. In his employ at the lock company was a young man named  Henry Maudslay; between the two of them, they created several machines that would make building locks much more efficient.  It was with Henry’s help that Bramah became successful in many ventures that produced a plethora of machinery. Some other inventions by Bramah and his sidekick Henry Maudsley were as follows:

Beer engine 1797

Bramah lock 1798

Planing Machine 1802

Papermaking machine 1805

A machine to print bank notes automatically with sequential numbers 1806

Fountain Pen 1809

Hydrostatic press for uprooting trees

Bramah also held patents for the first extrusion process for making lead pipes and another for making gun stocks (patent 2652). Also noted in several resources was Bramah’s insistence on quality control; he understood by machining to close tolerances machines especially engines ran better. He taught this to Arthur Woolf a Cornish steam engineer. With Bramah’s guidance Woolf’s engines ran with high pressure steam which greatly increased their output. Woolf’s designs were soon used by all engineer designers of that time period. Some would consider Bramah the “father of quality control”.

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